Sunday, December 11, 2005

Raised Bed Gardening

There are a lot of good reasons to check into raised bed gardening! We began using this method several years ago, and couldn't be more pleased with it. The method is simple, and it works well for many vegetable and foliage plants. You'll want to check into it, too.

The concept behind raised bed gardening is simple. Instead of planting seeds and young plants in nice, neat rows after you till the soil, make raised beds. You do this after you've broken up the soil into fine particles. Mound the dirt up about twelve inches and make rectangular hills in your garden. During this process, we mix in a lot of mulch and rich humus from our compost heap and turn the soil together with this nutrient-rich dirt.

After your raised beds are built, make sure the soil is just as finely worked as you usually would for the type of plant that you will be raising. Hoe and rake and cultivate just as you generally would. Plant your seeds or young plants the way you usually do, as well. Plant them just as deep as recommended, and with the proper spacing. Water them as usual. Then stand back and watch the magic all summer long.

The raised beds offer several advantages over traditional gardening. The topsoil has greater depth, since you've mounded it up. This will give you, in many areas, twice or more of the usual amount of topsoil that you normally are working in. The extra rich soil that you've mixed in will only add nutrients to the ground where your plants are growing. In short, the plant has extra room to grow and extra nutrition from your raised bed. You've worked the soil carefully, so now the plant has that much more loose soil in which to push its roots down into, as well. It can grow a larger, stronger root system than it would otherwise.

The raised beds also hold moisture better than the rest of your garden. Your plants will need less frequent waterings, and when they do get watered, the soil will stay moist longer because the water is trapped in the loose soil. Your plants will be healthier in the long run because of this.

And raised beds have a practical advantage for the gardener, as well as the advantages for the plants. By making the surface a foot higher than the surrounding ground, the gardener does not have to bend quite so far to cultivate and weed the bed. Your back will thank you! If it is more comfortable to tend the garden, it will get tended more often.

So there you have it! Raised beds, built from surrounding soil and rich dirt from your compost heap offer lots of advantages over traditional gardening. The enriched soil will nourish your plants to a greater extent, and the loose soil will give them extra topsoil in which to develop strong and deep root systemes. The raised beds will catch and hold more moisture, and will help your plants to withstand the summer heat with greater health. And raised beds make working the garden more comfortable and less strenuous. Give it a try this spring! Once you have them set up, you can use them year after year just by mixing in more fertilizer. The plants seem healthier and the gardening seems easier. What a great combination!

No comments: