Gardening Tips and Highlights
Pros and cons of raised beds
by Christine Yesko
When the soil is lousy or non-existent, raised beds can come to the gardening rescue.
These planting areas are usually contained with a four-to-six-inch-tall border of wooden boards, large stones, concrete blocks, recycled plastic timbers, or bricks, then filled with soil mix. However, raised beds can be raised even higher, including ones mounted on legs to bring gardeners up to wheelchair or waist level. That makes gardening possible for those who can’t easily get down to ground level.
Pros of raised beds
One of the biggest benefits of raised beds is that they can be filled with loose, rich, well-drained soil mixes that are ideal for plant growth. Potting mixes used for containers can be used or you can tailor your own, using topsoil, compost, perlite, vermiculite, rotted leaves, rotted cow or horse manure.
If you limit your bed to widths of four to five feet, you can work the garden without having to step into the boxes. This prevents compacting the soil and eliminates the need to till. The loose soil mix also allows closer planting and encourages planting in blocks, which gives better yields than planting in single rows.
The beds dry quicker in spring, allowing an earlier start. Close planting, in turn, means less space for weeds. Raised beds seem to deter animal damage and if they do, a fence can be added around the box perimeter.
Cons of raised beds
The main downside is the work and expense of creating them. Use rot-resistant wood if you go with boards and figure even those will have to be replaced. The soil mix also can be a significant, one-time expense.
Care-wise, raised beds need water more often since the soil is more exposed to air and dries quicker. Similar to growing in containers, the extra watering can leach nutrients out of the soil quicker than in-ground gardens. For that reason, they need fertilizer more often, so a slow-release granular fertilizer is an excellent option.
So, it’s up to you if you have a patio, unused driveway, or any hard surface where in-ground gardening is impossible, give raised beds a try.