Why Raised Garden Beds Make Sense!
There are virtually no disadvantages to raised garden beds. In fact, raised beds, particularly in smaller backyards are the preferred choice for gardeners, and for a number of reasons. Mother Nature isn’t always kind when it comes to our natural soil in the Midwest. Many times our soil is filled with clay and pests, and can be difficult to work with. Raised garden beds on the other hand allow you an opportunity to start from scratch, and provide the best control of soil erosion.
From a personal point of viewpoint, I have had all versions, both in-ground and raised garden beds. By far I prefer raised beds because for one it eases the pain of bending over, and provides a compact element to the backyard. I also built them not far from my back door, so grabbing a handful of fresh veggies before dinner is convenient.
My gardening friends were eager to share their preferences as well. “I have a number of raised garden beds and I wouldn’t even consider gardening any other way,” says Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull. “I like the soil retention. I can also plant earlier in the spring because the temperature of the soil tends to be warmer.”
Fort Wayne resident Steve Bruns also enjoys the aesthetic value. “Overall they just look nicer, and I can control the soil so they do not flood.”
Ricky Kemery, Purdue horticulture extension educator, concurs. “This is the best way to control the soil. They are easier and cheaper to maintain, and they are easier to access and harvest from. If there is one disadvantage adds Kemery, it is that most raised beds are not large enough to grow crops that occupy large areas like corn or watermelon. I found this is true. Although my raised garden is fairly large, I still run out of room for vine-type crops like cucumbers and squash. I tend to give up that space in favor of more tomato and pepper plants.
If you think a raised garden bed is in your future, start by choosing a spot in your yard that has adequate sunlight the majority of the day. Full sun is highly recommended. Then follow Kemery’s easy steps. “I place newspapers on the bottom over any grass, followed by a layer of one-quarter-inch mesh hardware cloth,” says Kemery. “Then I build 6-8 inch layers of newspapers (black and white sections only), compost/manure if I can find it, peat moss leaves (except walnut), and sometimes clean straw. I keep building the layers and add 6 inches of compost or good topsoil on top.”
There are reasonably priced raised bed kits available on line and at local box stores. But if you want a weekend project call a local landscaping company and purchase railroad ties. These large, but very heavy ties are already treated against rotting and will last for years. They are stackable, and most landscaping companies will deliver them to your door. Once in place simply drill holes in the top to keep them square and prevent them from shifting. All it requires is fresh fertile soil, your favorite veggie and herb seeds and a healthy dose of TLC!