How to Use Raised Bed Gardening

How to Use Raised Bed Gardening

a raised gardening bed

Jill Chen / Stocksy

When we talk about raised bed gardening, it simply means gardening in soil that has been mounded higher than the surrounding soil. That can mean containing the soil in some type of frame or box or just hilling it up.

Raised bed gardening is an old gardening practice, but it is currently growing in popularity because it offers several advantages to simply growing your plants in level ground. It has advantages for your soil, your plants, drainage, and pest control, as well as several other benefits.

Improved Soil Control

If you have better soil, you have better plants. In a raised bed, you can bring in the best garden soil and work in plenty of organic matter or soil amendments as needed. And, since you will not be walking on the soil, it will remain light and aerated, not compacted.

Raised beds are also good for the gardener because there is no tilling necessary. Even if the pre-existing soil in your garden is the worst clay or rock, the soil you put into a raised garden bed can be controlled, providing rich, organic material to grow your best veggies, fruits, herbs, and flowers. Do know that the soil will settle, and plants will deplete nutrients. Adding compost or additional purchased soil will be needed to keep your raised bed garden productive each season.

Better Plant Output

You can squeeze out a higher plant-to-soil ratio in a raised bed, because you do not need to leave room for paths. Build your raised beds so that they're narrow enough that you never walk in the beds, you just lean into them. Keep this in mind when you are building a raised bed and do not make it any wider than you can comfortably reach into.

Good Drainage

Most plants thrive in well-drained soil. Since raised beds are elevated, the soil drains more rapidly than level garden soil. Plus, the soil in raised beds should be a rich, well-draining medium--unlike heavy clay soils that might be the basis for the rest of the yard. You can control the soil in the raised bed.

The downside of having improved drainage is that raised beds may dry out faster, but raised beds are also easier to water than open gardens. The smaller area is perfect for installing drip irrigation.

Easier Critter Control

It is much easier to keep burrowing animals out of a raised bed. Just line the bottom of a framed raised bed with hardware cloth or chicken fencing. Animal repellents can usually be sprayed just around the perimeter. You can even cover the whole bed with bird netting.

Less Stress on Your Back

Every inch the bed is raised is one inch less you will need to bend. In fact, physically challenged gardeners and wheelchair gardeners can keep on gardening when beds are raised to a reachable height. Raised beds can be built at a taller height to accommodate you as you get older. Take a look at a high growing box, which is raised bed design that you can build yourself.

Simple to Construct

Raised beds are easy enough to construct. The simplest raised beds are just four boards joined together in a square. Cedar, redwood, and even newer synthetic boards all weather well for several years. You can even get resourceful and build your bed out of bales of hay, stone, bricks, or whatever is handy. Or you can buy a kit that comes with everything you need to put your bed together. There are many different ways you can design your raised garden bed. If you use a synthetic material, make sure it's a food grade polymer if you're growing veggies or other edibles.

It takes some initial work and resources to get your raised bed set up, but it can last for years and the only maintenance you will need to do is to keep the soil rich and healthy. The benefits of gardening in a raised bed certainly make it worth the effort.