Ever wonder why raised bed gardening is so popular? It’s more than just for looks. Once you try this growing method – if you haven’t already – you’ll probably never look back! At the very least, your back and your plants will thank you for growing above ground level.
What is raised bed gardening?
A raised garden bed is a growing bed that is built up above the ground, usually within some type of container or border. It can be just a few inches high or several feet high. Raised beds look nice and make gardening easier and more productive.
One great thing about raised garden beds is you can create them out of a huge variety of materials no matter how big or small your budget is. If you have money to splurge, you can purchase beautiful prefabricated beds or hire someone to build them for you out of top-quality materials.
On the other hand, if you want to build garden beds as cheaply as possible, there are endless options using recycled or inexpensive materials you might already have sitting around your property. You really can build raised garden beds out of almost anything.
Benefits of elevated garden beds
Raised garden beds look appealing, for sure, but there are more benefits than just aesthetics. They are practical, convenient, and functional. Here are a few great reasons to try raised bed gardening:
1. Easier access
For gardeners with physical limitations, such as back or knee problems, caring for plants in a raised bed alleviates the pains associated with bending over or kneeling on the ground. Even wheelchair-bound gardeners can enjoy their hobby thanks to beds raised to suitable heights.
Raised beds also provide easier access to plants for care and weeding. Plants can usually be reached from any side of most garden beds, eliminating the need to stretch too far for weeding and harvesting.
Attractive paths can be made between beds for quick access and to cut down on weeds in your growing area.
2. No tilling needed
In raised beds, the soil is amended by building it up every year rather than tilling it down. The no-till method is better for the soil, as it keeps essential microorganisms intact. This biodiversity is very important to plant health. Healthy soil = healthy plants!
3. Create functional, appealing spaces
Beds can easily be separated into different planting zones on your property. For example, you can use some beds for decorative annuals and perennials and others for edibles.
Beds for shade-loving plants like greens and peas can be placed in low-light parts of your property, while those you fill with sun-loving tomatoes and peppers can go in the parts of your yard with the most sun exposure.
Raised beds also make it easy to distinguish between individual plots in shared spaces like community or school gardens.
If you have kids who want to get involved in gardening, try making each of them their own raised bed to grow whatever they want. This is a fun, easy way to introduce kids to growing their own food, flowers, or both! I still remember how exciting it was as a kid to pick out our own seeds and help raise and harvest our garden plants.
4. Protect plants from damage and soil compaction
When planting directly into the ground, you run the risk of soil compaction from people and pets walking through your planting areas. This can damage plants and hinder growth.
In raised beds, the soil stays loose and plants are safe from most foot traffic and pets running through the garden. A tall enough bed will also keep out rabbits and other critters intent on making a snack of your hard work.
5. Better weed control
In well-maintained raised beds, weeds become less of a problem over time, especially when beds are adequately mulched each year.
When pesky weeds do manage to work their way into a raised bed, plucking them out is fast and easy. For one, you don’t have to crawl around on your hands and knees to weed, and two, the loose soil makes pulling weeds a breeze.
6. Better drainage
Since soil compaction is not an issue in raised beds, a properly-prepared bed has better soil drainage than its in-ground counterpart.
On the other hand, in sandy soil where too much drainage is a problem, a raised bed with well-amended soil can aid in water retention.
A garden bed can become the ideal place for plants regardless of the quality of the soil on your property.
Water, fertilizer, compost, and other soil amendments are easier to manage in raised beds than in in-ground garden areas spread out over large spaces. There is also less waste from runoff or from amending unnecessary areas.
7. Longer growing season
The soil in raised beds warms earlier in the spring than the ground does, so plants can usually be placed earlier than you would otherwise.
It may also be easier to cover plants in a bed for those random frosty days in late fall and early spring. Covers can be blankets, tarps, a hoop greenhouse, or a cold frame.
8. Greater planting versatility
From small boxes to large multi-bed layouts, raised beds provide plenty of growing space options for any yard size. Just starting out gardening? Start with one or two beds.
As your gardening hobby (or obsession) grows, so can your planting beds. Raised beds can be built right over lawns or placed on patios and decks.
9. Material and cost flexibility
No matter your budget, there are plenty of options when building garden beds. Cheap materials such as used tires, pallets, and old timber make perfectly suitable growing spaces. You can even use cinder blocks to build growing beds.
At the other end of the cost spectrum, garden beds can be built out of more expensive wood, concrete, brick, or rock to match your house or landscape.
That’s just a handful of reasons to try raised bed gardening. Still unsure? Start small and experiment with different types of veggies, fruits, or ornamentals to see what works for you.
Do you grow your garden plants in raised beds? If so, what do you love about it?