Raised Bed Gardening
While some people think the extra work of raised bed gardening is not worth it, there are several advantages that you may wish to consider. First for those who don’t know what raised bed gardening is I will define it. In most basic terms it is when a planting area is setup and the soil is mounded a few inches above level ground. This can get more complex with rail road ties and other types of walls to build a higher structure. The important part is that the soil is above ground level and there is no still lying water.
Some of the advantages of raised bed gardens include:
The plants are easier to access and you don’t have to bend down as far to access them.
Since the plants are within reach, you can grow more than you can in normal rows.
The soil has better drainage, so there is less disease.
The soil warms up faster in the spring, and doesn’t cool as fast in the fall.
You don’t walk on the soil, so it doesn’t get compacted. Many people don’t realize that roots need air, and therefore compacted soil is very detrimental to plant growth.
Some feel that the garden is more beautiful as it has a specified geometry and form.
Studies have shown that a raised bed garden may be up to two times more productive per square foot compared to normal gardening techniques.
While you may make the raised bed garden to any shape there are some guidelines to follow. The garden can be any length that you want, but it shouldn’t be more than 4′ wide so you can reach it comfortably from either side. It can be as high as you want it, but keep in mind that the higher you go, the more support you will need to build. Even a 6 inch raised bed will give you significant benefits. Raised bed gardens don’t need to be framed, but by not framing them you risk losing soil to erosion. You should fill your raised bed garden with fresh soil, compost, and well aged manure. A properly designed raised bed garden will be laid out so that you never have to walk on the dirt. The spacing will allow you to walk along the rows, thus never touching the soil. If you choose to frame your garden with wood make sure not to use pressure treated lumber. This has been known to leach chemicals into the soil. While untreated wood will not last as long, it is a safer alternative. Another alternative is to use a recycled plastic/wood composite lumber. The downside to using this to frame a raised bed garden is the fact that it costs up to 40 percent more than standard lumber.
There are several ready made kits available that let you quickly and easily set up a raised bed garden. Many of these kits are made out of red cedar wood that is naturally resistant to rot and insects. Red cedar doesn’t have any harmful chemicals that may leach out into the soil.
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