It’s no surprise that modern gardeners are increasingly embracing raised garden beds as their means of choice for backyard gardening. For the average urbanite with a small yard, they provide an ideal way to grow your own veggies in the summer. You can easily construct a raised garden bed using the easy-to-assemble kits we offer in various sizes. Here are just 12 advantages for raised garden beds.
12 Advantages for Using Raised Garden Beds
1. Good Aeration
Once you have constructed your raised garden bed, just add good quality soil, decomposed farmyard manure, and compost within the frames. This provides the plants with a rich growing media with a loose structure and allows for good air circulation around the roots.
Like every other part of the plant, roots need to breathe. They breathe in the oxygen from the air and expel carbon dioxide. If the soil is too compacted, the roots suffocate and fail to develop properly. That’s because good aeration is necessary for the roots to absorb essential nutrients.
Proper aeration is also important for keeping the microbial population in the soil healthy. It helps maintain a balance between the aerobic and anaerobic bacteria that play different roles in enhancing soil fertility.
2. No Tilling is Better for the Soil
A raised garden bed is really a way of setting up your soil for the easiest possible gardening. Instead of tilling up the soil from year to year to add fertilizer and amendments, gardeners usually maintain their raised beds by simply adding materials on top.
Compost, mulches, manures and other soil conditioners can all go directly onto the top few inches of the soil without the need for backbreaking work. And, the soil is capable of doing its own tilling as worms and roots push their way through. While regular tilling by human hands tends to deplete the soil structure, doing nothing builds up the organic component of your soil over time.
3. Good Drainage
Raised beds provide good drainage even in heavy rains. The loose texture of the soil allows the water to seep into the bed, preventing quick runoff that would otherwise carry away the fertile topsoil. At the same time, it allows excess water to drain away.
Most plants grow well in moist soil, but many of them hate wet feet. For one thing, too much water around the roots interferes with their breathing. Secondly, constant moisture promotes bacterial and fungal diseases. When you water your plants growing in raised beds, the water gets absorbed into the lower layers of the beds rather quickly. It keeps the soil evenly moist but without allowing the water to stagnate.
4. Less Risk of Soil Compaction
There is less chance of people and larger animals casually walking on the beds and tamping down the soil. If the width of the beds is kept at a maximum of four feet, you can conduct other gardening chores like fertilizing, weeding and harvesting without stepping on the bed.
Flooding during rains is another way the soil in cultivated fields gets compacted. The wet and heavy soil particles settle down, filling up the air spaces. As the water evaporates, it leaves behind a hard and dense layer of soil, making it less hospitable to plants. With water quickly draining away from raised planting beds, there’s no danger of soil compaction due to flooding.
5. Good Root Spread
It is quite evident that plant roots would find it easier to grow and spread in every direction when the soil is loose. Not only that, but the raised garden beds retain moisture since water loss from the sides is minimized. This keeps the beds from drying out between watering and facilitates good root run.
Plants that are growing in the ground usually have a shallow root system unless the ground is tilled deep before planting. Such plants cannot access the moisture in the lower layers of soil, and are more likely to get dehydrated as soon as the surface moisture evaporates. A well-developed root system anchors the plant and helps it gather water and nutrients from a larger area which is particularly important for vegetables. They have to grow vigorously and produce maximum yield within a short period.
6. Better Weed Control
Raised beds encounter relatively few weed problems. With traditional gardening at soil level, tilling actually creates more weeds by burying weed seeds and giving them the perfect opportunity to propagate. The deep cultivation exposes a lot of weed seeds lying dormant in the soil. Sun exposure and the additional water they get when you irrigate the field give them the long-awaited opportunity to sprout.
In making the raised beds, you have the option of filling up the frames with compost and soil relatively free of weeds. The loose soil and good accessibility to the beds make it easier to pull up the few weeds that may come up. Also, the general practice is to place plants very close to each other. When they grow and fill in the bed, they do an excellent job of suffocating out weeds.
7. Relief from Root Run from Trees
If you garden close to a wooded area, the nearby trees often extend their massive roots to your well-cultivated veggie patches and feast on the rich soil. No amount of digging can completely get rid of this menace. Since roots are naturally inclined to grow downwards, your raised beds have little danger from them.
8. Raised Beds Help Keep Out Critters
Slugs can climb, but the tall sides of a raised garden box slow them down and provide an opportunity to stop them in their tracks. You can also install hardware cloth on the bottom of the box to stop burrowing critters like groundhogs from stealing root crops. And, because of their height, dogs are less likely to urinate directly on your plants.
You can also install Critter Guards specifically designed to fit the design and size of the Greenes Raised Garden Beds, which will keep small critters such as rabbits from eating your produce before you do!
9. Extend the Growing Season
The raised garden beds will thaw much faster in spring than the frozen ground. Early planting in raised beds is possible because the soil dries out faster in the spring and warms more quickly for planting than soil at ground level. So you can transplant your veggie seedlings earlier and give them a good head start. It can make a big difference to gardeners in parts of Canada who have only a small window to grow edibles out in the open.
Vegetables like onions require a long growing season. Onion sets need 3-4 months while growing them from seeds takes even longer. Since fewer varieties of onions are available as sets, there is a definite advantage in growing these vegetables from seeds. The seedlings grow best in cool weather, so the earlier you plant them in the bed, the better.
10. Higher Yield from Intensive Gardening
Raised bed gardening gives a better yield than plants grown on cultivated flat ground. Factors like good soil aeration and root run contribute to this, but an intensive culture is the main reason. In raised beds, a variety of vegetables are planted closer than you would in the ground.
The rich soil with higher content of compost and organic matter from other sources can support more plants. They are expected to completely fill in the bed as they grow, their leaves nearly touching one another. This also eliminates competition from weeds.
11. Avoid Toxicity in the Soil
Urban gardeners using traditional growing methods at ground level are at a higher risk of ingesting heavy metals, including lead. Many different vegetables, especially roots, tomatoes and greens, absorb heavy metals from contaminated soils and can cause a real threat.
Raised beds provide the unique opportunity to bring in new soil that hasn’t been subjected to whatever toxicity may be on site. Toxicity is also greatly reduced by adding compost, diluting the concentrations of contamination from year to year and binding heavy metals to soil particles (just another miraculous use for compost!).
12. Raised Beds Simply Look Nicer
Renters who ache to have a garden should start the discussion with their landlord by showing them a nice photo of a raised bed. A neat, tidy and properly built garden box can enhance property values and be a feature instead of an eyesore. They simply look nicer! In the city, especially if you are trying to get away with a front yard vegetable garden, a raised bed could be a necessity for keeping neighbors happy. Raised beds also make pathways just a little bit easier to maintain because there’s a definitive line between the bed and the path.
These are only 12 advantages of using raised garden beds. They provide an easy way to start gardening by removing many barriers for beginners. They take a little bit more investment up front, but in many ways guarantee success in the first year. Add a box, some soil, some compost, some seeds, some water, and something will grow. See our article on Some of the Easiest Veggies to Grow in Raised Garden Beds in Canada.