Above ground gardens seem to be the in thing these days. You can see many different shapes, sizes and materials used in most nurseries or retail garden outlets, but are they all that they are touted to be?
Sometimes, people rush in to buy up something that looks wonderful in the shop or catalogue, but are then disappointed because they found a few things going wrong with it that they had not expected. Here are some pros and cons of raised bed gardens.
- An above ground garden is extremely good for anyone who finds it hard to bend down. However, make sure it is not too far across. You need to be able to reach to the middle from each side.
- Weeding and planting are easier when you don’t have to bend over.
- They look attractive as you get a garden and edging all in one.
- If you use it for flowers, it looks really nice to grow trailing ones that can droop gracefully over the edge.
- It is easy to keep out the lawn from along the edges, important if your lawn has runners.
- It is easy to net the small garden if you need to keep out birds, cats or other pests.
- Snails and slugs take longer to trek up the sides and you can spot them more easily.
- Mischievous puppies can’t dig holes in them.
- Rabbits can’t get to your munchies.
- They drain better in wet weather.
- In dry weather a raised garden bed tends to dry out more quickly than a garden at ground level, so you need to water it more
- You have to buy special fill to put in them, otherwise you will have a hole in your backyard.
- The fill is full of mulch which settles quickly and needs topping up often.
- The fill can become worn out; it may need to be renewed every year or so.
- If you grow vegetables, you will need to rotate the crops carefully so that they grow well.
- Not all plants do well in raised beds; potatoes have to be dug out so you need a stepladder to get up there. Corn may grow well, but it will be way over your head to pick.
Some of the cons can be addressed relatively easily. For instance, some people have added hay bales, old tyres or even Besser blocks topped with cardboard to the bottom to save on the amount of fill needed. Most vegetable roots do not go down too deep so it is not necessary to have the whole depth full of the growing medium.
The fill that is used settles quickly and also drains quickly; often this has the effect of flushing nutrients out, or the seedling roots cannot get into contact with soil quickly enough so they do not grow well. This can be solved by adding a few inches of topsoil to the top of the bed.
You can really get into recycling when you use raised garden beds. Some people have used old refrigerators with the motor and door removed and holes drilled in the back to make a raised garden bed. They work well because the walls are insulated, which helps to keep the fill and the plant roots cool and moist. Of course, they are much heavier than a purpose built raised bed.