While some of us are perfectly happy to grow our vegetables in the ground others are firmly convinced that using a raised bed is the best method. Interestingly the article quoted below starts by reminding us that raised beds are not that new, but are really just a development of the traditional practice of double digging which resulted in a mound of soil with sloping edges. The fourteen reasons why raised beds are the best way to garden are set out in an article by Sierra Bright which I found on the Natural Living Ideas website.
Raised bed gardening is not a new concept. Traditional gardeners used to double dig their beds to form rectangular or circular mounds 1-1 ? ft. high, with sloping edges. A standard practice in areas receiving plenty of rain, it ensured good drainage, besides providing a bit of extra space for growing vegetables.
This type of gardening also proved to be perfect for many companion plantings such as carrots and onion family vegetables. The carrots went on the flat top of the beds and enjoyed the deep soil?while the onions and leeks planted on the sides all around protected the beds from pests.
The benefits don?t end there, so it?s no surprise that modern gardeners are increasingly embracing raised bed gardening, albeit with a new twist. The sloping sides of the earlier beds have been replaced by solid frames that give them a well-defined look. This way, the beds can be as high as you?d like them and prevents soil runoff during rain.
Modern raised beds are relatively easy to construct on your own, making them an excellent option for many. The frames are built with bricks, concrete blocks or timber, and filled up with good soil and plenty of organic matter. With ready-to-assemble kits and prefabricated, food grade plastic containers available, anyone can now have a few raised beds to grow their veggies.
Let?s look at a few of the other benefits of raised bed gardening.
1. Good aeration
You can make your raised beds the traditional way by digging up the ground and supporting the sides with a solid frame. Or just pile up good quality soil, decomposed farmyard manure, and compost within the frames. Either way, it 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. For example, the air pockets in the soil hold nitrogen which is converted into nitrate and nitrite salts by the soil bacteria, making this macronutrient available to the plant. Fewer air pockets mean less availability of nitrogen.
Proper aeration is 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.
Image source: Aaron Baugher
2. Good drainage?
Raised beds provide good drainage even in heavy rains. This is one reason it has always been popular in tropical areas that get heavy rainfall. 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. Water logging can even change the pH of the soil, making it more acidic and less favorable to plants preferring neutral to slightly alkaline soils.
The ideal soil moisture for most plants is around 25%, although bog plants have adapted to living in soils saturated with water. 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.
Go to the next page to learn more reasons why raised beds are the best way to garden.