Sunday, March 25, 2012

Why Raised Beds?

Occasionally people ask me why they should have raised beds vs. growing their garden directly in the ground. There are advantages to both systems, and personal preference certainly plays a part. Today, I'll discuss using a raised bed.

I am defining a raised bed as a structure built out of wood or stone (or any other material) that creates a defined space. There are certainly raised beds that are simply made by piling soil higher than the paths, but I'm going to stick with my definition for the purposes of this post.

You might want a raised bed based on the following conditions:
  • You have back problems. With a raised bed, you can build it really high so you don't need to bend or stoop to weed, plant, and harvest. Or you can build it to a height that makes it so you can sit comfortably next to the garden while working.
  • You live in an area with a short gardening season. The soil in raised beds dries out and warms up faster than a ground-level garden.
  • You have a small garden space. Hand cultivation isn't as difficult in a small space. A farmer wouldn't be able to cultivate acres of land by hand. A gardener with a small space would want to take advantage of the next bullet point...
  • You are practicing intensive planting. With lots of room for roots, you can plant more densely than if you have paths that you are walking on around each row of your crop. This is because you are compacting the soil where you are walking. 
Having a raised bed can also make it easy to use something like a cold frame or hoop-house over a crop. This is because you have a defined size and structure on which you place your season extender, like this gardener did:

The raised bed has a very nice glass greenhouse structure placed on top, which can be opened from the top or sides, and can also be removed during really warm weather.

If you want to learn how to build a raised bed, I'm teaching a workshop on April 3rd with a wonderful carpenter. She will be teaching participants how to safely use a couple of power tools before we use those tools to build some raised beds. Join us and get all the information you need to build your own garden!
Here's a link to the workshop registration


  1. Also it is easier to manage pests in a raised bed.

  2. I just built my raised beds, which I had to do because my soil is too rocky. So happy to have found your blog! You were missed last year at the Wendell Berry Garden.

  3. Thanks Erica! I often think of all you guys and miss our Saturday walk-throughs. I will try to come again this year a few times just to see everyone and maybe eat some raspberries! Hope you are still involved this year and taking lots of pictures.