Are you thinking about starting a garden this year? If so, I highly recommend gardening in raised beds. There are so many reasons raised beds make gardening easier. Let’s explore a few of them.
Raised beds warm up sooner
First, since raised beds are above the ground, they tend to warm up sooner in the Spring. This allows you get started planting earlier. Many seeds won’t germinate if the ground it too cold, but because the beds are above the ground, they catch the sunlight better and warm the soil quicker. Sometimes you can plant about two weeks earlier than normal, provided the crops are frost tolerant.
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Since you are adding soil to the area, raised beds tends to have looser soil that makes it easier to work. This looser soil is also ideal if you are planting root crops such as potatoes or carrots. The roots don’t have to work as hard to go deep so carrots tend to be straighter and potatoes less oddly shaped.
The soil is also looser in raised beds because you don’t actually walk in the growing area. Since you aren’t compacting it with your feet, the dirt is much easier to dig and plant in. You won’t have to till the soil, yet it will still be workable. Even if you aren’t doing raised beds, having designated garden areas and specific walkways will keep your soil much more workable.
Another benefit to gardening in raised beds is that you can use less water simply because you don’t have to water walkways like you do in a traditional row garden. You only water the planting areas. (If you want to conserve even more water, check out my post on using black plastic in the garden. I went on vacation for two weeks in the summer and my garden did not receive any rain. When we returned it was still lush and healthy!)
Raised beds also help provide good drainage for the soil. This means that even in periods of heavy rain, your garden probably won’t be a mud pit like a traditional row garden. Plus, the sides of the raised bed will keep the soil from washing away during heavy downpours.
One benefit to raised beds versus container gardening is that raised beds don’t have bottoms like containers do. Since they are open to the ground, earthworms and other beneficial insects are able to aerate the soil. It also allows roots to grow further into the ground accessing more nutrients. In turn, your produce will have more nutrients in it too.
Gardening in raised beds can mean better soil quality
Many times, people with poor soil can still have a successful garden by using raised beds. Because you are building up a raised bed, you typically will be adding soil to raise the bed above the ground. When adding soil, it is also a good idea to add some additional nutrients to the soil in the form of compost or other amendments such as cow manure or fertilizer. This is a perfect solution for those with soil that is too sandy or for yards that have too much clay.
More food and less weeds
When you garden in raised beds, you can space the plants closer together. This means you can grow more food in a smaller space. And if you select varieties that are suited for small space gardening, you can get even more out of a small raised bed.
Another benefit to putting the plants closer together, is that they will help shade out any weed seeds that are in your beds. And if weeds do germinate, they are much easier to pull up thanks to the looser soil.
Gardening in raised beds is easier on your body
Another benefit to gardening in raised beds is that you don’t have to bend over as far to reach the bed. This can be especially helpful for the elderly. There are even raised bed kits that have sides you can sit on to make gardening easier.
You can start small with one raised bed and add on to your garden when (and if) you choose to. And when starting a garden, I always recommend that beginning gardeners START SMALL. This way you can decide if you like gardening and you don’t become overwhelmed.
Materials to build raised beds
You can build a raised bed with lots of different items. I have used cinder blocks, bricks, rocks, and wood boards to build mine. While rocks and bricks are not ideal (They really don’t make much of a raised bed, more of a garden bed.) they do work if that is what you have. (And since we had some leftover bricks from building our house, that is what I use!)
Making a raised bed out of cinder blocks is super easy. Just place the blocks around the edge of your bed and fill with soil. The top of the blocks makes a good place to sit while you work in your garden. And if you fill some of the holes with soil, you can even plant flowers or additional veggies in the holes. My Mom sometimes plants her beans and peas in the cinder block holes.
If you want to use wood for the sides of your raised bed, you can find many instructions online of how to put one together. (These instructions seem really simple, but I haven’t tried it myself.) Keep in mind that wood will eventually rot, especially the area touching the ground.
You don’t want to use treated lumber either, because you don’t want those chemicals leaching into your garden soil and ultimately your produce. If you can afford cedar, it is your best bet for a wooden raised bed. It is long lasting and rot-resistant. There are also corner kits or in-line connectors you can purchase to help put together a wooden raised bed. Check your local home improvement stores for the best prices.
Another easy way to build a raised bed is to purchase a pre-made kit. While usually not the most economical choice, a kit you put together is certainly the easiest. These kits come in many sizes and are usually quite simple to put together. These are ideal for someone who wants to test out gardening or for children who may be wanting a garden of their own. I recommend either a 4′ x 4′ kit or a 3′ x 8′ bed.
There are also elevated raised beds which are perfect for the elderly or anyone with back problems. They can make gardening much easier since you don’t have to bend over so far. There are many different types to choose from, depending on your needs.
If you really want to have some serious raised bed envy, check out what Jill of The Prairie Homestead built her raised beds from. They are both beautiful and functional, but probably too expensive for most of us. Plus, I encourage you to start small with one or two beds if this is your first foray into gardening. (But if you really want those corrugated raised beds, you can find similar ones here. I especially like the blue ones.)
Tools you need for gardening in raised beds or small spaces
If you will be gardening in raised beds this year, you might be wondering what tools you need to grow a successful garden. You really don’t need very many.
For a list of my Top 5 (Inexpensive) Gardening Tools for Small Space Gardening, sign up below. You’ll be given the password to my Resource Library where you can download the printable.
Square Foot Gardening
If you would like more info on growing a garden in raised beds, check out Mel Bartholomew’s book, All New Square Foot Gardening. It is an invaluable resource for learning the square foot gardening method in raised beds.
Raised Bed Gardening For Beginners by Tammy Wylie is a great book to help you get started growing a small garden in a raised bed. This book explains how to decide where to locate your raised beds and how to determine what size you need. There is also a section on plant profiles that covers how to grow many popular vegetables in your raised beds.
Raised Bed Revolution by Tara Nolan explains the basics of how to grow a garden in raised beds. However, she takes the raised bed concept further by detailing how to make many different raised bed designs. The book includes a whole section on raised beds for small spaces and another section on using found items as raised beds. The photographs are beautiful making this a book you could easily leave on your coffee table too! This book will show you that there is truly a raised bed for everyone.
For further reading on my site
For further reading, check out my post on how to choose the vegetables to grow in your garden and how to create a garden plan. You can locate all of my other gardening articles here.
Do have questions about gardening in raised beds? What about other gardening topics you are struggling with? Please leave a comment below about any gardening related issues you may be having. I might create a post just for you!