Raised bed gardening is an old method with new popularity on the rise, and for good reason. A raised bed is simply an “upside down,” garden bed, essentially any bed that’s raised above the soil level, higher than the surrounding ground. They can be made by creating a mounded pile of soil, or using materials such as wood or cinderblocks to enclose and contain soil above pre-existing site conditions. Weather you purchase a raised container, or make it a weekend DIY project – raised garden beds offer a wide range of benefits to all gardeners.
However you choose to embrace the venture of raised bed gardening, there are a few important tips and tricks to consider.
But first, let’s begin with a few of the undeniable benefits that come along with using Raised Garden beds!
Soil quality control
Any productive garden heavily depends on the quality of the soil, be it in the ground or contained above. Oftentimes on-site soil can be poor quality due to many contributing factors, but with a raised bed you get to start fresh by choosing the soil mixture best suited for your ideal garden.
Say no more! to countless hours spent tilling
Tilling existing soil just to add amendments and fertilizer each year can get pretty tiring. With a raised bed mulch, compost, manure, and other soil conditioners can go directly on top of the soil and as worms and roots grow through it, the soil does its own tilling naturally.
Weeding is made quick and painless
With no tilling, there’s less chance of weed seeds being buried and propagating in your soil. Due to the defined space, with densely planted soil weeds have little room to grow. Even though weeds are never truly defeated, they sure do become a lot easier to pull in a raised bed.
Your joints will thank you
Not only do garden chores become less frequent, but physically accessing the whole garden is a big plus to raised beds. Even just a few inches of added height will have your back, joints, and knee’s thanking you. The taller the bed, the less bending is required when planting, caring for, and harvesting your plants.
Tennessee soils tend to become waterlogged in areas with clay soil and in areas prone to flooding, a raised bed may be the best if not only option for a full growing season. Areas with sandy soil are also great for raised beds due to better water retention. With the option to install an irrigation system, you can create a watering schedule tailored to the requirements of your garden.
Longer / multi-growing season
Because excess water drains faster, the soil in a raised bed is more susceptible to changes in warmer temperatures. That means you have warmer soil earlier in the season and for a longer period of time. With the help of mulch, fabric, or specialized covers you can get started even earlier. With a little pre-planning, you may even find yourself with a multi-season vegetable garden due to the flexible nature and growing conditions of a raised garden
When we think of pests, we usually think of bugs, squirrels, or other critters. But anyone can pester a garden, be it the little creatures coming up to munch on your garden, the family pup who likes to play and dig holes in the dirt, or clumsy family members who don’t always watch where they’re walking. A raised garden bed is a great accident preventative.
With the wide variety of raised garden bed material and size options, you are much less limited when it comes to location planning. With a dash of creativity and a hint of time, a recipe for innovation is created. For those renting property, a raised garden bed allows for cultivating land in a less committed than in-ground gardening would.
A great start for beginners
Gardening can be an intimidating task to take on as a beginner, but we all have to start somewhere and a raised garden bed offers a great place to start. There are many things that can make gardening successful, and things that can make it more difficult. It’s important to take your time in planning the installment of a raised bed, and even more important to do your research. But once that time has been invested, the journey to gardening will be one of ease and success.
Don’t forget about mulch!
As I stated above, mulch is a great way to prevent pests and weeds from invading your garden. Not only does it deter unwelcome visitors, but it protects your garden from erosion and other elemental disruptions. The process of mulching will prevent water evaporation, therefore, creating a barrier of supplemental water. Exposed soil can develop a water-resistant crust that prevents roots from retaining the hydration and nutrients they need and while I’m on the topic of nutrients, as mulch slowly breaks down over time it enriches soil with nutrients. It’s a must have for any garden, so don’t overlook it!
Do your local gardening homework
I highly recommend getting acquainted with the Tennessee Seasonal Gardening Schedule. Knowing when, where, and how to plant is a great step to having a successful garden. Since the terrain of Tennessee is so diverse, climate and soil conditions are subject to change in different zones. Seeking the knowledge of which hardiness zone you’re in, along with corresponding frost dates will put you on the path of success.
All plants have their own light and watering requirements and if you want to grow vegetables that require full sun, you definitely don’t want to build a bed in the shade under a tree. You also want to make sure you have enough space to access the garden from each side so that you are able to care for each plant without straining. As for the placement of plants, you want to ensure you allow enough space between each plant so that a single root system doesn’t take over. For example, say you want an herb garden containing basil, rosemary, and mint. You’d want to be sure your mint had a sufficient amount of space due to its root systems dominating nature. These herbs all require full sunlight, so you would want one long side facing south to ensure they get the required light. For the basil, you’d want to make sure to place it on the bed’s north side so that it doesn’t shade the lower-growing herbs.
The upfront cost of good soil can be pricey, especially if you’re filling a large raised garden bed. Thanks to the internet, I’ve seen many gardeners admit to having to completely gut and refill their own gardens because they didn’t make that one-time initial investment. So I heavily press on this matter, because the success of your garden heavily depends on the quality of your soil.
Start small and be patient
Patience is a virtue. Gardening is an experience to be enjoyed every step of the way. Plants take time to establish, and you have to cut down plants to get the desired results of plants. When you wait for something to happen, it just tastes better. Things take time to come into balance, enjoy the journey. There will be failures, often times more failures than successes. It’s about learning from them, and striving to be better.