As mentioned at the last article, there are many different benefits that come from using a raised bed to grow your plants. These range from benefits that serve the plants to some which serve the environment, as well as benefits that directly affect the gardener themselves. You may not be interested in all of these but there are so many that you are certainly going to find yourself gravitating towards some of them.
Raised Beds Minimize the Space Needed to Grow
A raised bed functions much in the same way as a typical plant pot does. That is, it allows you to grow a plant in a space that is much smaller than is typically required when growing in nature. If you have a lot of room in your yard to grow plants, then this works really well when you are planting directly into the earth. But if you have limited space, then a raised bed may be just the thing you need to still be able to plant everything you want to. Raised beds allow gardeners to keep their plants in a single area and it removes the need to create rows such as typically seen when planting crops. Because you can fully circle around a raised bed, or at least don’t need to walk through it at any point, you can grow a lot more plants in the same amount of space. Plus, a raised bed garden doesn’t need to be on soil to begin with. Because a raised bed is filled with soil by the gardener, you could start a raised bed garden on top of a concrete parking lot without having any problems.
Raised Beds Look Amazing
While not a benefit in and of itself, this particular feature helps to accentuate the beauty of your garden. Since you can choose the material, shape, size, and design of the raised bed’s frame, you have an almost limitless amount of possibilities when it comes to how your raised beds look. Many people go with wooden frames and don’t pay much attention to them but others decorate their frames, choose materials such as hardened clay or concrete, and pair them with specific plants and flowers in order to bring out the beauty of the plants themselves. Others are less worried about how the frames pair with the plants but instead concern themselves with how the frames accentuate the overall impression of their landscaping. Raised beds are thus able to serve as both a practical way to grow your plants and a way to decorate your yard.
You Don’t Need to Bend as Much
While gardening is a favorite past time of many people across the globe, you will find that a lot of them agree that the worst part is all of the bending necessary to maintain the garden. You need to bend down to plant your seeds and carefully cover them with soil. Then, if you want to prune your plants, there’s more bending to be had. You need to check for pests? That’s more bending. You spotted a weed that needs to be pulled out? Best believe you’re bending again. It’s finally time to harvest? Even more bending. Those who are young and healthy might not give this a second thought but those older gardeners and those with bad backs certainly are used to the throbbing pain and sore muscles that this produces. One way to avoid this pain is raised bed gardening. While some raised beds are only a foot tall, there is nothing that says you can’t build yours to be waist or chest level so that you can tend to your plants without bending over at all.
You Don’t Need to Till a Raised Bed Garden
Another way that raised bed gardens save you from sore muscles is the complete lack of tilling necessary. When you grow in the ground, you need to till the soil between each crop that you plant. Tilling is the act of overturning, digging, or stirring the soil. This is done to help keep the soil nice and nutritious since the plants that were just harvested used their roots to suck up all the nutrients they could find in the soil. Large scale farming operations use specific machinery to till the soil but smaller gardens require manual work with shovels, rakes, and the like. Raised bed gardens don’t need to be tilled between seasons. Instead, fertilizer, compost, or manure is added to the soil to provide it with the nutrients your plants need. Not only does this save you time and effort but the act of tilling soil can actually degrade the quality of the soil and so by cutting out the tilling process you are actually increasing the length of time your raised bed garden can go before needing to replace the soil with a fresh mixture.
Raised Bed Gardens Get Less Pests
In this particular case, pests refer not just to the annoying little insects that want to feed on your plants but also to larger animals like deer which can quickly destroy a garden if they aren’t spotted immediately. Climbing critters like slugs and snails will be able to get into your garden but they are slow movers and if you are being mindful and keeping an eye on your garden then you should be able to knock them off before they are able to get into the bed itself. Since we are treating raised bed gardens in this book as having a bottom to the frame, annoyances like moles or groundhogs won’t be able to get into the garden from the bottom. Deer can be tricky but some simple netting can be put up around the raised bed to prevent them from sticking their heads in. The biggest annoyances are going to be winged insects like whiteflies, some species of aphids, and male scales. It is pretty much impossible to block these tiny pests’ access to your raised bed garden but some preventative measures such as neem oil applications will help to decrease the frequency of infestation and mindful maintenance will allow you to spot them early before they become a major pain.
Raised Beds Allows the Soil to Drain Better
As discussed previously, raised beds are an option to allow gardeners to grow in areas that deal with issues such as flooding. This is important to note because plants actually have a bit of an odd relationship with water. Water is one of the major resources that they need in order to properly grow and it is important to always provide your plants with plenty of the stuff. But too much of it can actually drown the roots of your plants and encourage them to start rotting. When root rot sets in, it can quickly spread to the stem and foliage of the plant and kill it in no time flat. Because of this, it is important to ensure that you use a decent draining soil to keep your plants healthy. But one way of altering the drainage speed of any soil is to elevate it up. The higher the elevation, the more room water has to seep out. Raising the level of soil is actually recommended for plants like succulents when they are grown in the earth but by raising our garden beds we create this same effect and it helps us to keep our plants free of rot without taking any extra measures.
Raised Beds Get Far Less Weeds
Harking back to the point about tilling the soil, we left out one of the negative effects that tilling produces. When you till soil, you are moving it all about and mixing it up and one of the effects this has is to distribute seeds throughout the soil that will in time grow into weeds and start trying to spread. The lack of tilling leads to a lack of weeds. However, this doesn’t prevent weeds in general and there are many ways which they might get into your raised beds. One trick to handle them that gardeners use is to cover the top layer of the soil with something like plastic or cardboard. This is done at the start of spring in order to suffocate and kill off anything that took root throughout the winter. Without access to sunlight, water, or oxygen, these winter intruders quickly die off. Simply remove the material you added, pull out the dead weeds, and your raised bed garden is ready to plant. Other weeds may get into a raised bed garden by growing up underneath it but if your frame has a bottom then you won’t need to deal with this. You may still find the occasional weed in your raised bed garden but it will be a rarity rather than a regular occurrence.
By Controlling the Soil, You Avoid Contamination
One of the problems with modern day gardening is the fact that we have done a lot of damage to the soil around us. Runoff from chemical plants or chemically treated crops can degrade the soil quality of the areas around it and cities are prone to allowing heavy metals like lead into the soil due to all the technology and metal that they are filled with. This is a problem because vegetables you grow for human consumption can ingest these metals and cause sickness both in the plants and in us humans. This is one of the reasons that plants in urban areas are typically moved away from the road or have hedges around them to create a barrier. But the single best way to avoid contamination through soil is to use a raised bed for your gardening needs. You add the soil to the raised bed and can ensure it is of the highest quality and clean of any contaminants. This allows you to rest easy knowing that your plants are as healthy as possible and you aren’t going to get sick if you eat them. After all, isn’t the whole point of growing veggies to eat healthy?
Two quick benefits before we move onto the next chapter. The first is that you don’t need to commit to using a raised bed every year. You can build and start using a raised bed one year, decide it isn’t for you, and break it down the next. Or, you can set your bed in one spot, realize that it isn’t the most effective use of the space, and then move the bed before the next spring. This offers a level of flexibility that you can’t get when growing in the ground.
Also of note is the fact that using a raised bed garden will allow you to plant your seeds earlier in the year compared to a traditional garden.