Raised Beds

17 Apr
by Deanne

A photo of the raised bed constructionSince Steve constructed raised beds last summer, I’ve been noticing more and more of them next to restaurants, in home gardens and even in River Cottage episodes.  Their popularity made me wonder, what’s the draw to constructing raised beds?  Since I’m not the gardener of the family, I turned to internet research to find out more.

Raised beds are like big square wooden sandboxes with no bottoms…forgive my crude simile, avid gardeners.  The raised bed is filled with soil that is often more nutrient rich than the native soil of the area.  When it’s time to plant, the plants are placed much closer to one another. This is done so that as they grow they form a dense ecosystem in which it is harder for weeds to grow.  When it comes time for getting rid of the inevitable weeds, the gardener can do so without trampling or compacting the roots of the growing plants, which is something that often happens in a traditional row garden bed.

A photo of the planning sketchSteve decided to implement raised beds after reading about Square Foot Gardening.  He chose to make the raised beds 4′ by 4′ and to construct them out of 2′ by 12′ untreated lumber so as to not contaminate the soil with any chemicals.  So far the raised beds have allowed for easy planting, tending and picking since all the plants are easily within reach.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall writes about the ease in which raised beds can be prepared for the next growing season in The River Cottage Year, “If you can avoid soil compacting for the whole growing season, and keep the bed relatively weed-free, then the only digging necessary in preparation for the next season is to mix in a hefty does of well rotted compost or animal muck.” About a month ago, Steve mixed in some animal muck courtesy of some local horses…it should nicely nourish the soil for this year’s planting.

Have you noticed raised beds in your area?  Are you a raised bed gardener or considering becoming one?

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7 Responses to “Raised Beds”

  1. serena April 17, 2012 at 6:13 pm #

    We have raised beds in our yard :) we did them 3.5 feet high and just love them! They add a lot of interest to our yard (we’re in a new development so its going to take years for any trees to grow; not that anyone other than us even planted trees!). I have some pictures of our raised beds here http://www.flickr.com/photos/creativemusings/5953359134/in/set-72157626908413405 if you are interested in checking them out :)

    • realocalcooking April 18, 2012 at 10:05 am #

      Your beds look lovely and abundant. Have you planted anything yet this year?
      Thanks for sharing!

  2. domesticateddilettante April 17, 2012 at 6:17 pm #

    I was a raised-bed gardener. But our soil is heavy clay and fairly thin. And Bermudagrass is my chief nemesis. Both of those make it difficult to use raised beds to any great degree – the soil does not stay loamy for long, and the Bermudagrass can easily tunnel under and up through the bed. And no matter how good you are at pulling weeds, Bermuda is going to dislodge other plants when you try to pull it out. So for now, we’re back to wide-row gardening without raised, edged beds. I salute those who have better success with their boxes!

    • realocalcooking April 18, 2012 at 10:07 am #

      Very interesting…thanks for sharing! Thankfully Bermuda grass isn’t a problem in Minnesota. It’s interesting to learn how others go about gardening and growing in climates different than our own. Best of luck this growing season!

  3. attemptinggreen April 17, 2012 at 7:33 pm #

    I just built 10 raised beds in our backyard. We have heavy clay and the best option was to build up.

    • realocalcooking April 18, 2012 at 10:10 am #

      Nice! Sounds like you are up to lots of good things in the garden and kitchen…thanks for stopping by!

  4. Rachel@hammeringourwayhome April 18, 2012 at 9:33 am #

    Going to attempt raised beds this year (if house is in order in time). I’m too scared to actually plant anything in Philly…and eat it. I saw something online about planting lettuce in gutters, hanging angled on a wall to save space. I might give this a try, too.

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