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Monday, February 6, 2012

KNOL: 12 Benefits of Using A Raised Bed Garden

Tranfered from Google Knols to be stored on my blog.

I wrote a Knol on How to Build a Raised Bed Garden. It has had 20,000 views. I think people are interested in raised beds and I wanted to write a Knol to expand on the benefits of using them.

12 Benefits of Using a Raised Bed

By Gary Pilarchik LCSW-C
Visit my gardening blog the Rusted Garden

Higher vegetable yields:

You will get 2x's the vegetable production out of a raised bed than a standard flat earth bed of the same dimensions. You can plant vegetables closer together because of better soil conditions. The higher yields are possible because you are protecting the gardening area from compaction. If a vegetable plant can grow downward and outward without their roots being stomp on and compacted, the plant will thrive. Thriving plants produce more. Plants can be grown closer together because there is plenty of room for their roots to extend deeply downward. They don't compete for space.


Better soil:

You can add garden soil, organic matter and all the other good stuff to your raised bed in a focused and controlled manner. Soil compaction is greatly reduced, as mentioned above, because you never step in the bed. Soil compaction inhibits plant growth, oxygen uptake, and water circulation. Because you are framing off the specific growing area, you can better control what you put in it. It is much easier to add sand and organic matter to clay soil when you have a framed area. You can also purchase bulk soil delivery from your local nursery and fill the raised bed. You dig out the "bad soil" and dump in the new. For some areas it is easier to remove earth then amend it. Raised beds make this task much easier.


Better drainage:

Your raised bed will drain more quickly and be less prone to staying soggy and thus promoting disease and seed rotting. Typically you should dig a raised bed down at least 2 feet. By doing this you create a garden bed that will drain water from the top on the soil to the bottom. This is a much healthier environment for your seeds and plants.  


Better air circulation and more sunshine:

Raised beds tend to get better circulation and more sun depending how you set them up. Air circulation helps cut down on plant diseases. The standard raised bed plot should be 4 feet by 8 feet. You create the width of 4 feet because your arms have about a 2 foot reach. This allows you to tend to the entire garden from the surrounding walking paths. You don't need to step in it. By creating 18 inch to 2 foot walking paths between the raised beds, you create space for air circulation and more sunshine. Circulation and sunshine are paramount in disease prevention and strong growth.


Better water conservation:

You only water where the vegetables are growing. You can also install slow drip soaker hoses in the bottom of your raised bed garden. If you dig out 2 feet of soil you can place a slow drip soaker hose in the bottom of it. It should be put in - in a snaking pattern. It has to be deep enough your spade won't reach it. By focusing your watering habit directly to the vegetable growing area, you will save money and water. Depending on how much of an edge you put on your raised bed, you can also flood the top of it. Simply fill it up with water and then let it sink away. Because you amended the soil the water will use gravity to get deep into the bed. This helps prevent damage from soil that dries out to deeply during the hot summer months.


Easier weed control:

Weeding is easier and because you can plant more plants in a raised bed garden, they tend to shade out weeds. The soil is loose. It is much easier to "fluff" it and turn it and thus burry weeds. Pulling weeds is easier because as mention the soil is so loose. Dandelions come out with a full root! Mulching for weed control is less expensive because it is done in a targeted area. Mulching not only controls weeds, it helps conserve moisture. And mulch will add organic matter to your garden when it gets turned at the end of the season.


Easier to tend and manage:

You can raise a bed up to two feet or even higher. This requires less bending. Once the soil is prepared little work is needed to maintain it. Since you don't step in it, the soil stays loose and workable all year round. It is also easier to reach in and tend to your plants and pick your garden produce. Make sure the garden box is only 4 feet in width. Your arms have a 2 foot reach. This way you can reach all parts of the raised bed. You could also raise the bed up to your waste if needed. This can help gardeners with knee and back issues.


Earlier start and later finish:

You can start gardening earlier because raised bed gardens warm more quickly in the season when compared to a flat earth garden. You can garden later into the season because raised bed gardens stay warmer as Fall arrives. This allows you to have more fun and more vegetables. This reason in itself is a great reason.


Saves time and money and they look great:

Your cost over time diminishes. It costs money to build the raised beds initially but you save money over time by only concentrating resources to where the vegetables are actually going to be grown. You save yourself time by only working the area that will actually grow vegetables. They look good and really help create an organized garden. Less mud too. You can mulch between raised beds for a clean working area and you will never have to step onto muddy garden soil.


Create a cold frame:

You can add a glass, plastic, or a plexiglas cover to a raised bed. You simply build up the frame by a foot or more above the soil in the raised bed. You now have growing space for greens, radishes and other cold tolerant vegetables. The frame cover produces solar heat during the day and keeps the cold out during the night. More growing season is always welcomed. You can use the cold frame in the beginning and at the end of the seasons.


Helps you manage crop rotation and planting:

Crop rotations can get confusing if you follow them to perfection. Raised bed gardens can be numbered and easily tracked and managed for crop rotation. They can be easily set up for pesticide use or organic use of weed, disease, and insect control. The raised beds can be broken down into square units for organizing your entire planting routine. Because there are typically 4 x 8 feet, you can grid out what you want to grow.


Solarizing and disease management:

Solarizing is the process of heating soil for a period of time to kill weeds, disease, and pests. This process is easily done with raised beds. You can create several 4x8 foot plastic sheets and set them on the bed for solarization. You also have 2 foot paths between beds this creates a diseas and insect barrier. If needed during emergency management times, you can destroy plants in one or two raised beds to prevent spread of disease and insects. Hopefully, you won't need to use this benefit.

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