The Benefits of Raised Planting Beds
and How to Use them in your Garden
There are several very good reasons why you would consider building a raised planting bed in your garden.
Raised beds are sometimes the only way to have a successful garden in areas where the topsoil has been removed to facilitate construction, or in areas with highly compacted, unusable clay soil.
Individual planting beds give the gardener the option of creating different environments, enabling them to grow a wider variety of plants. Each bed can be filled with soil which has been chosen and prepared to suit the requirements of a certain category of plants.
( Plants which require a drastically different soil pH, succulents which require extra drainage, a raised "bog" garden, sun, shade...)
Garden Access for the Disabled
Persons with back problems or other disabilities which may otherwise prevent them from working in the garden will find it much easier and more enjoyable to tend a raised planting bed. Raised beds can even be designed to be cared for by people who are confined to wheelchairs.
Advantages of Raised Bed Gardens
- Raised beds are attractive, easy to maintain, and can be designed to fit your landscape and your needs
- Cultivating and weeding are easier because you'll be able to reach into each and every corner of your bed to pull the young weeds as they appear
- The soil warms up earlier in the spring , allowing you to plant and harvest earlier
- Because raised beds are designed for walking around, not in, work within the bed can be done during rainy periods, without fear of compacting the soil, or turning it into a muddy mess
- The plants are somewhat isolated, and therefore more protected from insects, snails, and slugs
- There will be much less stooping, bending and straining in every aspect of your gardening
- Raised planting beds can be designed so that they are convertible to a cold frame in the spring, allowing you to get a jump on all the other gardeners in the neighborhood. Mount permanent supports for framing poles directly to the frame of the bed. In early spring, add a frame of PVC pipe, cover with poly film, and you will be able to start your plants directly into the ground, as soon as a month earlier!
Growing Vegetables in Raised Beds
If this planting bed is for a vegetable garden, remember to rotate your crops from year to year. Different veggies consume different minerals from the soil. By rotating your crops, you will ensure a longer useable life for the soil.
Raised Bed Gardens
A raised planting bed is exactly what the name implies. A raised bed is a mound of prepared soil which has been imported from another area of the yard, or delivered from another site (nurseries, landscaping supply, topsoil companies).
The traditional concept of a raised bed is that of a permanent structure built to house a small garden. Usually they are created using landscape timbers, stone, concrete blocks, logs....
The bed does not however, have to be contained in this manner. If it fits your needs, you can have a truckload of soil dumped almost anywhere. As soon as it is planted it becomes a raised bed. If you use this unframed method, be sure to plant the perimeter of the mound with ground covers immediately to prevent the soil from washing away.
When planning your raised bed you need to consider the reasons why you are doing it.
If gardening is somewhat of an impossibility because your soil is heavy clay, you may be tempted to create your raised bed solely with imported topsoil. Keep in mind that there are a lot of good, beneficial minerals in the clay, and a wise gardener will want to take advantage of them. Before you begin, till and cultivate the clay soil as well as you can, adding organic material (compost or peat moss) and sand to loosen it up. As you begin to add the soil to your raised bed, mix it in with the native soil. Add the remaining topsoil above this native/import blend. This will allow the roots of your new plants to more easily spread into, and utilize the nutrients in the native soil.
Raised beds which are created to be accessible by the less abled should be built higher (2 feet or more), so that less bending is involved in the care of the garden. If possible, it is a good idea to add seating areas or benches as part of, or adjacent to the perimeter of the bed. These beds may be as long as you'd like, but they should also be limited to four feet in width, so that the maximum reach to any plant (or weed) is within 2 feet of the border.
Your raised planting bed may be a garden accent, or a necessity. They may be as small or as large, as many or as few as you'd like. The options are infinite, and they are all yours.
Click to learn: How to build a raised planting bed garden