Planning your garden – To raise or not to raise…

Most of the people I know grow veggies in raised beds (with a couple of notable exceptions).  My father uses raised beds, my grandfather had raised beds, quite possibly his before him did too, but do you need them? They create an artificial divide between food garden and non food garden that probably doesn’t need to be there. They can be expensive and time consuming to build and yet still we persist with them.   For me though they
do have advantages – this is why I choose to grow the majority of my food crops in raised beds.

Raised beds: Raised beds are simply garden beds that are raised above the normal level of your garden soil.  There are three main reasons why I use raised beds:

  • When I was first establishing my garden there was a severe drought and the ground was incredibly hard to get water to permeate and stay relatively moist.
    Having raised beds allowed me to control where the little water that we had, from our tank, went and to get the soil wet enough to grow vegetables.   It should be noted that raised beds also lose water more quickly than the ground, so in a normal year you will usually conserve more water by gardening direct in the soil.
  • I am impatient. The area I wanted to grow vegetables in had had large shrubs on it previously and the soil was depleted of nutrients and generally poor quality
    for vegetable growing.  There are, of course, numerous ways to improve soil quality but the simplest at the time seemed to be to buy in a veggie raising mix from the local sand and soil place (Coburg Sand and Soil if anyone is interested).  If you are buying in soil you need somewhere to put it – hence raised beds.
  • The final reason is competition.  My neighbours have some very large eucalypts
    growing up against our fence and I wanted to garden in a medium that would
    allow me to dig over the soil regularly (and easily) to ensure that it didn’t
    get too root bound from their roots.  Our soil is clay as the less I have dig directly in the clay the better.

These were my main reasons for having raised beds, and they are probably fairly typical (other than asthetics and tradition) of the sorts of reasons why people use raised beds.  The other major reason is height – if bending is an issue for you then a raised bed may provide a more comfortable gardening experience.  If these things aren’t an issue for you and you don’t like the look of raised beds then you probably don’t need them.


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