Whether you are a new or an experienced gardener, you have probably heard of raised garden beds. If you are not using them, you might wonder if you should, and if so, why.
So, why use raised garden beds? Raised garden beds offer numerous benefits, including:
- Improved drainage
- Looser Soil
- Fewer weeds and pests
- More accessible gardening
- Less severe soil erosion
If you are intrigued, then let’s take a closer look at the benefits of raised garden beds and why you might want to use them in your yard.
Why Use Raised Garden Beds? (Benefits of Raised Garden Beds)
Raised garden beds will make many aspects of gardening much easier. For example, the quality of the soil in a raised garden bed will often improve, and it will require less effort to keep it healthy for your plants.
The soil in a raised garden bed also drains more quickly, and so there is less chance of your plants drowning after a prolonged period of heavy rain.
Raised Garden Beds Offer Improved Drainage
Raised garden beds naturally offer improved drainage, due to their elevation above the ground. The laws of nature always have their way, and gravity is no exception. Water naturally wants to flow from high elevation (a raised bed) to low elevation (the ground beneath a raised bed).
Also, you have control over the material you put in your raised garden bed. That means that you can add compost or use sandy soil to improve drainage even further.
Of course, if you live in a place where the rainy season is especially wet, you might need to take extra steps, such as drainage systems. For more information, check out my article on how to improve drainage in raised garden beds.
One possible drawback of a raised bed is that drainage may become too efficient. In that case, the water drains too quickly, and the soil dries out too much.
If this happens, you can use a top layer of mulch to retain moisture in the soil. If the problem persists, check out my article on how to treat dry soil.
Raised Garden Beds Keep Soil Loose
When you walk on the soil in your garden, it becomes compacted over time. Compacted soil contains less air, and it will have less space for water to move through the soil. It is also more difficult to work compacted soil for planting.
If you build your raised bed properly, you will be able to access the entire raised bed from a pathway outside of the bed. Worms can also help to improve compacted soil, and if you put them in a raised bed, they are more likely to stay where you want them.
Of course, you should make the conditions welcoming for worms and other beneficial creatures in the soil. For more information, check out my article on how to get more worms in your garden.
Raised Garden Beds Prevent Weeds & Pests
A raised garden bed also provides a natural barrier for weeds and pests that want to get into your garden vegetables.
A raised bed makes it impossible for grass to grow from your lawn into your garden. It is also much more difficult for weeds to spread their seeds into a raised garden bed.
The frame of a raised bed provides a wall that pests will need to climb to get at your vegetables. This doesn’t mean it is impossible – it just means that they will have a harder time getting into your garden.
If you put a liner below your raised bed, then it will also be more difficult for gophers, moles, and voles to have a feast at the expense of your garden. For more information, check out my article on lining a raised bed.
Raised Garden Beds Make Your Yard More Accessible
A raised garden bed can make your yard accessible in many ways. For one thing, it can make gardening much easier for anyone who is handicapped due to disability, age, or injury.
A garden will require you to dig soil, sow seeds, apply fertilizer, pull weeds, and harvest vegetables at some point. With a raised bed at the proper height, there will be less bending, kneeling, and stooping to do these things.
You can make a raised bed any length you want, but the width should be four feet (1.2 meters) at most. That way, you are at most 2 feet from any place in the raised bed that you need to reach.
A raised bed can also help to level out any slopes in your yard. You may need to build a custom raised bed, rather than using a kit, but you can cut the wood at an angle to accommodate the incline on a hill in your yard. Measure the slope in advance or use a level and plane/sand the wood until you get it right!
Finally, a raised bed can be installed on any surface. Ideally, you would have sandy soil below a raised bed, to allow for the best drainage. However, you can put a raised bed over any type of soil or on top of grass, patio, or concrete.
Raised Garden Beds Prevent Erosion
If your yard is on a slope or is prone to wind or flooding, then erosion might be a problem for you. Erosion occurs when natural forces like wind or water wash away topsoil (and nutrients) from your yard.
Raised beds can help to prevent soil erosion by leveling out an incline in your yard (mentioned above). It can also help to keep soil inside the raised bed when it rains, and to prevent the wind from blowing soil away.
For more information, check out my article on how to prevent soil erosion in your garden.
Raised Beds Can Be Customized for Your Garden
The best part about using raised beds is that you can customize them for your garden. You can find raised garden bed plans online, but you can adapt them for your own needs, changing the length, width, or height as needed.
You might even be able to create modular raised beds so that you can change the height as needed, depending on whether you are growing shallow-rooted crops (such as onions) or deep-rooted crops (such as carrots). This can also help with crop rotation (to prevent disease and soil depletion) in alternating years, since carrots would need a deeper bed than onions.
Raised beds also allow you to keep sections of your garden completely separate, and to use the right type of soil in each one. For example, you can use sandy soil to grow your carrots, and acidic soil for growing rhododendrons.
Finally, you can cover your raised beds as needed to keep the temperature higher for warm-weather crops. This can also protect your crops from late spring or early fall frosts, and thus extend your growing season if you live in a cooler northern region.
What is the Best Type of Raised Bed?
You have a few different options for raised beds, depending on the materials you have available and how much time you want to spend on construction and maintenance.
Raised Ground Beds
A raised ground bed does not require any wood or other material. It is simply a mound of raised soil that you use for planting. This will still bring the benefits of improved drainage and looser soil. However, it may not prevent pests from getting at your plants.
Each year, you can add some organic material, such as compost or (decomposed) manure to the top of your mound. Worms and bacteria will break it down into compounds that plants can use, so you can avoid tilling if you wish.
Supported Raised Beds
A supported raised bed has some type of barrier or frame made of brick, stone, wood, or plastic separating the bed from the lawn. This helps to prevent weeds and grass from growing in the bed.
If using wood for your frame, avoid railroad ties (creosote-treated) or other treated wood (copper, chromium, arsenic), since chemicals can leach into the soil.
Containerized Raised Beds
A containerized raised bed has a frame that is about 1 foot tall (or taller), often made of wood. These raised beds are great for making your garden accessible to elderly, handicapped, or injured people.
After you build your frame, you can fill it with any soil you want, depending on what type of plants you want to grow. You can grow the acid-loving plants together, the sandy-soil loving plants together, etc.
By now, you know all about the benefits of using a raised garden bed. Hopefully, this article will help you to decide if a raised garden bed is right for you.
If space is holding you back from gardening, check out my article on how to start a garden without a yard.
One last bonus idea: a raised garden bed also lets you grow plants where there is shallow soil or no soil – such as on the side of your garage.
I hope you found this article helpful – if so, please share it with someone who can use the information.