So you decide to finally start growing some stuff. You pick a patch of turf, yank the weeds, till it up, pick your seeds or grab some seedlings, and off you go. But wait, rewind. What’s the soil composition, what’s the pH, what amendments will you need? What about space? Row gardens can dominate your property if you are trying to grow enough produce so that you won’t have to buy it. Watering and weeding are also an issue. And by the way, the more you do the former you will increase the latter, fact of life. This is, in my opinion, where the wheels can fall off your hopes of cultivating a great garden. And that’s just to start. Large traditional row gardens are going to require a lot of attention and work. Now understand, I have zero issue with hard work and also that I am not saying that row planting is garbage. You can create a very efficient row garden and lessen a lot of these woes, but it will still take a good chunk of time, prep, and trial and error.
I know quite a few people who have very successful plots that have been productive for years and they have gotten how they manage it down to their own science. But each of those people have also dedicated years to continually working their plot with all manner of amendments. You can do this too. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it will require a lot more time than many people have or are willing to put into gardening. In my opinion, the work is what makes the garden worth it, I love the work, but not everyone wants to go all in. So for those who are looking to just dip their toe in, maybe the traditional way is not the path for them. I actually use a combination of beds and traditional rows, but that is a conversation for another time.
With a raised bed you can create a little micro environment for your crops without having to worry about most of those issues I mentioned above. The soil composition and pH are not something I am concerned with because I manufacture the soil for my beds. I choose the best materials possible, mix them, line my bed with quality weed fabric and then fill them. Done, ready to plant. Now when I water, I am only watering what needs to be watered, individual plants not all the space between the rows, which by the way encourages weed growth. Weeding is almost non-existent since my soil doesn’t have any naturally occurring grass or weed seeds in it and if by some chance seeds blow into the raised beds, they are easily dealt with due to the loose soil mix that I use. Space is also something that you needn’t worry about either, build the boxes to suit your environment. I have one box that has space for eighteen different crops, it is only 3’ x 6’.
Two more great reasons to go with the raised beds are aesthetics and location. Once you have that box put together, decorate it. We have made use of chalk board paint and let the kids go crazy with designs or my wife, who has very steady hands, will paint gorgeous landscapes on the sides. There is no reason your garden can’t be functional as well as decorative. The sky is the limit, just make sure to keep the paint on the outside. You don’t want anything leeching into your fresh made soil mix. Stay away from treated wood as well, same reasons. On location, put it where you want it. Show off your new bed where it’s most convenient for you or where it can be the centerpiece of your overall yard décor. Because you switched to the boxes, you no longer need a huge area to grow your crop. As long as you have the sun you need, you can put it wherever you want.
In short, I see raised beds as being all about efficiency. Efficiency of time, space, effort, and yield. Utilizing the beds is a great way to get gardening now.
Next time we’ll talk more about the whole efficiency angle in regards to the raised beds, planning your garden, companion plantings, and why I do still use the rows along with my beds.