Raised Bed Gardening: Getting Started

It can be very discouraging to have crop after crop failure due to poor soil conditions. Some regions just aren’t suited well to gardening because their soil drains improperly, but fortunately there is a simple solution – raised bed gardening.

A raised bed garden is simply a garden that is grown in soil raised atop the level of your native ground. This can be done simply by piling soil free-form, but it is more common for raised beds to be contained within simple framework. Soil in raised bed gardening may include some of the original soil from the ground or may include only soil you choose to import from outside. Either way raised bed gardening gives you a great advantage in that you are more easily able to access and control the conditions of your raised bed soil.

What are some benefits of raised bed gardening?

  • No compacting. Since raised beds don’t get stepped on, the soil doesn’t get compacted. This means you don’t need to dig in it routinely to loosen it up. Weeds have a harder time getting a hold in looser soil too, so you’ll spend less time and energy weeding.
  • Better Drainage. Since you can choose your own mixture of soil, you can also choose exactly as much drainage as you need, no more and no less.
  • Accessibility. Raised bed gardening is great for those who don’t like to stoop over too much. It’s much easier on your back and knees. Even wheelchair bound people can garden with a raised bed.
  • Space conservation. Raised bed gardening can save a great deal of space since it eliminates the need for pathways. It also provides a means for growing underground crops in a square foot grid system.
  • Better nutrition for plants. Compacted soil hinders plant roots from growing, but looser soil doesn’t inhibit their growth. This means they can more easily reach nutrition, water and air.
  • Raised beds heat up more quickly than ground level gardens. The result is that you can plant even earlier in the spring than you normally could. Since the plants will have more time in the heat, you will be able to produce a greater yield before summer’s end.
  • Protection against pests. The walls of a raised bed garden can protect the plants from many pests, particularly in conjunction with cover crops and staggered planting.

Raised bed gardening is excellent for herbs, vegetables, fruits and flowers. Many materials make good walls for your raised bed garden – many gardeners choose wood since it is inexpensive and lightweight. Others use concrete blocks, brick or stone. Temporary barriers such as hay make good walls, even though they need replacing. You can even use an old tire for a small raised garden plot.

Here are some basic steps for setting up your own raised garden bed:

  • The site you select for your raised garden bed should be level and receive plenty of sunlight.
  • Some planning is required before you get started. One of the best things about raised bed gardening is that you can plan your plot to be fully accessible without paths. Four feet wide is often recommended, with six inches of depth for the soil at a minimum. Twice that is even better.
  • Next you can prepare your bed and build the walls out of the material you’ve chosen. Wood is the most common choice for raised bed gardens. Ensure that your bed is level before you plant anything, otherwise your water may run off.
  • Choose your dirt and compost and plant your garden!

Raised bed gardening is a great way to start gardening since it is accessible, simple to build and maintain, and gives you full control of the soil conditions your plants need to thrive.