As a long-time gardener, I have to emphatically say that starting with a raised bed garden is going to the best way to get your feet wet in gardening….or should I say your hands dirty? You will have the most success quickly, which will in turn help you be more excited and enthusiastic about your garden. You will experience the joy of watching your beautiful little sprouts coming up and be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor with relative ease.
So why is raised bed gardening the best to get started?
You can control the quality of the soil
If you begin a garden in your existing soil at your location, you will have to deal with whatever soil you are given. Now, you may have the perfect, lovely soil that is all ready to go, has the right pH and all the necessary nutrients and is well-drained. But chances are very good, especially if you live in a suburban development that has had most of the topsoil removed for construction, you probably don’t have the best soil.
If you don’t have the best soil, you would have to wait until the ground is dry in late spring and then till in a lot of soil amendments anyway, or you could use a method like Lasagna Gardening to augment the soil, which takes time.
So raised bed gardens allow you to just make the perfect mix in the first place, just like a great big flowerpot. It will be loose and easy to plant in and easy to weed because it is so loose. Also, it shouldn’t have a lot of weed seed in it if you use the best starting ingredients.
Drainage is easy
When making your garden directly in the ground, you must be careful to choose a location that has good drainage or you must improve the existing drainage.
A raised bed naturally drains well. You still have to make sure it isn’t being set into an area that is completely saturated or has standing water, but location and well-drained existing soil are much less of a concern when using raised beds.
Weeds are minimized
With a raised bed, you can start with a weed-free soil mix. Then, when some weed seeds invariably germinate, you can easily pluck the tiny seedlings out of the loose soil with your fingers. No need for weeding forks or hoes. If you elevate your raised beds, weeding your garden can even be a pleasurable activity.
Raised beds are easier to maintain
Because they are a smaller, confined area, raised beds are easy to maintain. We have already discussed how weeding is easy and minimal. They have defined sides that prevent weeds from creeping in, a problem that plagues in-ground gardens. They are easy to keep neat and tidy.
Elevated raised beds are especially easy to maintain, particularly for older gardeners. These may take extra effort to build and fill, but once in place, they are easy to plant in, easy to weed and water and easy to harvest from.
Gentle on your back
Elevated raised beds are the best at eliminating back strain, but even raised beds placed directly on the ground are an improvement over in-ground gardens. The extra 6 or 8 inches less that you have to bend over helps more than you might think. I also find that I can sit comfortably on a foam pad or paper bag next to my low raised beds and plant, weed or harvest more comfortably than with an in-ground bed.
Easier to keep out pests and critters
Physical barriers are very easy to attach to a raised bed garden. You already have a significant structure to attach small poles and netting and the small area makes it easy to design simple pest protection cheaply and quickly. Elevated raised beds may even keep out your cats, dogs and chickens without additional measures.
Intensive planting is simplified
Because you can control the nutrients in your soil mix, you can plant a lot more in a small space. Planting your vegetables in blocks rather than rows is also good for plant pollination, among other things.
Grow the amount that’s right for you
Raised bed gardens are neat and contained. It makes it very simple to calculate how many seeds or starts you need and what your yields will most likely be. This makes it beneficial for growing the right amount for your family. While gardening is not an exact science, you can make some very good estimates and can have some success at avoiding the problem of way too many cucumbers and not enough green beans!
Saves you money
Raised bed gardening can save you money as well. You will be able to easily calculate just how much soil mix ingredients to buy for your box. You can quickly know how many seeds or starts will go in the space you have. You won’t be buying excess plants or starting too much seed.
Location is flexible
If your best area of sun is up on your deck or patio, you can put a raised bed right there! If you have poor soil or drainage in the north 40 of your yard, but that’s your sunniest spot, you can use a raised bed and eliminate the soil problem and most likely the drainage problem.
Neat and tidy appearance
Raised beds, due to their contained nature, are easy to keep neat and tidy. If it is at ground level or on a raised frame or legs, it is easy to trim around the edges with a weed trimmer. Soil is contained neatly in the box and the edges give a finished look to your garden. You will be motivated to take pictures of your new garden to show your friends.
Great for kids too!
What could be more fun for a kid than having their own small raised bed square of garden space to take ownership of. Kids will feel more empowered by learning to grow their own food. Having their own little space to take care of will encourage their involvement in the whole process and give them something to really be proud of.
Ready to get started?
While there are lots of ways to begin gardening, the raised bed method of gardening is really the best for a beginner. There is so much to know about gardening and lifelong gardeners are always experimenting and learning. Beginning gardeners can often become overwhelmed with the details of how, when and where.
Raised bed gardening can simplify many of these unknowns and help the beginning gardener narrow down all the facts and get a garden actually going, growing and producing. Also, many of the frustrations of an in-ground garden are removed with a raised bed and the beginner will be able to have early successes that lead to long term enjoyment of the whole gardening process.
Please read our article on Planning Your Vegetable Garden before you start any garden. This will help you consider a lot of things besides just what you want to grow. With raised beds, there are some things that you might not have to worry so much about, like location of good soil and good drainage.
Next step: Getting Your Raised Bed Off The Ground – this article gives you the details on how to make a raised bed garden.
Sound Off About Your Garden Experiences!
Are you a beginner? Let us know if this motivates you to get started. An experienced gardener? Tell us how you got started gardening and what motivated you to keep on gardening. We’d love to share any advice and tips with all our readers.