Copyright (c) 2012 Jack Russell
Poor soil can make growing a productive garden difficult for even the most experienced gardeners. Efforts to improve bad soil include adding soil amendments, aerating and fertilizing the soil on a regular basis. These practices are time consuming activities that don’t often produce desired results. However, those who have poor soil on their property yet still wish to grow a garden can easily do so using raised bed gardens. A raised bed is simply a garden space created above the ground, ensuring that the homeowner has complete control over the quality of the soil. Although all types of plants can be grown in raised beds, this technique is most often used for vegetable and herb gardens.
A raised bed can be built with a structure around it to keep it intact, or else it can be allowed to be a free-form space. The process of making a raised bed is fairly simple. Wood is the most common material used, though stone, bricks, recycled plastic and concrete blocks are good choices as well. One of the most important things to keep in mind when making a raised bed is that it should be accessible from both sides in order to avoid stepping into it. This will help to keep the soil from becoming compacted. Compacted soils negatively affect garden drainage and aeration.
Placement of raised bed gardens will depend on what is to be grown in them. Herbs and vegetables generally require a sunny exposure in order for them to be at their best. Small raised beds can work well in shady areas where a bit of color is needed from flowering plants such as impatiens and lobellia. Because they’re easily accessed, raised beds are easier to keep weed-free than gardens planted at ground level.
Another advantage to raised beds is that the soil they contain warms up more quickly in the spring, allowing the gardener to get a head start on the growing season. Hoops and a transparent cover can be placed over a raised bed to further extend the growing season. Raised beds need less maintenance and have better drainage than traditional garden spots. They are ideal for people with back or knee problems because they are high enough off of the ground to allow access without a lot of painful bending and stooping. Most senior citizens appreciate the ease and convenience that a raised bed offers.
For the homeowner who is trying to save money by growing vegetables, herbs and fruits rather than purchasing them at the grocery store, raised beds are an especially good value because this method of planting increases the yield of any crop. Because the soil is top-quality, it’s easier for plant roots to access available nutritional minerals and organic chemicals, allowing plants to be spaced closer together than in traditional ground-level garden areas. There is also less chance of losing plants to pests or of plants being choked out by weeds. Roaming neighborhood animals won’t be able to cause much damage to plants that are growing in a raised bed.
Even though poor soils are the main reason why gardeners decide to construct and utilize raised beds, there are plenty of other advantages to them that make them well worth the initial effort and expense involved in their construction.