Benefits of a Raised Bed Garden

Raised garden beds are perfect for growing vegetables, fruits, herbs, flowers and other plants.

Raised bed gardening is a great choice for urban growers. Plants can be spaced closely together. Paths between beds can be clearly defined, which means beds will not be compacted by foot traffic. Mulch and water can be applied just to the beds and not the paths.

A raised bed filled with nutrient-rich soil is so much better than the soil typically found in an average back yard garden. A raised bed allows the gardener to reach the plants without bending down or over too far. Raised beds are made with treated wood, framed with stones or bricks, even downed trees. Stones and bricks can help the garden walls last longer than most wood products.  Another benefit of using a raised bed is easier weed suppression.

Watering a raised bed is easy. You can hand water or use a soaker hose which helps to make the raised bed more maintenance free and efficient. The soaker hose allows you to save time, since you do not have to move it from one place to another. The soaker hose will guarantee that your plants get a good deep soaking and that the foliage stays dry.

 Rain barrels which capture water from your home down spout are also a good eco-friendly way to use your excess water supply. A rain barrel, also known as a rain bank connected to your downspout is a great way to keep storm water   out of the system and to cut down your water bill! Because you are collecting right off the roof, it has few contaminants and is perfect for watering the garden and can be connected directly to your soaker hose. A soaker hose should not exceed 100”; after that they begin to lose their effectiveness.

A typical lawn sprinkler will waste too much water since the water dispensed is not concentrated on where it should be. Water is also lost through evaporation, over-spray, and runoff.

The very best time to water plants is in the early morning, while it is still cool. This will allow the water to run down into the soil and reach the roots of the plant without too much excess water lost to evaporation. Watering in the early morning will also make the water available to the plants throughout the day so that the plants will be able to deal better with the heat of the sun. If you are using a drip or soaker irrigation system, you can water right up until nightfall. The leaves of the plants do not get wet with this form of watering.

The sides can be almost any building material, including rock, brick, and interlocking cement blocks, as long as they have a good volume capacity and the appropriate drainage capabilities.  It’s always a good idea to add fresh compost each spring and fall. Mulching the top of the soil will help retain the moisture and keep weeds down. Moisture retention is important because raised beds tend to drain faster than conventional beds.

Drainage is built right into the bed walls, which hold the soil in place to help keep erosion in check. Standing water is entirely eliminated. The existence and length of waterlogged soil after heavy downpours is minimized, especially here  on the coast.

A raised bed gives better exposure to the sun which helps to warm the soil, allowing for more plant diversity and extending the growing season. Plants can be spaced closely together, water efficiency is maximized and weeds can be easily controlled. It raises the soil level, reduces the effort needed for planting, weeding and harvesting. 

Generally, raised garden beds are at least a foot higher than the surrounding soil. They can also be built as a system completely raised off the ground by using containers. They can be as high as you want or need, but the soil should be a foot or two deep to allow for deep rooting of the plants.

Raised beds are designed so water trickles down. A layer of coarse stone or pea gravel over landscape fabric will help in the over-all drainage.

Pest control should also be a consideration. The new top soil filled with rich customized soil, compost blend has worms and other delicacies that attract moles and voles. A good bottom layer of hardware cloth or galvanized metal or chicken wire can help keep the pests away.  Tacking a wrap of copper wire around the raised beds will help in reducing the snail and slug population in your garden. Slugs or snails will try to arch over the copper wire, so try wrapping two strands of copper wire at a distance they can’t straddle.

A north-south orientation will take full advantage of available spring and summer daylight. Try to leave at least 2 feet between your raised beds so that there is room for a wheelbarrow.

Tomatoes grown on the coast tend to do very well, when grown in raised beds. Coastal tomato gardeners have many challenges. Summers are cool, windy and foggy and our first frost may come early. Short season and disease-resistant tomato plants will do the best. Early season and mid-season tomato plants for Oregon are the Celebrity and Spring Giant, Siletz, Legends, Stupice, Cascade Spring and Early Girl. Try to choose the Indeterminate varieties that are ready to harvest in 52 to 70 days.

Raised beds have recently become a very popular way of gardening, including along the Oregon Coast. Raised beds can produce as much as 2 times the vegetables, herbs and flowers per square foot as ordinary beds and gives you the most out of a limited area. Vegetables grown in a raised bed tend to grow larger and healthier and tend to produce a more intense flavor.  Raised beds are great for vegetables, herbs, flowers and fruits, such as strawberries, blackberries and raspberries.

Raised bed gardens require very little maintenance and give you the opportunity to garden in perfect soil with a customized compost blend that you put together. It also allows gardening in poor soil by greatly improving food production. If disease hits your raised bed, you can change out the soil and start over. After filling and mixing the soil in your raised bed frame, always be sure to check the soil pH. The materials you use in the frame, can be adjusted to reach an ideal pH level for your plants.

Once vegetable plants are established, if they have been planted close enough to each other, they will shade the soil and prevent the growth of many weed seedlings. This is achieved by a well-planned raised bed, in which plants are spaced so that the foliage of adjacent plants touch and form a closed canopy at a mature growth stage.