Raised beds are coming back with a bang! Soil quality used to be sooo good that where ever you threw a seed into the ground, something grew. In comparison, modern-day gardens are baron places filled with thinning shallow topsoil. Years of bad farming and gardening practices have robbed the soil of the few nutrients they contained. For years we have never thought about soil quality, but it turns out soil quality is one of the essential ingredients in growing plants. Hence the return of the mighty raised bed.
A raised garden bed is simply a large container of soil with no bottom that sits above the ground. More accurately, it is any raised mound of earth; it doesn’t even need to have a beautiful wooden structure surrounding it, although that does look good on Pinterest.
How big should your raised base be?
While it could potentially be any size you wanted, as you can’t step on the soil logistically, your limited to how far you can reach. The standard reach is about 4ft (just over a meter) wide.
It needs to be a sunny level space, which will also narrow down the options further. Wood usually is cut into 4ft and 8ft long pieces. So while you could make it as long as you wanted, it’s quickest to use the pre-cut measurement making the average raised beds 8ft by 4ft.
Minimum depth can vary, but due to the more extensive root systems of some vegetables, 12-18 inches deep is recommended.
Why are they so popular then?
Traditional farming taught that before the planting season, it’s a better practice to till the topsoil and mix it with the lower layers of soil. It’s also a practice used in gardening only on a smaller scale. Tilling causes soil to lose nutrients, such as nitrogen and fertilizer and makes it more difficult for the ground to store water. No tilling is a more modern agricultural technique that doesn’t disturb the soil. The new mulch or compost is placed on top of the topsoil, directly building up the organic matter and giving us a much better quality soil.
Raised beds offer More output in less space. Because the beds are higher, the plants have more space for the root systems, and the roots grow down instead of across. Plants can be tightly packed in a space 8ft by 4ft raised bed and would be surprised how much produce you can produce in a growing season in a relatively small space.
Drainage is one of the significant advantages raised beds to have over standard garden beds. Drainage is an essential feature of any garden, to have good drainage, good soil is needed. The soil in the raised beds is not compressed because its loose and is not compacted. So the soil contains enough pores, the gaps between soil particles, to allow air and water to flow freely.
The most common outcome of inadequate drainage is root rot and runoff. Root rot is waterlogged soil, and runoff is when soil becomes compacted, not allowing the water to penetrate, and the topsoil washes away.
Tilling on the farm and in the garden creates more weeds. The weed seeds that were on the surface get tilled underground, where they can now germinate. Raised beds are so successful in having fewer weeds for two reasons 1. as they grow the plants closer together, there’s no space for the weeds 2. they cover the raised beds in mulch to stifle the growth of any other plants such as weeds.
With fewer weeds, there’s no need for those harsh chemical herbicides. We are making our raised bed more organic. Organic is the pinnacle of life and basically what we should all be striving for when we garden. Herbicides can also be expensive and add to the overall cost of gardening and food production.
Your back will like the raised the garden
Raised beds can be as high as 36 inches, gardening at waist height is much easier on the neck and back that continually bending over. Over an extended period, this can take its toll on the body. Having higher beds takes care of that problem, leaving you free to focus on other tasks.
Install them straight onto your lawns
Yes, that’s right! raised beds can be built straight onto the existing grass without digging it up. Just line the bottom with cardboard and mulch, such as grass cuttings or leaves, and put the soil straight on top. This gardening stuff is getting easier by the day.
Acid and Alkaline soils
Soils around the garden are not the same, and plants have different pH ranges that they prefer when talking about giving us the highest yield of even flowering. Most veggies like a lower pH of 5.5-7.5, but plants such as tomatoes and broccoli love that slightly sweeter soil. Raised beds let you have different pH in different beds, making it much easier to control the growing conditions.
Raised beds offer the option of portablitliy with little extra work. You can even install a wire mesh at the bottom of the raised bed to help with portability. If the conditions become less than ideal where your raised bed is currently situated e.g., no sunlight. You can pick it up or unscrew it and move it to a new location. They could even be pushed into a garage to avoid an early frost, for example.
Extending the growing season
Raised beds thaw much faster than standard ground-level beds. Frost occurs at ground level, so being raised, they offer more protection when jack frost comes to visit. Extending the gardening window makes a big difference over a growing season. Its a significant advantage getting those seedlings planted in early in the season when they can benefit from the cooler temperatures.
Have you had success with urban farming? Comment below or share your photos by tagging @the.pitted.avocado or using #the.pitted.avocado
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