Raised Bed Gardening

Planting your garden in traditional rows at ground level ensures more labor. There will be much more tilling, weeding, mulching, and drainage issues – and a smaller overall harvest – than if you constructed raised garden beds.

They can be any shape you want – a square or rectangular block with or without a frame around it (though a frame will certainly make it look much tidier and prevent erosion along the edges), or a circular or wandering edible landscape feature lined with stones or slate. They should be of a size that you can reach in easily to the center of the bed to harvest your produce. Raised beds are ideal for people with a very small area available to grow vegetables, as well as people with mobility issues or arthritis.

The steps in planning and building a raised-bed garden are as follows:

• Decide where you intend to put the raised beds and what shape and size they will be.
• Purchase ready-made frames or the materials to construct your own.
Deep till your entire garden area – not just the beds. You will be using the soil from around the raised beds to actually raise them – and if you are raising your beds more than a foot you will most likely need to add a great deal of additional soil and organic material such as compost in order to not end up digging yourself a large hole in your backyard.
Test your soil, and add any soil amendments your test results recommend.
• Construct your beds by using a garden rake to pull soil up from what will be the paths around the beds. Your raised beds should be a minimum of 4 inches above the surrounding area, though you could go as high as 2 feet.
• Frame your beds.

The areas around your beds will be somewhat lower than the beds themselves. In order to avoid slogging through mud throughout the growing season, or allowing grass and weeds to take over, plant a low-growing cover crop such as clover, or mulch with a thick layer of straw or shredded bark. Stone or brick landscape pavers can be placed as well, particularly if these raised beds are to remain where they are permanently.

Benefits of raised vegetable beds:

Better drainage – because you have aerated the soil while deep tilling and building up the beds, and you will not be walking on them, you will not have to deal with soil compaction issues.
Larger harvests – because of the soil amendments you have added and the fact that you don’t need walking space between rows of vegetables, you can use intensive planting techniques (planting more seeds or seedlings closer together) for a larger crop. They will have plenty of nutrients for healthy growth.
Deeper roots – because the deep-tilled soil is not being compacted by human feet, your plant roots will have an easier time growing straight down, particularly when combined with proper drip irrigation techniques. Root crops will also thrive in this environment for the same reasons. EnviroDrip makes a drip irrigation system specifically for raised bed gardeners. Click on the link below for everything you will need to set up your drip irrigation system:

Less weeding – weeding will be much easier, as you will not be bending down so much. There will be less garden path space for them to grow, and intensive planting will give them far less opportunity to take hold.
Easier pest control – because your beds will be of a manageable size, a couple of hoops holding up thin mesh can completely encase each raised bed, virtually eliminating the threats of birds or larger bugs.

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