Vegetable gardening normally requires large plots of land in order to get good harvests. But this is not always possible in today’s world. Many homeowners have smaller yards, but would still like to enjoy the benefits of home grown vegetables. For them, raised garden beds may be the answer.
Advantages & Disadvantages of Raised Garden Beds.
A raised garden bed can be made of many materials: wood, masonry or even pallets are some commonly used. They vary in size but are generally 4 x 6 or 6 x 8 feet and about 8-12 inches high. There are both pros and cons to raised garden bed planting.
The advantages of raised bed gardening are numerous, and you may find that this style of gardening will give you the vegetables that you want without the need of a huge garden space.
1. Weed Prevention.
Many of the weeds in normal garden beds grow along the pathways between the rows of vegetables and eventually encroach into the area where the veggies are growing.
With raised garden beds, the plants are raised above the level of the paths, so this is not such a problem.
Even if weeds do grow in the pathways, it’s not necessary to pull them unless you don’t like them visually. (or you can pour boiling water on the weeds to kill them and not worry about your vegetables.)
2. Soil Compaction.
Since the raised garden beds are mainly boxes with soil in them, you can reach into them to tend to your vegetables. This means you will not be walking on the soils, so it will not become compacted.
3. Pest and slugs.
Raised garden beds can help in the control of garden pests. Burrowing critters like gophers, voles and moles are a thing of the past too.
4. Raised garden beds are easier on the back.
This is a big one for me since I often suffer from back problems. The plants in raised garden beds are higher, so bending over is less of a problem.
One item that I have in my tool arsenal is a handy kneeler and seat with a place for my tools. (affiliate link) It converts easily from a seat to a kneeler in seconds and I can use it to easily tend vegetables.
The kneeler makes it great for sowing the seeds in early spring, and the seat is handy when I am weeding and harvesting, since it is a perfect height for a raised bed.
5. Elevated beds give out more produce.
In raised garden beds, you can plant a bit closer together than a traditional garden, (there are no paths in them) which gives you more harvest per square foot.
The soil is also normally well draining so the roots an spread out easily and allow closer planting. This dense planting also crowds out weeds, making this task less of a problem.
6. There is a longer growing season with raised garden beds.
Normally, the soil in raised garden beds is warmer than normal soil level, so this will give you a chance to get your veggies growing earlier and can leave them in the ground later in the season.
7. Raised beds are aesthetically pleasing.
A normal garden plot is one very large square that is not particularly pretty to look at. Raised garden beds can be arranged in so many ways.
Paths can be done from crushed stone or natural pine bark mulch and the result is a much more aesthetically pleasing garden.
8. Elevated beds are great for handicapped people.
With raised garden beds, and the right type of paths, even people in wheelchairs can enjoy vegetable gardens.
These beds would typically be taller. Instead of the normal 8 inches, they might be 2 feet high.
9. It is easy to add trellises to raised planter boxes.
In normal garden beds, trellises are often freestanding. In a raised bed, the side of the bed can be anchors for the uprights, making them much easier to construct and remove.
10. Above ground beds are very versatile.
There are locations where normal garden beds are not possible. A raised bed can enable crop growth in an area that otherwise would not support gardening.
Steep slopes, heavily compacted soil, even parking lots can make use of raised beds. On sloped lots, raised beds can act as a kind of terracing.
Using raised beds can allow you to garden in otherwise difficult to garden areas.
8. Elevated beds mean less plant damage.
Raised beds protect vegetables from both children and dogs, so your will have less damage if they play nearby.
Dogs will naturally run around the beds instead of right through the plants. (Don’t ask me how I know this!)
12. There is improved drainage in raised garden beds.
Since you will be adding soil to a raised garden bed, you can get good quality soil that drains well, which can be a real difference to the soil that is in your yard.
13. You can make them with recycled materials.
Do you have a bunch of old cement blocks destined for the trash heap? Recycle them into a raised garden bed. It’s easy to do and the holes in the cement blocks make built in mini planters.
Be sure to check out my project for a raised bed vegetable garden to see them used to harvest a season worth of crops, and see my cement blocks raised garden bed planter project here.
Cons of Raised Garden Beds
There are plenty of good reasons to garden in elevated beds, but there are also some disadvantages. There are really just a few but they should be a consideration.
1. The cost of raised beds is higher than growing in soil.
Raised garden beds have a cost associated with them because of the lumber. You might be out $100 or so for a 4 x 8 bed. (affiliate link) Also, they will need to be replaced from time to time, so this is an extra cost.
2. Soil amendment is necessary in elevated beds.
Without enriching the soil, it will eventually lose all of the nutrients. This means that you will need to add some sort of organic matter or compost to the soil before planting.
3. Watering and Fertilizing may cost more.
If you don’t amend the soil, the beds will require more water and fertilizer, which is both more work and more money. Soaker Hoses in raised beds are more difficult to install than in soil gardens. (affiliate links)
Raised beds also dry out more quickly than soil does, so extra watering is needed.
I have used an oscillating sprinkler to water raised beds and this works fairly well with some plants and is not too expensive.
4. Elevated beds are a challenge for larger crops.
Raised beds are fine for a multitude of vegetables, but some, such as squash, watermelon and other creeping veggies might need a box all on their own.
5. Soil must be added and this is costly.
In normal vegetable gardens, existing soil can normally be used. Raised beds normally require that you purchase soil to fill it and this is an additional cost.
You can reduce the cost of soil by added a mixture of 60% topsoil, 30% home made compost and 10% good quality soil.
Note: I received the kneeler/garden seat shown above for free in exchange for reviewing it in this blog post. (affiliate link) I only recommend products that I feel are useful to my readers.
This is a well made seat/kneeler. It converts easily from one function to the other. I recommend it to anyone who is looking for something to protect their knees when gardening and who wants a handy garden seat too.
Do you garden in raised beds or is your garden in the ground? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.