Saturday, April 29, 2006

Raised Bed Gardening

By Christina VanGinkel

I have been having problems bending over, and in mentioning this to a good friend, as we were talking about gardening in general, she commented that it might be a good time to plan some more raised beds for vegetables and flowers alike. She did not mean for me to move all of my garden beds to a raised height, but any new beds that I might have in the planning stages, thus not adding to any time that I might have to spend bent over planting and weeding. We already have several raised bed garden areas in our yard, so the idea is not new to me; it is just not something I always think of. It is true that I can work for longer periods on my raised beds than I do those gardens at ground level, as can my husband. I am just aging, and he was injured three years ago when a large Ironwood tree uprooted after a tornado and fell on him. The tree landed on his head (he was wearing a hard hat) and plowed so much force through his body that by the time it reached his legs, one shattered and the joints were literally blew off each side of his one ankle. He loves to spend time gardening, so anything that is going to make it easier for him to continue to do so is worth serious contemplation.

Raised bed gardening is exactly what it sounds like. In essence, though, it can refer to various degrees of height, which may or may not help someone who is having health issues is regards to bending over. Those that are at a height that one could kneel and not bend are perfect for maintaining a healthy back though. You make of it what you will, as with many things in both gardening and life. Keep in mind when deciding to create a raised bed garden that it does have other advantages too. By creating a raised bed, you are controlling the soil in the space, along with getting the garden up off the ground, which will help decrease weeds. They are good alternatives to a typical garden space in small areas, or areas that may not otherwise be a good spot to plant a garden. Drainage problems are usually alleviated with a raised bed garden, and as a direct result of this, root growth is improved which in turn means your garden will most likely produce more providing you with a higher yield of produce. Factors such as these are hard to overlook when considering using a raised bed design.

In small areas, a raised bed can be designed and built in layers, thus taking a very small space and creating more square footage overall. Imagine a small back yard with one area against a fence open to placing a garden. Instead of just using a spot in front of the fence, building up a raised bed will allow you to multiply that same square footage several times over. Even if you use a raised bed that is typically a container that is wider on top, than it is at the bottom, you have added footage to your gardening space.

Other advantages of raised bed gardening can vary depending on the individual garden, but some are:

Raised bed gardens often mean an extended growing season, because the soil is warmer right from the start. This can be a huge advantage is climates that have naturally short growing seasons.

If built in a stable container, the edge of the container could essentially double as a seating area. This is especially nice if you plant flowers in the garden.

If flowers are planted on some areas of a raised garden, they can bring color to areas that would normally not even exist.

A raised bed garden can be an ideal way to bring beauty to your garden in a way traditional gardens just cannot accomplish. If you are interested in expanding the area you garden in, dealing with fewer weeds, lengthening the growing season you are in, or just making your time spent gardening more productive and enjoyable at the same time, raised bed gardening may be just what you have been searching for.

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