What makes a raised bed a good option in the first place, and why should you get one?
To put it simply, whether you purchase a bed kit or build your own, your garden bed is elevated from the ground and housed within a beautifully (or simply) fashioned container.
But beyond just looks, there is a lot more to raised bed gardening than simply meets the eye.
Sure, you beautify and neaten up your growing space – but did you know that these structures also achieve tons for your plant health, soil health, and – drumroll – YOUR health?
Not to mention, you can pinch a few pennies, too.
When you get past just the aesthetic pleasures of these fabulous growing containers (though that’s not to say it’s not an amazing perk in and of itself), then that’s when things really get exciting!
Let’s take a look.
No Need for Tilling
Raised beds don’t require you to break ground straightaway. Simply add your own worked and fertile soil mix to your container without having to till at all.
That way, you can keep the sod in your yard completely pristine – and even keep your tiller in the shed for the season. Heck, with your own container setup, you won’t need to invest in a tiller at all, which will save you money on your garden startup costs!
Soil That’s Easier to Work
Building and working your soil will require a lot less effort, since you can start your contained garden with a desired soil mix rather than working with what you’ll find in your backyard.
Newbies to gardening can thus skip dilemmas with the soil types they’re working with in their own backyard, or other grow space.
Earth too clay? Silty? Sandy? It won’t matter with these growing structures, because you can get started with your ideal loam brought from elsewhere – and right away.
These containers give you the option to build higher-level beds, which reduces the back, neck, and shoulder strain that commonly results from typical non-container gardening practices.
There’s nothing more discouraging to both beginning AND long-time gardeners than physical strain. With raised beds, however, you can get over that hump and keep up your excitement about gardening – instead of feeling tired and hurt every time you think about it!
By keeping your garden’s earthy contents separate from the wild surroundings outside its comfortable container, there is less chance for weed seeds to spread through your growing environment, thus reducing weed growth.
Since you’re bringing in your own mix to start as well, this doubles your protection against weed invasion, especially if you ensure that your soil mix is weed free.
Last but not least: if your kit or construction comes with bottom protection that shields against the earth underneath it, it becomes all the harder for plants and weeds growing outside of the container to find their way in!
Faster Root Growth
Low-set containers that have contact with the ground – and/or which hold a finer-textured growing mix – allow for quicker root development than if plants were planted in backyard sod or hard-pan alone.
Such soils are tougher on root development, and impact plant appearance, health, and harvest times. Not so if you introduce your own mix, and particularly one that’s better designed for nurturing sensitive plant growth.
The University of Missouri Extension points out the obvious: better root growth equals healthier plants, which ultimately equals higher yields!
Less Soil Compaction
Soil in containers never gets compacted by being walked on, making it excellent for both plant and soil health. Sheltered kits can further reduce compaction by providing protection from heavy rain.
As many of my farmer mentors have told me: “the bane of all growers is compacted soil!” An elevated container is pretty much a guarantee that this wily obstacle will never be your enemy again.
The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension highlights the same benefits, saying that it’s a wise enhancement to your garden especially if there is high foot traffic (and the presence of less careful, rambunctious children) nearby.
For gardeners intent on growing their own food, the appeal of increasing vegetable and produce yields through intensive plantings is a real plus.
Raised beds are the perfect setups for much closer-clustered plantings, as in the styles of square foot gardening, biointensive planting, and more.
Instead of having a traditional garden where much of the space is dedicated to paths or spaces for conventional row planting, you use up ALL your space in a much smaller container garden, and can thus grow a whole lot more in only a fraction of the space.
Since soil has nowhere to go when held within a planter (unless it has no bottom – in that case, runoff leaches downward), you don’t lose nutrients or structure after hard rains like you would in a typical garden!
If you are also dedicated to improving your soil microbiome and encouraging the liveliest, healthiest, and most diverse growing environment possible, containers will further ensure that the microbes you’ve lovingly tended for so long don’t go anywhere, either.
Weed reduction calls for less chemical herbicides. There’s no better way to start some quick, convenient organic gardening in your own backyard, than by getting your own raised bed!
Again, this calls for another celebration for the money you’ll keep in your pocket. Chemical herbicides are a financial investment on top of your garden startup, and you can thus effortlessly skip over those costs, and ensure that the food you do grow is 100% safe, healthy, and chemical-free.
Putting it to Bed
As you can see, building your own raised bed or getting a kit can save you tons of the effort that typically goes into traditional gardening.
It can also save you money, physical strain, and even protect your health in other marginal ways as well!
Cutting out all that extra toil makes starting a garden from scratch, as well as fitting gardening into your busy schedule, much easier in many ways.
For those of you out there who have found the idea of gardening daunting, in spite of its many health and financial benefits: wait no more. Get yourself a raised bed garden!
It’s plain and simple: these setups are the smoothest way to go, and it’s especially important to choose a design that will last a good, long while.
What are your experiences with raised beds? Have you delighted in constructing your own, buying a kit, and reaping the amazing results?
We want to hear from you! Share your own two cents in the comments section below.
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Photo credits: Shutterstock.
About Adrian White
Adrian White is a certified herbalist, organic farmer, and health/food writer and expert. She aims to bridge the world of natural, holistic health and nutrition to the realm of organic foods, herbalism, gardening, and sustainability - or "Food as Medicine" - throughout her writing.