Chelsea Green Publishing

Chelsea Green Blog

The Advantages of Raised-Bed Gardens

The following is an excerpt from Mortgage Free! Innovative Strategies for Debt-free Home Ownership, Second Edition by Rob Roy. It has been adapted for the Web.

French intensive or “biodynamic” gardening involves the use of several “raised beds” of about four feet in width—the maximum width allowing the gardener to reach the center from either side—and virtually any length, although eight to twelve feet is common. We once built a raised bed thirty-two feet long with occasional “crosswalks” to facilitate moving around the garden. Ideally the beds should have at least twelve inches of good soil to turn each year, although that varies somewhat with the crop. Beds can be either permanently framed with stone or wood, or shaped with a rake and a spade each season. We like the “permanent” beds, but we’ve also seen many excellent gardens of mounds reshaped each year at the time of turning. The advantages of raised beds are:

  1. Less land is needed. Intensive planting is possible because no space between rows is required, yielding much more produce per square foot of garden.
  2. Seeds or seedlings are spaced so that the young plants form a living “green mulch” over the bed, discouraging weeds and helping to retard moisture loss through evaporation.
  3. Gardening is three-dimensional: leafy vegetables are alternated with root vegetables so that both the surface and the subsurface spaces are productive.
  4. Each bed can be tuned to the proper pH factor (acidity vs. alkalinity) for the particular vegetables to be grown in that bed. Lettuce likes sweet soil, for example, while strawberries prefer acidic soil. Certain special mineral requirements can also be economically satisfied by concentrating them where needed.
  5. Much less watering is required because of the lack of runoff and reduction of evaporation. This advantage is greater with the permanently bordered raised beds, as opposed to the mounded method. In combination with drip-irrigation watering methods, the advantage is compounded.
  6. Much better use is made of mulch and compost with intensive gardening. Good soil is built up faster.
  7. No rotary tillage is needed. The beds are easily maintained with a spade, rake, and small hand tools. The raised beds are easier to work on because they are ten to twelve inches above the permanent walkways.
  8. Pest control is simplified because the growing area is contained and compact.
  9. Raised beds are aesthetically superior. They stay neat and tidy with the permanent walkways. Very little weeding is required.
  10. In combination with a built-on protective cover and the use of rigid foam insulation around the inside edge of the bed, growing seasons can be greatly extended. Jaki and I use a plastic sheet over a light bamboo frame to extend the season or to grow vegetables that require more heat, such as peppers.

Image courtesy Relocalize.net.


Ask the Expert: Andrew Mefferd

Before writing The Greenhouse and Hoophouse Grower’s Handbook: Organic Vegetable Production Using Protected Culture, Andrew Mefferd spent seven years in the research department at Johnny’s Selected Seeds, traveling around the world to consult with researchers and farmers on the best practices in greenhouse growing. Andrew has graciously agreed to offer up his expertise to our […] Read More

Top 10 favorite goat facts (with gifs)

New this month from author Gianaclis Caldwell, Holistic Goat Care is the essential resource on caring for your herd. Goats have provided humankind with essential products for centuries; indeed, they bear the noble distinction of being the first domesticated farm animal. From providing milk and meat for sustenance and fiber and hides for clothing and shelter […] Read More

New French edition of The Resilient Farm and Homestead available

Great news for French-speaking fans of Ben Falk’s The Resilient Farm and Homestead: An Innovative Permaculture and Whole Systems Design Approach. The French language translation is now available from Imagine Un Colibri, from French booksellers, and on Amazon.fr. Falk’s book is a technical manual that details the strategies he and his team have developed for […] Read More

How to Make Biochar

Doing some spring cleaning around your property? By making biochar from brush and other hard-to-compost organic material, you can improve soil—it enhances nutrient availability and also enables soil to retain nutrients longer. This excerpt from The New Farmer’s Almanac, Volume 3, explains how to get started. To make biochar right in your garden, start by […] Read More

Generosity as Activism, and Other Homesteading Principles to Live By

“Like everyone I know, we occasionally find ourselves faced with a decision to which there is no obvious answer,” says Ben Hewitt, coauthor of The Nourishing Homestead. “Do we borrow money to build a bigger barn, or do we keep getting by with what we have? Do we spend our meager savings on trees and […] Read More
+1
Tweet
Share
Share
Pin