When you taste the first tomatoes from your garden every year, you know the effort has been worth it.
But the word “effort” is really a part of the equation. Gardens require constant attention, first to protect against an unexpected frost, then to save your plants and budding produce from blistering heat. One method that many gardeners practice is the use of raised garden beds. Raised beds are constructed above ground level and use fresh soil bordered by rocks or wooden planks. These platforms help gardeners keep weeds and pests at bay but also require a lot of up-front commitment in terms of cost and construction.
Depending on the kinds of plants you hope to grow, a raised bed might be a good fit or might be unnecessary. There are a few things to think about before you make the commitment to a series of raised garden beds in your own backyard.
Think about the types of plants you want to grow. Compact plants, such as cucumbers, leafy greens and cherry tomatoes, work well in raised beds. Plants with large vines, such as watermelon, are typically a poor fit. And think about the depth of the bed, too. Large varieties of tomatoes like to dig deep into the soil for nutrients, and if your bed is on the short side it might hamper their growth. Also, resist the temptation to cram too many plants into a small raised bed. Raised beds are compact and cute, but they don’t allow plants to spread out. If you want volume, ground-level gardening is probably best.
Think about your own space and what it allows. If you don’t have soil in your backyard, you don’t have much of an option except for building your own raised bed. If you do have soil, consider the quality of your soil and if a clean start from potting soil and fertilizers in a raised bed might be a more productive setup. Lastly, think about your own situation with the garden. Because of the costs and time associated with building them, it’s not advisable to build permanent beds at a space you plan to move away from in a few years.
Think about your climate. Because the soil in a raised bed is smaller in volume and self-contained, it warms up to planting range faster than the soil at ground level. But it also cools down faster as winter approaches, and it dries out faster on summer days. Consider where you live to see if your seasonal schedule aligns with a need for a raised bed.
Think about your specific needs. Raised beds can be aesthetically pleasing, and if that’s your primary goal as a gardener, they might be a good option. Raised beds are also great for people with disabilities or those whose mobility issues make it difficult to bend over to ground level.