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The Pros and Cons of Raised Bed Gardening

  • 3 min read

Raised bed gardening has been a growing trend for several years now. They offer convenience and can also provide a colorful design aesthetic to your backyard garden. If you are interested in adding raised beds to your garden, there are some pros and cons to consider.

The Pros of Raised Bed Gardening

  • Woman planting vegetables in a brick-walled raised garden bed next to a wheelbarrow with watering cans
    Raised beds make it quick and easy to start a garden almost anywhere.
  • They can provide an increased root zone depth, allowing plants to grow deeper, stronger roots.
  • Some studies show that raised beds can produce more food than standard garden beds.
  • The soil in a raised bed will warm sooner than the ground in the spring and stay warmer in the fall so you can have a longer growing season.
  • Water drains better from raised beds. This can be a real benefit in wetter climates, preventing root rot and other diseases caused by excess moisture.
  • Because you must provide the soil, you can create a custom mixed soil that is ideal for your climate and the types of plants that you want to grow, instead of having to amend existing soil to make it fertile for growing.
  • The bed frames help prevent soil erosion.
  • Raised beds can be built to different heights, making it more comfortable to garden with less bending and kneeling.
  • A raised bed provides some isolation from existing lawns and weeds.

The Cons of Raised Bed Gardening

  • Because water drains so well from raised beds, this may be a hindrance in drier or drought conditions.
  • Beds built with wood or plastic sides may have cracks that provide hiding spaces for snails and slugs which will feast on your vegetable leaves.
  • The cost of the raised beds and necessary soil can be expensive. (There are methods like Hugelkultur that can help alleviate some expense)
  • Changing the layout of your garden cannot be done easily.
  • A nearby source of water may be necessary because raised beds can dry out quicker than a regular garden.

In the case of raised beds, the pros far outweigh the cons for most people. If you are planning a raised bed garden, there are a few important things you need to keep in mind.

Images of sunken garden beds known as Zai pits

The position is important. Just because you think you have space for a raised garden bed, that does not necessarily mean you have the best space for a garden. When placing your beds, pay attention to the position of the sun in relation to your garden. Most plants need a good 6-8 hours of direct sunlight every day. If your raised beds will be shaded by a fence, trees, or even your home, you may have to think carefully about the plants that you grow. You may want to choose shade-tolerant plants and vegetables.

Consider your climate. If you live in a very dry region, you may want to build sunken garden beds instead. The opposite of a raised bed, a sunken bed takes advantage of the cooler and wetter nature of the soil if you dig down a bit. Known as Zai pits, originating in Burkina Faso, this method and similar practices have been used by Hopi Indians and in Africa to garden without irrigation in desert-like climates.

Raised bed gardening can provide lots of convenience, lots of control over your plants’ environment, and an extended gardening season. Be sure to plan the location of your gardens carefully and reap the benefits of your raised bed garden.

Our good friend and regenerative farming expert, William DeMille discusses this subject in a recent YouTube Q&A.

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