If you’re planning on adding a vegetable or flower garden to your yard, consider installing a raised planting bed. A simple raised bed consists of a box built of lumber, blocks, or bricks with soil added to elevate the level of the planting bed above the surrounding ground.
There are many options for raised planting beds of all shapes and sizes, including prefabricated frame kits that are simple to assemble. Whatever the type, raised beds offer some distinct advantages over traditional ground level garden rows:
Better Soil: Raised planting beds allow greater control over the quality of the soil. You can even bring in new soil or incorporate more nutritious organic matter to improve the growing conditions. Soil pH, texture, depth, and richness are all right at your fingertips with raised beds.
Increased Yields: Raised planting beds can double the yield of traditional row gardens. If you plan the beds so you can reach in from all sides (about 4 feet wide), you eliminate the need to plant in rows. And by spacing plants in a matrix rather than rows, you can fit more plants which will thrive in the rich soil and greatly increase the harvest per square foot.
No Foot Traffic: Walking among garden plants causes soil compaction, which inhibits water and air from reaching the roots. Raised beds keep the soil light and loose.
Better Drainage: Raised planting beds drain water away faster, which really helps during spring rains. Good drainage helps keep away rot, fungus, and disease; though it does mean you’ll have to water more often during midsummer.
Less Maintenance: Better use of space in raised beds means less room for weeds, less water, less waste, and less worry. While you’ll still have to water and tend your plants, your efforts will be targeted where it counts.
Smarter Watering: The small, organized space of raised beds is perfect for incorporating a water-saving irrigation system, such as drip irrigation or a soaker hose.
Ease of Use: Raised garden beds are easier to work! They can be built as high as needed for your comfort, even to wheelchair height, and you can incorporate benches around the edges to save your knees.
Neater Appearance: The nice clean lines of raised beds bring a pleasing order to the garden. In between the beds, you can plant soft lawn grass or incorporate stone pathways for walking. No more mud, no more mess!
Longer Growing Season: Raised beds warm up faster in spring than the surrounding soil, which allows you to plant a little earlier. Likewise, in fall, they tend to stay warmer and produce longer.
Better Pest Control: While it’s difficult to make any garden pest proof, raised beds offer some advantages. They’re easy to protect from burrowing critters by lining the bottom with hardware cloth and fencing the sides. Creepy crawlies, such as slugs, will be discouraged by having to climb up the sides. Adding a simple frame on top of a raised bed will allow you to easily drape bird netting over it.
Framework for Creativity: Raised planting beds, particularly wood framed beds, offer a perfect foundation for creative gardening. You can attach sturdy trellis directly to the frame for vines and vertical gardening that will increase your yields even more. And with the addition of a lightweight frame or hoops, you can easily drape frost cloths or even convert your garden to a cold frame during cool seasons.
More Garden Options: Raised beds allow you to garden in areas that would otherwise have been unsuitable. Soggy spots, areas with thin topsoil, or eroded slopes can be transformed into productive gardens by building and tending raised beds that rise above the problem. You can even build raised beds on rooftops or patios!