Why build a raised bed garden? Are you thinking about constructing one too? Next to container gardening, it is becoming one of the most popular approaches to design. Rather than spend laborious hours digging in the dirt, they’re spending that time building attractive frameworks for their veggie bounty, and you may be thinking about it, too.
It was definitely the right choice for my backyard for the kind of soil conditions I have, and it was definitely an enriching experience for me. It’s hard to believe just two years ago, my backyard was a mess of weeds and grass that had to be mowed every two weeks in the summer.
When John and I first started dating, he talked about how turning my backyard into a garden would be such a boon for my life and how that endless maintenance could be turned around into something wonderful and enriching.
Last spring he and I set out to build our garden. It took probably close to 100 bags of soil and at least 35 wood timbers, but it was worth it. I no longer have to worry about snakes in the grass when I go into the backyard as we not only have all that unsightly grass, but walkways too between them. It is a joy to go in the yard instead of a chore, especially when I would do my periodic scouts for new sprouting veggies on the vine – how exciting!
The beds can be constructed from wood, bricks, tin, among other materials. Wood is the most common material. Even if all you had to contend with was concrete cinderblocks, you could still arrange them into a structure that would support vegetable gardening.
So if you thinking of doing the same for yourself and or your family, here are at least 5 conditions that may make crafting a raised bed garden a good option.
1. ) You live in an area with poor quality soil
…Or soil that is difficult to work with. That was our primary reason. Georgia is famous for its red clay soil. It’s also maddeningly difficult to dig through it as the amount of rocks and roots beneath the surface is a level you wouldn’t believe. Many of my relatives live in Tennessee and they always manage to have very healthy in-ground gardens because the soil is much easier to work with.
I remember when I was a kid I’d see an one of those low-budget TV ads talking about something called the “Garden Weasel” which was a multipurpose tilling tool with detachable “rakes”. Well let’s just say the kind of soil in my backyard , I don’t think it would cut the mustard. My attempts to eke out a hole big enough for something to plant were always stymied.
Enter the raised bed, where you’ll have healthy, moist, dark topsoil at the ready. You will have to supply it, of course, as well as all those other wonderful supplementing products like blood meal, eggshells, etc., but you’ll save yourself a lot of aggravation.
2.) Less physical strain
Much less stooping and bending is involved with raised beds. If you’re a sufferer of back pain (as am I) this is something to think about. The average bed in height is about 8-12″ in height. You’ll have to kneel, in most cases, but it will be easier. Also, people with handicaps will fare much better and can still enjoy their hobby.
Beds can even be mounted higher up on taller stilt-like structures, such as this example here to the left, so if you’re wheelchair-bound or just have physical limitations that hamper movement there’s no reason you can’t enjoy a full and rewarding hobby (or pursuit of produce for sustenance -depending on what your goals are.)
3.) You’ll have less weeding to deal with
In-ground gardens may have their fair share of weeds, but when you’ve got topsoil already accumulated they don’t just crop up everywhere like they usually do. When you’re laying down the bases like cardboard, etc., you’re starving out unwanted species underneath, and that can make for a lot less of a chore so you can focus on the duties that really matter.There may be a few stragglers here and there, but it’ll be easier to manage and yank them out.
4.) You want a style of gardening that is aesthetically pleasing to look at
Depending on how you want to plan your walkways, raised beds can add to your backyard’s appeal. It may depend on how much space you have but you can plot out paths and walkways too, with pebbles, wood bark chips (as we’re using) and gravel. They will be very visually intriguing to look at as you stroll up and down between the beds.
Whether you like the look of red bricks, or just more drawn to a perimeter with architecture enclosing your veggies and blooms. And they don’t have to be perfectly linear shaped, either. Like this pyramid layout here, which not only supports each plant adequately, but it’s unique looking, and the eyes are drawn upward and down.
5.) Better soil drainage
Soil that is elevated means soil that will drain much better, especially in areas that are prone to flooding and not “hilly” enough to have natural reservoirs. This year, I have seen some exceptionally prolonged periods of rain…and my backyard is pretty flat, meaning all that rain has nowhere to run into.
During times of heavy downpours I find myself joking that it’s becoming a swamp and any minute now I might catch sight of baby alligators or something. I’m kind of being facetious, of course, but it did feel that way – especially when I have to put on my boots to feed the hens or replenish the hanging wild birdfeeders. For that reason alone, building raised beds was the smart decision.
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So drainage is the last big advantage of raised bed planting. . Although some species of plants can handle (and even thrive) in excess moisture, many others won’t and the results could be disastrous. . First step is to take stock of your designated area and test it for quality of drainage.
You can do this by digging a hole about 10″ deep and then filling it with water. Wait a day and see if any remains, then refill the hole. Check back again in 10 hours. If the water hasn’t dissipated by then, that’s a sign your soil has a low saturation point. This will not bode well for your prospective plants – and means your backyard is a good candidate for creating raised beds..
Well, I’ve given you five good reasons to think about, regarding your own situation, you may find that elevating your beds is the way to go.