As the traditional growing season comes to a close, many are starting their “wintering” plans for their garden beds. This might be a good time to consider a significant re-design of your garden by using raised garden beds next season.
As the name suggests, raised bed gardening is a special type of gardening methodology which utilizes a raised platform to grow plants. It is slightly different from the conventional form of directly-in-the-ground gardening; nevertheless it delivers the same value for your time and effort. Actually more.
It is an ideal gardening technique for baby boomers – and anyone looking for easier gardening – as it requires comparatively less effort and results in better yield.
What is Raised Bed Gardening?
Quite simply it is gardening beds that employ raised ground that you use for cultivating your favorite plants. It may be a temporary raised bed garden which simply involves a mound of soil in your backyard. The long term ones make use of barriers to contain the soil within defined dimensions.
Temporary Raised Bed Gardens
Temporary raised bed gardens usually need to be revamped every year as the soil erodes or becomes compact. As they do not have defined boundaries, it might be a little challenging to manage this type of garden.
These beds can become quite elaborate, with some being constructed several feet tall, and planting being done on the “hillsides”.
Permanent/ Long-term Raised Bed Gardens
On the other hand, the long term or permanent raised bed gardens compel you to use containers that are generally four feet wide. They may be made from wood (redwood and cedar work best because their rot resistant properties), bricks, cement blocks, sections of storm drain, recycled materials and others. Not only do they keep the soil in place, but also keep the pathways between these containers free from debris.
Most containers are four feet wide to allow you to easily weed and manage soil. If they’re wider than four feet, it will be difficult for you to reach the center of the bed. You want to avoid walking on the beds if possible, as soil compaction will occur.
The thing with raised bed gardens is this –because they’re raised, more of the bed is exposed to the sun. As such, they tend to be warmer. This is good – especially in the spring and fall, as warmer beds will sustain your plants for longer periods of time. In the spring in particular, they’re great for starting those new plants!
The downside is, because of the heat, they lose water through evaporation more rapidly. This is easily remedied by having a a thick mulch covering over your beds. The mulch provides a secondary benefit of keeping the weeds down!
The depth of the raised bed largely depends on the type of plants you plan to grow in your garden. Most shrubs and small plants work well with a six to twelve inch layer of soil. For others, you might need more soil in order to allow the roots to spread. So generally, a 25 to 30 inch height works best for the raised bed to accommodate all sorts of plants that you plan to grow.
Benefits of Raised Bed Gardening
There are several benefits associated with this form of gardening. Here is what I found through my personal experiences and research.
Better for Your Back
If you are a baby boomer like me, you’d be able to relate well with the kind of back pain that grips and restricts mobility as though it was never meant to be! This is where conventional gardening becomes impossible to manage. But with the raised bed gardening, you don’t need to bend as much. It is more like working around your dining table – comfortable, easy and doable!
Research says that the plants grown on raised bed gardens are high quality. One of the reasons is that the conditions in the soil are optimal. If you are not stepping on the soil, you are not squishing the air spaces there which allow the roots to breathe easily. The elevated position also regulates the temperature of the soil naturally. These factors combine to improve the yield – both in terms of quantity and quality.
Lower Probability for Weeds
The plants are grown close together – so much so that when they mature, their foliage would nudge each other lightly. This translates into lower probability of weeds because there is already tough competition in the soil for nutrients which leaves no chance for the weeds to thrive.
Easy, Manageable and Affordable
The raised bed garden is easy to create, easy to manage and quite affordable. You’ll be able to find the raw materials for the container for little or no money. Its shape and size further adds utility to the scheme. All in all, it is one of the best packages for baby boomers! Relish your independence through raised bed gardening and enjoy the fruits of your hard work – literally!