Not everyone is blessed with perfect growing conditions in their yard. If you have space, building raised beds lets you shape your gardening environment to fit your needs. But it’s not a simple project you can finish in an afternoon. Raised beds take planning, effort and expense to get right.
Advantages of Raised Bed Gardening
To help you decide if it’s a project you want to take on, here are the ways raised beds can make your gardening life easier and more productive.
- You can fill your raised beds with the exact kind of soil you need for your plants. For example, if your local soil has a higher or lower pH than is ideal, raised beds offer a quick and relatively easy solution.
- You can build separate raised beds for different kinds of plants, each with the optimal soil conditions.
- It’s easier to build good drainage into a raised bed than it is to lighten clay soil, or to improve water retention in a shallow, gritty or sandy soil.
- Plants in raised beds can have better access to sunlight, rather than being in the shade of neighboring shrubs, walls or other obstructions.
- Raised beds are easier to tend without constant bending over, reducing the back problems that can bring.
- It’s easier to control surface weeds in a raised bed compared to the open soil, lowering the competition for your plants.
- It’s often easier to install wildlife barriers such as netting or fencing in a raised bed.
Drawbacks of Raised Bed Gardening
But, not everything in the raised garden is rosy. There are also a few drawbacks to bear in mind.
- Building a raised bed can be time-consuming and expensive, particularly if you need to buy large quantities of fresh soil.
- Over time, a raised bed will become as weed-filled as the open ground and can be invaded from below by aggressive root systems. Raised beds are more difficult to dig over, which makes fully removing weeds harder.
- Soil improvement and maintenance is more complicated. You’ll often need to remove old soil to make space before adding fresh organic material.
- For accessibility, raised beds shouldn’t be more than two arm-lengths wide. This means they don’t always make the most efficient use of your yard’s space.
Despite these drawbacks, raised beds offer a great solution to poor quality soil. They’re also useful if your gardening efforts are hampered by difficulty in bending over or kneeling.
If you’re still unsure whether they’re right for you, there’s no reason you can’t build a single raised bed into your yard. This will let you test the benefits for a season, while keeping the rest of your gardening space as open soil.