There are many benefits to growing your own vegetables. Financial, quality of product and the satisfaction of growing them yourself. Raised beds are a brilliant way to establish a vegetable garden. Here are 20 advantages of growing veg in raised beds.
The Physical Advantages of Raised Beds
1. Raised Beds Look Attractive And Give Your Garden Structure.
We all know a well-structured garden is aesthetically pleasing and gives year round interest. So if you’re growing vegetables in your garden, it makes sense to make these areas visually pleasing too. After all, you don’t want to ruin your view with an untidy plot. Raised vegetable beds create a neat, easy to manage growing area and add architectural interest – particularly in winter when the vegetation is less abundant.
Frames for raised beds can be made from many different materials. Wood is probably most commonly used and has the advantages of being easy to work with and relatively inexpensive. You can even buy wooden raised beds ready made, needing just a few screws to assemble before filling. The main disadvantage of wood is that it will eventually rot, so if you are sure you want your beds to be permanent you may want to build something with something more substantial. Ours are all made from old oak sleepers and were easy to construct being just one sleeper high. Stone and concrete blocks are also popular choices and can look particularly attractive in an urban garden.
2. They Can Be Placed On Any Base And In Any Location.
Building a new raised bed means you can create it however and wherever you like. Even somewhere where there is no native soil at all. Beds can be built on clay soils, grassed areas, stony ground and even concrete. This allows you to chose your location to take advantage of the sun, make your vegetables convenient for the kitchen or so that they look beautiful from the window.
3. You Get A High Yield For The Space Used.
The fertile, deep soil in raised beds enables crops to be grown closer together, meaning more food from the same amount of space. This makes them particularly useful in an urban vegetable garden where room is at a premium. The aim is to space vegetables so that when they are fully grown, their leaves just touch each other. Growing veg like this creates a microclimate in which weeds are suppressed, and moisture is conserved, cutting down on work and increasing yields.
4. Avoids Established Tree Root Systems
If you are lucky enough to have beautiful trees growing in your garden, you might find that you disturb their roots by digging beds into the ground. Raised beds avoid coming in contact with and damaging tree roots and reduce the competition for nutrients and water too.
5. Can Be Built On A Slope
Gardens come in all shapes and sizes, and many of them are not level. Raised beds are a great way to create level beds on a slope. Not only do terraces of vegetables look fantastic they reduce soil erosion and water runoff too. The top of the hill will be naturally warmer and drier than the bottom so plan your planting accordingly.
6. Raises Roots Away From Sodden Ground
Raised beds drain well since the soil is elevated above ground level making them brilliant for gardens that suffer from boggy conditions. Waterlogged soil damages the friendly bacteria that live within it and increases the risk of disease in your plants.
7. Avoids Poor And Contaminated Soil
Few of us have perfect soil in our gardens. Many gardens have shallow soil of poor quality which won’t meet the nutritional demands of vegetable plants. A greater depth of suitable soil means a larger root and a healthier plant.
8. Make It Easier To Manage Weeds And Pests
As well as holding soil in, the sides of raised beds act as a barrier to keep things out. You’ll have less trouble with encroaching weeds from the surrounding area and pests such as slugs and snails. The raised edges also help children and dogs recognise where they should and should not play, and may even stop the odd stray football.
9. Less Far To Bend
The extra height of raised beds makes weeding much more comfortable as bending is reduced. It is also possible to design the sides so that you can sit on the edges while you work. If mobility is a factor you can create garden boxes at waist or wheelchair height, so you don’t need to bend at all.
10. Less Intimidating For New Gardeners and Busy People
This is my favourite advantage of gardening using raised beds. They are a great way to break down your garden into manageable areas. Each of the beds shown in my photo below takes me about an hour to clear and dig over at the end of each season. By breaking down my garden into flexible spaces, I find it far less intimidating and much more of a joy.
How Vegetables Benefit From Being Grown In Raised Beds
11. You Can Use Different Soil Types
Not only do they reduce the need to use poor native soil, raised beds allow you to match the loam to the plant. Different vegetables have different nutrient requirements which is much easier to meet if they are growing in their own bed.
12. Help Avoid Walking On And Compacting Soil
Successful vegetable gardening is all about creating a deep nutrient-rich soil which, crucially, doesn’t get walked on or compacted. The excellent open soil structure present in raised beds makes root growth easier for plants as well as containing air pockets for beneficial microbial life and other friendly organisms. Because raised beds are tended from the sides, the soil is never stepped on and should never become compacted.
13. Warm Up Quickly
The higher level of the soil in raised beds encourages it to warm up faster in the spring, allowing your growing season to start earlier. Better drained soil also warms up more quickly than waterlogged ground.
14. Makes Crop Rotation Really Easy
Crop rotation is an essential aspect of vegetable gardening. It reduces the risk of disease and pests and is a great way to manage the nutritional needs of your plants. Rotations are far simpler to practice with several smaller beds rather than one large plot.
15. Reduces Weeding Due To Being Able To Plant Closer Together
Plants can be grown closer together and in blocks in raised beds due to the favourable growing conditions. This encourages your plants to develop more uniformly as the competition between them is minimal. By filling your beds with plants, weeds can be effectively suppressed due to a lack of space and sunlight that they need to establish.
16. Can Extend Growing Season By Using Covers And Hot Beds
Raised beds can be more easily covered than in a larger vegetable patch or allotment. Fleece covers and cloches can be built to cover full beds allowing you to offer additional protection at the start and end of the season.
Building a hotbed is a great way to grow tender plants in colder climates if you don’t have a greenhouse. The bed generates its own heat from beneath as its lower levels decompose allowing you to grow crops such as salad in the winter months. It is also a brilliant way to make your own nutritious compost for the following year.
17. Faster Root Growth
Gardening in raised beds ensures that soil doesn’t get compacted by being walked on. An open, oxygenated soil supports important soil life and makes it easier for plant roots to penetrate. Faster and stronger root growth means bigger, stronger and generally happier plants.
18. Reduce The Need For Chemicals
Fertilisers, organic matter and manures are all concentrated on areas where plants grow, rather than being wasted on pathways and fallow parts of the garden. This saves both time and money which is never a bad thing!
19. Control Invasive Plants Such As Mint
Having a physical side barrier is a great way to help control invasive plants. In just the same way they help keep weeds outs out, they will also help stop your invasive plants spreading out of their beds and into other parts of your garden.
20. Fab For Growing Long Root Veg Such As Carrots.
Carrots are tough to grow in heavy clay soil and will be stunted or forked in appearance. Raised beds allow you to create the dirt you want depending on what you are growing. You can mix in extra compost, sand or manure when filling your beds to create the perfect growing medium.
Some Disadvantages To Growing Veg In Raised Beds
Although there are many advantages of growing vegetables in raised beds, there are also a few disadvantages. Here are what we think are the 6 main disadvantages.
1. Initial Cost Of Labour And Materials
Depending on access to materials and how handy you are at DIY, building raised beds does come at a physical and financial cost. One way to minimise this is to start with just one or two beds and then add to them each year. Getting creative with the materials you use and reclamation is a great way to keep costs down.
2. They Dry Out Quicker
Well-drained soil is a blessing for plant health, but it does mean you need to make sure that your ground doesn’t become too dry. Raised beds require regular watering in dry weather, and may need watering daily at certain times of the year. Using a mulch will reduce water evaporation but expect to devote some time to watering as well.
3. Need To Import Soil
Raised beds hold a surprising amount of soil. Each of the beds shown in my photo below is filled with over a cubic metre of dirt, which equates to over a tonne of soil. Which is neither cheap to buy or easy to move. Getting creative and part filling your beds with waste material such as kitchen scraps, leaf litter and manure as well as spent soil will definitely help. Using a mix will also give you the basis for excellent soil structure in the future.
4. Harder To Change Structure Compared To Traditional Vegetable Garden
Although not impossible to move, relocating raised beds is going to be a pain.
As mentioned above they do contain a lot of soil so are best viewed as a semi-permanent structure.
5. Some Crops Need More Space
Crops such as cereals and potatoes really require more space than many raised beds can provide so may be more suited to being planted straight into the ground.
6. Hard To Use Machinery
If you like to get out and plough or rotovate your garden every spring then raised beds may not be for you. Due to their small size raised beds lend themselves best to hands-on gardening rather than the use of machinery.
We’d love to hear if you agree with our list of advantages and disadvantages. If there’s any you think we’ve missed, please do tell us in the comments below.