Why Grow Food in Raised Beds?

By Pritha Golden Steele, Portland Edible Gardens

Gardening is both an art and a science, and for many, a bit of a mystery. I can’t tell you how many people have told me “I just don’t have a green thumb.” But I can’t emphasize this enough–EVERYONE–has what it takes to grow food. The life sustaining relationship between people and plants goes back as long as humans have existed. Working with plants to provide sustenance, medicine and more is part of our basic humanity.
That doesn’t mean everyone needs to have a garden, but for those who venture on the journey of growing food, it can mean a lot of guesswork and a lot of failures along the way. And you may be asking yourself should I grow my food in raised beds or just in the ground? If you are considering raised beds versus in-ground, below are some benefits of raised beds to take into consideration.

Choose your soil
After the correct site selection and a location with sufficient sun, soil is absolutely the most important factor in your garden’s success. While the art of building healthy soil from the dirt outside your doorstep can be a fun challenge for some, for the average gardener diving into the depths of soil testing and pH adjustments, soil drainage and aggregation is overwhelming and can create a barrier to success. Add the fact that many with urban garden plots are concerned with possible pollutants and some folks just give up all together. Raised beds allow you to bring in the highest quality soil to your garden (soil selection is not the time to cut corners) and set the stage for many years of successful gardening. It makes all the difference.

Get an earlier start on the season
In our climate, the limiting factor affecting when many people can get their first veggies in the ground is typically muddy soil. Because raised beds are above ground level, water drains out of them more quickly than the ground. As well, most soils in the Portland area have high clay content which makes for a heavy soil that drains and dries slowly, whereas the right soil mix will have much better drainage. Use of raised beds enables you to plant during the earliest possible window each year.

Ease of spring soil preparation
To grow healthy plants you must feed your soil and its microbiome. For a baseline maintenance of healthy soil, we add organic compost to our gardens each year, and recommend this practice for any vegetable garden. Digging the compost into the soil of in-ground beds is MUCH more labor intensive than integrating into a lighter soil higher off the ground. This makes your very needed annual compost application comparatively quick and easy compared to that of in-ground beds.

Protect your body/ADA accessibility
The added height of a raised bed is easier on your body and can hugely improve accessibility in the garden. Raised beds can make gardening accessible to folks in wheelchairs or for those whom bending all the way to the ground isn’t an option. For many people, even if bending over is an option, in-ground gardening still comes with a fair amount of back pain. Raised beds can be custom built to the exact needed height and provide space to sit, to address all the issues above.

Save time weeding
When you bring soil into your raised beds, you can choose to bring soil with next to no weeds! Because the raised bed creates a barrier between your veggies and the surrounding lawn and garden, it protects the space from infiltration of new weeds. With proper management you can prevent entry of new weeds from ever taking place and have a future of spending only very minimal time weeding your garden. This is a huge time saver and is implausible with in-ground beds.

Grow more food in a small space
Raised beds contain a significant depth of high fertility soil that is fully aerated, and well drained, which make it easy for plant roots to move through soil, and access everything they need. Unlike an in-ground bed, you can plant right to the very edge of your raised bed, maximizing the amount of food you get out of the space.

Many of our clients come to us because they feel that they could spend 10 years of trial and error learning how to grow food by internet search (or maybe they already have), but they want to cut through the conflicting information and learn the skills from a professional. Similarly, when you are working with an ecological system, there are an overwhelming number of variables that you need to take into account. Raised beds are helpful because they remove many of the hard to understand variables and greatly increase success in the garden.

This article was originally posted on the Portland Edible Gardens website, portlandediblegardens.com.

Photo by Portland Edible Gardens.

Why Grow Food in Raised Beds?

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