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 will not need to be amended and worked every year.
Better Plant Output
You can squeeze out a higher plant-to-soil ratio into a raised bed because you do not need to leave room for paths. 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.
Most plants thrive in well-drained soil. Since raised beds are elevated, the soil drains more rapidly than level garden soil. For this reason, your soil will be "easier to work" much sooner. You can work in the spring when your yard is still muddy and rainy days will not be lost days in the garden.
The downside is this also means that raised beds can dry out faster, but raised beds are also easier to water than open gardens. The smaller area is perfect for installing drip irrigation. Even if you use a garden hose, you will be wasting less water and taking less time than watering traditional garden beds.
Easier Critter Control
It is much easier to keep burrowing animals out of a raised bed. Just line the bottom of the 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 less inch 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 have a tendency of getting higher 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, the new pressure treated woods 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 nail or put your bed together. There are many different ways you can design your raised garden bed.
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 keep the soil rich and healthy. The benefits of gardening in a raised bed certainly make it worth the effort.