Raised Bed Gardening Provides Some Options

Raised bed gardens at Piqua Central Intermediate. Photo credit: Amanda M. Bennett

Although the calendar says spring is here, the weather seems to be confused. Spring keeps popping its head in and out with the teasing of warm weather followed by a 30 degree temperature drop overnight. And, was that snow this morning!?

Rest assured, spring will come and the warm weather will be here to stay for a few months allowing us to get out in the garden and grow something! If you are considering a garden for the first time or you are thinking about making some adjustments based on the less than ideal growing conditions last summer (remember all the rain?), I’ve got some tips and points to consider for those looking at raised bed gardening.

 

Raised Bed Gardens In-Ground Gardens
Prevention of soil compaction and plant damage

Because of less foot traffic (or really, no foot traffic), the soil in raised beds does not get as compacted and plants are less likely to be injured.

Use existing soil

This works if your soil has adequate drainage and tilth. If you are unsure, I recommend a soil test. Our research indicates there is little variability among soil testing labs in Ohio. The variability usually has to do with the way the sample is taken. Use these links for information on how to take a soil sample and available laboratories that do testing.

Space saver

Raised beds can be intensely planted (more plants per square foot) and therefore, use less space than a traditional in-ground garden. And, raised beds are a way to garden on a slope utilizing a terraced type bed. Raised beds can also be built on heavily compacted areas and in difficult to garden urban lots.

 

Financially economical

This is a more cost saving option as there are less input requirements. And, you might be able to divert some of that cost savings into purchasing amendments for the soil if the conditions are not ideal. Amendments such as compost, peat, or others can be added to the current soil to improve its condition, drainage and workability.

Longer growing season

As the soil is above the ground, it warms faster in the spring and is better drained. This allows for earlier and later planting than traditional in-ground gardens.

Less Work Upfront

You can utilize a tractor or a rototiller to prepare the seed bed.

Less weeding and maintenance

As the soil is not experiencing compaction, there is little need for tillage. And, weed pressure is reduced each year if the bed is properly cared for and mulched.

Temporary

The area can easily be planted back to grass or another crop or moved to another location when it has served its purpose.

Better drainage

Because you can control the soil inputs in a raised bed, drainage is improved making them the ideal solution for a poorly drained area.

Lower water requirements

In-ground gardens are better at maintaining soil moisture and therefore, watering is not required as often.

Easier soil amendments

If you are seeking to grow a particular crop that is highly sensitive to something such as soil pH and you live in an area with soils that don’t meet those requirements, raised beds can be a way to grow those crops by specifically amending the soil in the beds to meet the plants requirements.

Easier irrigation

You’ll find installing irrigation on a flat surface easier than in raised beds.

Material conservation

Because it is a smaller, more controlled area inputs such as water, fertilizer, mulch and soil amendments can be methodically applied to reduce waste.

Accessibility

Raised beds can be an excellent way to provide access to those that have difficulty bending over or those that utilize a wheelchair to improve mobility.

 

Raised beds will not work well for all crops. Crops such as sweet corn require a large planting plot for proper pollination and often raised beds are too small to accommodate the population needed. Vine crops such as watermelon, cantaloupe and pumpkins are a challenge in raised beds as well as they can easily overtake the bed or spill onto the ground beside the bed. This design also requires more labor than traditional in-ground beds as tasks like planting, fertilizing, and weeding are done by than whereas in-ground beds usually can utilize tillers and planting equipment to accomplish the same tasks. Raised beds are also more expensive as soil amendments, topsoil, and construction materials can add up quickly. An important note: When considering construction material for raised beds, it is important to not use treated wood unless a heavy gauge plastic is used to line the bed to prevent leaching.

For additional information on raised bed gardens, check out these resources:

Creative raised bed material: hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/raised-beds

Raised bed checklist: aces.illinois.edu/news/raised-bed-checklist

Intensive spacing for raised beds: www.johnson.k-state.edu/docs/lawn-and-garden/in-house- publications/vegetables/Intensive%20Spacing%20for%20Raised%20Beds_13.pdf

References:

Berle, David Christian; Westerfield, Bob. (30 Sept 2019). Raised Beds vs. In-Ground Gardens. Circular 1027-3. University of Georgia Extension. Retrieved at https://extension.uga.edu/publications/detail.html?number=C1027-3&title=Raised%20Beds%20vs.%20In-Ground%20Gardens;

Boggs, J., Meyer, C., Gao, G. Chatfield, J. (2017). Soil Testing for Ohio Lawns, Landscapes, Fruit Crops, and Vegetable Gardens. Retrieved online at https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-1132.

 

 

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