Home gardeners are divided on the topic of raised-bed gardens. They either think a raised vegetable garden is the biggest waste of money and resources ever. Or they attribute all of their success to the extra 12 inches of soil they’ve given their plants.
At Lettuce Grow Something, we like our garden beds raised. In-ground beds have their purposes, but for most edible plants, raised beds are better.
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The major benefits of raised beds include:
- increasing the convenience of tending your garden
- maximizing gardening productivity
- protecting plants from pests
- adding beauty to the kitchen garden space
Let’s take a closer look at some of the advantages of raised-bed gardening. Then you can decide for yourself if you think raised beds are worth it.
BENEFIT #1: RAISED BEDS ARE EASIER TO TEND THAN IN-GROUND GARDENS
We’re all about convenience these days. Raised beds are just more convenient for three reasons.
First, a raised bed frame or large container can go anywhere there’s sun
That includes a rooftop balcony, that extra-wide strip of concrete next to the pool, or right outside your kitchen window.
Second, a raised bed means fewer weeds
The soil you put inside your raised bed should be weed-free (unlike your native soil). Plus, the elevated sides of the bed act as a very effective border. You might have a few weed seeds blown in by the wind, but that’s it.
Third, a raised bed is easier on the gardener to tend
This is especially true for those with limited mobility or back pain. Whenever I have to kneel to plant annuals in my front flower beds, I’m reminded of the difference. I love being able to tend the veggies in my 2-foot-tall raised beds by slightly bending from the waist. Even just 12 inches above ground level can make a big difference.
BENEFIT #2: MAXIMIZING YOUR GROWING PRODUCTIVITY
You’ll harvest more from each square foot of gardening space you have when you’re gardening in raised beds. Here’s why:
You can fill your raised bed with the best soil mix and organic materials possible
The poor soil some of us have in our backyards is fine for native plants, trees, shrubs, and lots of flowers. Fruits and veggies, however, are way more particular about their growing medium. The only way to get the same soil structure in the ground would be to spend several seasons amending your native soil.
Raised beds give the roots of your plants more room to dig deep
You’ll see larger and more luscious growth above the soil if you give your plants plenty of room down below.
Raised beds can be intensively planted
Thanks to this extra height provided by a raised bed, we can practice a gardening method called intensive planting. That basically just means packing in the plants.
Veggies don’t need very much room side to side if they’ve got plenty of room beneath the soil surface for their roots. So you can fit more plants per square foot in a raised bed than an in-ground one. This is the best way to get higher yields from limited space.
Raised beds help regulate soil temperature
The surface of a raised bed will stay moist and cool longer than the soil in smaller containers or pots. Here in Central Texas, we call that a major win in late summer.
Raised beds also have another huge advantage for those of you further north. You might have noticed that the soil in in-ground beds can take forever to thaw after winter. The soil in a raised bed will be ready for planting weeks sooner in the spring than the ground. It’ll also stay warmer for longer in the fall.
Overall, this means you have a much longer growing season.
You can easily cover a raised bed
Raised beds also make it really easy to tuck frost cloth around your plants or build a simple cold frame during cold snaps and freezes; the same goes for shade cloth or a floating row cover in the summer.
Raised beds drain away excess water faster than in-ground beds
Unless you live somewhere with a very sandy soil, you probably have poor drainage in your in-ground beds. The better drainage of a raised bed can make all the difference for new gardeners.
BENEFIT #3: RAISED BEDS PROTECT PLANTS FROM PESTS
The height of a raised bed presents an obstacle for pests like slugs, snails, and even rabbits. If squirrels or deer are an issue, you can add hoops and mesh covers to your raised beds, a simple solution that will protect your veggies.
You may not like to think of yourself or your pets as pests, but we often can become just that by unknowingly stepping on growing spaces. We trample plants and cause soil compaction. Raised beds keep humans of all ages out just as effectively as four-legged critters.
The clean lines of raised beds also make it much easier to see snakes than in-ground beds do. That means you’re better protected while tending your plants, too!
BENEFIT #4: RAISED BEDS LOOK ATTRACTIVE YEAR ROUND
Sure, I’ve seen some beautiful landscaping, but raised bed gardens can look stunning even before they’re filled with leaves, vines, and shiny fruit.
There’s also something about having the structure of the bed itself that makes a raised garden feel more like an outdoor room. My garden has become an extension of my home. It’s my favorite place to go to relax and enjoy some fresh air.
At Lettuce Grow Something, we design kitchen gardens that compliment the style of your house and add visual interest to your outdoor space. We add distinct edges and pathways so that the kitchen garden is a well-defined space that is easy to keep looking tidy, season after season.
RAISED GARDEN BED FAQs
What is the best raised bed soil?
The soil you’ll use for your raised bed will be a little different than what you use for in-ground gardens. We fill every raised bed garden with our tried and true soil blend. It’s basically topsoil, construction sand, compost, and a little extra organic matter guaranteed to keep plants happy and healthy.
We don’t recommend skimping on soil quality. It’s worth the extra money to not waste an entire growing season wondering why your plants are stunted and not growing properly—trust us!
Raised bed vs potting soil—what’s the difference?
Raised bed soil is blended to provide good drainage, nutrients, and much-needed structure to plant roots. Our ideal soil blend works for almost all the fruits and veggies you might want to grow at home.
Potting soil, on the other hand, is often more plant-specific and might not have any actual soil in it at all. The best potting soil for a houseplant, for instance, might be filled with bark or be nothing but peat moss.
Can you reuse soil in a raised bed?
You only have to fill your raised bed with great soil one time; after that, you just refresh the top every season.
Over several months, the soil level in your raised bed will sink a bit due to the soil being compacted by heavy rains and regular watering. The best time to raise the soil back up to the top of the bed is when you’re planting something new. Just add a 2- to 3-inch layer of fresh compost. This is also a great way to replenish the nutrients in the soil.
What goes at the bottom of the bed?
A framed bed will be open on the bottom, which gives you ideal drainage. Before the bed is filled with soil, we recommend putting down cardboard, weed barrier cloth or landscape fabric to prevent weeds in the soil from growing into the bed.
If animals that burrow are an issue in your area (think armadillos, voles, moles, etc.), consider putting a layer of hardware cloth as a deterrent. You’ll fill the rest of the bed with soil so that the roots of your plants can take full advantage of the added height.
If your raised bed does have a bottom (this would be more like a large container), then you want to make sure there are drainage holes every 6 inches or so. Cut a piece of weed barrier cloth to size and place it at the bottom of your container so that the soil doesn’t wash out every time you water.
What is the best material for a raised garden bed?
There is a variety of materials suitable for raised beds. We love cedar, stone, Corten steel, galvanized steel, and powder-coated steel.
What’s the best way to water plants in a raised garden?
If you have a small raised bed, an Oya is a great option to deliver water to your plants only when they need it. Plant the Oya in the center of your raised bed and then position your plants in circles around the clay vase. The Oya will slowly release water into the soil, and the roots will only take up as much as they need.
Drip irrigation systems are also great for delivering the deep and consistent watering that plants love. You can schedule an early-morning watering and not have to worry.
If you don’t have a watering system installed in your raised beds, you can always water by hand with a soaker hose.
LETTUCE HELP YOU GROW IN A RAISED-BED KITCHEN GARDEN
We would love to come out to your space or meet virtually about what a raised bed kitchen garden could do for you and your gardening goals. From delivering raised bed kits to designing and installing turnkey kitchen gardens, there’s nothing that makes us happier than setting up clients with beautiful and productive garden spaces.
If you’re ready to make this your best gardening year yet (or your first gardening year ever), schedule a service, and we can get started!
Let us know in the comments if you have any other questions about growing in raised beds!