Raised beds have been used by gardeners for centuries, it’s not just a trendy fashion, they have many genuine advantages over traditional garden beds. Growing your own vegetables is also undergoing a current resurgence in popularity after having suffered a significant decline for many years. This is certainly to be encouraged for a number of reasons, not least for the financial savings you can make, but also for the environmental benefits and of course the taste and sheer satisfaction of growing your own produce.
So, why should you consider having raised beds in your garden instead of a more traditional vegetable patch and what are the real advantages of having them?
Being raised, you don’t have to bend over so far to tend to your plants. If you’re young and agile this may not seem a major concern, but back problems in the today’s world are increasingly common because of our sedentary lifestyles, even amongst the younger generation. So, don’t make life difficult for yourself if you don’t have to and get yourself a raised bed.
No matter what type of soil you have in your garden (good or bad), raised beds can offer improvements. You can fill raised beds with the perfect soil of your choice, matched exactly to your growing needs. If you have more than one raised bed, you can even put different soil types in different beds to give you a wider range of possible growing conditions and therefore a wider variety of potential plants or vegetables that you could grow.
Because your bed is raised you are more likely to work the bed from the side and not constantly trample on top of it. This inevitably means that the lovely fresh soil you added to your raised bed won’t get compacted down over time like a traditional garden bed.
Soil compaction can be a real problem and can reduce your harvests by up to 50 per cent. Compacted soil doesn’t retain as much water or air as non-compacted soil, the two essential components for good, vigorous root growth. This reduced soil compaction leads to better drainage and also means you don’t have to dig the beds over every year; a light towelling should suffice.
Soil in raised beds warms up quicker in Spring compared to soil in the surrounding ground, which has a higher thermal mass compared to the raised beds. This is analogous to trying to heat up a cup of water compared to a bucket of water. The cup of water has a much lower thermal mass and so heats up much quicker, just like your raised bed. Seeds planted in raised beds should advance quicker and therefore help you to extend your growing season.
Closer planting can be achieved in raised beds because of the high quality, fertile soil and improved drainage. Not only does this provide higher yields of crops for a given area, but the densely packed crops make it difficult for weeds to thrive in the competition for space and light, which therefore reduces the amount of weeding that you have to do.
With your unpredictable seasons and increasingly erratic rainfall patterns, water conservation is becoming much more important. Raised beds can help in this quest as any watering of the beds will benefit all of your densely packed crops directly and not be wasted and large areas of under utilised soil and dead space between plants.
With so many compelling reasons to have a raised bed or vegetable patch in your garden, if you haven’t already got one, perhaps it’s well worth giving them some serious consideration, and if nothing else, they can also look really nice.