Why I Switched To Raised Beds

For years I had a garden that was done in rows or squares, in the ground with soil we wheelbarrowed in from the driveway. It was/is in the very back corner of the garden and gets a great amount of sun. It was originally a sand box that the previous home owners had for their children. There were many cats in the neighborhood and we didn’t want our small boys finding any presents left from the cats, if you know what I mean. So we removed the sand and created our first veggie garden all those years ago. We did variations of garden layouts and setups over the years. We were alway trying to minimize weeds that would creep in from the field behind our house. Bindweed has always been our biggest nemesis in the garden. It seemed like whatever we did would not help. It was mostly a losing battle and some years I opted to only grow things in containers because I didn’t want to deal with the weeds as a busy mom to 3 boys. The soil we brought in for the garden was great and we always added compost to build soil health, but the weeds were/are so relentless, that I started to not want to garden. Even with knowing how important nutrient dense food that was homegrown was to me, the weeds were winning. I figured there had to be a better way and looked into every kind of raised bed imaginable. Below I am sharing the reasons why I chose to make the switch to using raised beds as my main growing area.

Soil – I knew that soil health is the foundation for a thriving garden and took care to make our in ground garden healthy, but those weeds tried to move in for good in my garden! One way raised bed gardening can make you a more efficient gardener is when you are like me and have to do battle with weeds like bindweed, which are notoriously hard to combat. Growing in raised beds allows you to take measures to ensure that weeds will be less likely in your garden. (Yes weed seeds will still be blown in and you will have the occasional weed to deal with in your raised beds, but planting intensively and mulching with compost makes weeds almost nonexistent in raised beds.) I haven’t had to battle the bindweed or any other weed really since I switched to raised beds. I still battle it in my meadow garden and all other areas of our yard, but not in my raised beds. Even if we didn’t replace the old sandbox area with a garden we would have had to still bring soil in because the natural soil in our yard is a heavy clay and not the best for growing food plants. Converting to raised beds, allowed us to custom build the soil that we added to the beds. Making your own custom recipe for soil can help your garden thrive even more. 

Location – I moved my garden to a more central space than the sad back corner I had given it all those years prior. It was like a hidden spot that you had to make a point to go to. It definitely was not a convenient place, but it was out of the way. I needed it out of the way when the boys were young, they used the rest of the yard to play, build forts, climb into the treehouse or the play fort, so having a garden back in the sad corner served a purpose. It wasn’t convenient, but it was fine at the time. My boys didn’t need the central space in our yard any longer in the same way, so I promptly took it over for my kitchen garden. Moving the new raised beds to a central location made it even easier for me to run out to the garden to grab ingredients for meals. Growing in raised beds allows you to set up your beds just where you want them, in the ideal spot, close to your back door. You can place them right where you get the most sunlight, especially if you plant to grow long and large plants like indeterminate tomatoes or peppers, etc that need more sunlight. You have much more freedom in placing your raised beds in the place that makes the most sense for you and your families needs. It may be the back corner, out of the way because you want to give the open space to your kids or it may be just outside your back door, whatever works for your needs.

Bed Size and Height – When figuring out what kind of raised bed I was going to use, I had to first determine the perfect height and width for me. I chose 4’x8’ beds that are about 17 inches tall. When choosing the width of a bed you want to make sure that you can reach the center of the bed from either side. If you are placing a bed against a wall or fence ideally you want to be able to reach all the way to the back of the bed. You will want to avoid stepping or kneeling on your garden soil as this will compact the soil. A width of 4 feet is the maximum I would suggest if you are going to access the bed from all sides. If you are placing your beds against a fence or wall, I suggest going no more than 3 feet wide at the very most. You’ll want to test out your reach and how convenient it will be to reach the center or back of the beds. Keep in mind that what seems comfortable for a little while, may become a hassle over time. When it comes to height this is really important. You will want to choose a height that makes sense for you and your family. If you will be gardening with children, shorter beds will be helpful for little hands to help. If you have any physical issues that require higher beds, go with tall beds (24+ inches) and you’ll be so happy. My 17-ish inch tall beds work really well for me with my 5’2” stature. When it comes to height you will also want to consider what plants you will be growing and their root depth needs. Things like salad greens can grow in as little as 6 inches or soil depth, where other plants or root vegetables will want deeper soil for optimum root growth.

Being able to start with fresh soil, select the perfect location and choose the right size of beds allowed me to create a fantastic kitchen garden that draws me out to the garden in a way that the old garden didn’t. I still use the old garden space, but have switched the area to be mostly grow bags in an effort to combat the weeds from the field behind our house. In fact I use grow bags and containers in various places throughout my front and backyard for food, flowers and herbs. Adding in containers where I could has expanded my growing capacity little by little over the years. (I started growing in containers long before I switched to raised beds and highly recommend doing it too, especially when you have a small growing space.) I hope that these reasons for why I chose to switch to having raised beds as my main growing space encourages you to either make the switch to raised beds or add them in where you can. Remember, growing a garden is a personal experience and you can make it work for your needs and make changes as needed in time. I love growing in raised beds and I am so happy that I made the switch. If you already grow in raised beds and want to add your reasons why you do, add them in the comments!

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