Are you using a raised garden bed system in your gardens? Raised garden bed benefits are many, and they are perfect for new gardeners as well as veterans. A raised garden is quite possibly the easiest way to garden; just build, fill and plant!
Raised Garden Bed Benefits
My garden is a raised garden bed farm with a few containers too. I add more boxes every year and we are getting cut our produce costs a little more each year. You just can’t beat homegrown, organic, vegetables and fruit; right from your backyard. So what are the benefits of a raised garden bed? Let me tell you!
1. Easy to start
You don’t need to till or dig up a large area to prepare it for planting. A raised garden bed is already built, or you build it; set it down and fill it with soil.
2. Almost no weeding
I see a lot of sites claiming that raised beds have no weeding. That isn’t exactly the case. You’ll have a lot less weeds but if the wind blows, you’ll still probably have a few. Remember to build your box on top of a layer of weed control; this can be cardboard, newspaper or weed cloth. I used weed cloth but I know some people don’t like it; it just gives me longer protection.
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One of the best things about a raised garden bed is how custom you can make them. You can keep them shallow, mine are only 6 inches deep; or make a few deeper beds for your root veggies. A bed 12 – 24 inches deep is more than enough for your root veggies; remember you have to fill that puppy up and deeper is more expensive.
You can even build boxes that are waist level for those that have a hard time bending! You do want to remember to keep your beds no more than 4 feet wide. You want to be able to access the middle from every side of the box. I always recommend starting with a 4×4 bed. But you can make them as long as you’d like. I like separate boxes because it gives me control over the soil…but we’ll come back to that in a sec.
4. Higher quality soil
When you plant directly in the ground, you pretty much take what you get. It might be great, but it might not be. Our ground here in Phoenix is hard as a rock and often full of clay. Not exactly supreme conditions for my little seeds and transplants. And it is a lot of back breaking work to dig that up!
With a raised garden bed soil amending becomes a 1000x easier. I know that my beds are getting the most ideal soil right from the start. I started with Mel’s Mix for Square Foot Gardening but over time I’ve been able to use my homemade compost (aka black gold). When I do a bed change it is easy to remove a little “used” soil and amend it with some fresh compost or fertilizers (all organic, I promise). And BOOM that bed is brand spanking new and ready for planting!
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5. Better pest control
I am not talking bugs – you’ll still have to deal with those boogers. But if you know you have issues with ground pests you can take some measures to keep those pesky guys out but laying out some chicken wire under your bed before filling. I also added “fences” around my boxes to keep neighborhood cats and my dogs out of them. I have found this discourages wild birds too – they don’t like getting in the fence. I also keep a little fencing on top of the box to give me additional protection from the birds. We don’t attach anything to the box so we can remove during planting and harvesting.
6. Easy to match your decor
Hey, scoff if you will, but being aesthetically pleasing can make gardening all the more fun. Especially if you’re a backyard homesteader; you may want your boxes to match your house. I have to admit this isn’t something I have done in the past but now I am looking at making my micro farm a little more of a showpiece for visitors. 😉
Just remember you don’t want paint coming into contact with your soil. Keep your materials natural and organic – health over pretty!
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7. Bigger yields in a smaller space
Using methods like intensive gardening or square foot gardening can actually allow your raised bed garden to yield a lot! Remember that you are using your close-to-perfect soil in these bed and that is going to produce higher yields than in your traditional row gardens.
8. Adaptability – grow anywhere!
When you are controlling your soil, the size, shape and material for your garden, you can pretty much put it anywhere you want. You won’t be limited because you don’t have a large space for rows and rows of lettuce; heck I’ve grown lettuce in old Rubbermaid tubs on my porch. You don’t need acres, you don’t even need a backyard; you can grow on your patio! If you can’t build a 4×4 raised bed try tubs, buckets or grow bags.
Another great benefit to a raised bed garden is your ability to contain it. You put it where you want it and it is more easily pruned and kept in the area you want it. This can be super helpful when you’re dealing with a yard that is dividing its time between your farm dreams and your family. Now that isn’t saying that you don’t have to keep an eye on those boxes. Last year we did 2 boxes of sweet potatoes. I got sick and was in the hospital…we are still finding the occasional stray potato outside the box.
10. Water conservation
Ok, this is a BIG BIG BIG benefit! With traditional gardening methods you’re not just watering your fruits and veggies. You could be potentially wasting hundreds of gallons of water every week. With your raised bed garden you have a lot more control over your water. You can use a manual hose method or a drip method that only waters the box. I have even seen square foot gardens that have the watering systems built into the grids. Living in the desert watering is always a big concern, especially in the summer. Now with California’s agriculture being hit hard by drought we have too look at growing our own as produce prices skyrocket.
It wouldn’t be very balanced to tell you all those awesome benefits without telling you a few of the cons of a raised bed garden.
A Few Raised Bed Garden Cons
1. Can be expensive to start
If you’re going to buy pre-made beds you may be looking at a higher cost for materials. Either way you’ll need materials to build your beds and that is an out of pocket expense. Try looking for free materials but please don’t use anything “treated”.
2. You’re going to pay to fill ’em too
This is probably the highest expense of the raised bed garden. This is why I focused on building and filling one box at a time. Fill with quality soil, don’t cheap out! Remember, once they are filled you have a garden for years with just a little care and amending as needed.
3. Planning is important
A garden box isn’t super portable. Once it is down and filled you aren’t really going to be able to move it around without taking out all the dirt. So it requires some planning on your part to ensure goes where you want it and where the sun will reach it (or in my case, not burn it up). Try laying it out before you filling it up. Walk around and make sure you’ve given yourself enough space to move around.
Well there you go! You have 10 benefits of raised bed gardens and a few realities too. I hope you’ll get started gardening soon. I have found it to be one of the greatest enjoyments of my life. It is a hobby that pays you!