I'm converting two 1500sqft quadrants of our yard into a garden. On one quadrant I've put several keyhole gardens using sheet mulch of newspaper/cardboard, hay, compost, and leaves. On the other side I wanted to try something different to see what works best. We tore down an old barn so we have lots of extra wood, so I figured I'd fill it with raised beds and fill them with purchased soil+compost.
Then I was watching Lawton's permaculture video on Food Forests. At one point he shows the kitchen garden. It's simply long rows of piled organic matter or maybe sheet mulch 4 feet wide. It looks so much more natural than raised beds in a frame, but then it still has the same function of one--doesn't it? It would be much cheaper and much less work but I'd still have good soil and good drainage.
Am I missing something that makes a framed raised bed a better idea?
Location: Iowa, border of regions 5 and 6
posted 9 years ago
hozomeen wrote: Am I missing something that makes a framed raised bed a better idea?
I have had a flat garden, raised mounds and wood framed raised beds all in the same location - the type you have needs to serve your situation.
Regarding the differences between raised mounds and wood framed beds: I have a wet climate and when my beds were raised mounds I had hay for the paths so I had no mud problems at all, and since they were raised I had no more bending over than what I do now for my wood framed raised beds.
The devil is in the details: I started with flat beds, but the roots from my neighbors hedge took over my beds in a couple of seasons (took 'em time to find the good stuff). I didn't notice the roots when I first prepared the beds because the area was never watered or fertilized so the roots were not there (yet). After I amended the soil and put in my nice garden, poof - roots so thick a shovel wouldn't go in without a lot of force. Thick as spaghetti.
So next I tried mounds (think 3 little pigs story - stick house phase) - they worked great, in every way, except those darn roots now grew up, into the mounds, and in one season would fill them - Arrg! Shorter leaning curve, the roots were getting smarter.
Now we are to the 'brick house' part of the story - So I built wood framed raised beds and lined my boxes with thick root blocking material - ha ha take that you roots! But they are still huffing and puffing down there I'm sure, and I don't know how long until a breach in my defenses makes my beds open to invasion again. I do not like how my garden performs with lined beds as well as I did with the natural mounds, but it's the best I can do while I live here - in the city.
So the lesson of this story is - you do what you have to do to work best in the situation you have. I'm sure if I were in a wheelchair rolling along side a boxed in raised bed would be the best way to go, but when you are standing reaching the soil in a raised mound or raised box is much the same. In a wet climate raising your beds does offer a drainage advantage, as in a dry climate planting in ditches does. But the box is optional in my opinion, unless your fighting invading roots
Location: Western Colorado
posted 9 years ago
I have raised beds and really like them. The main reason for me is that I have really crappy clay soil that is alkaline. I live in a very dry (7-9 inches a year) climate. The raised beds helped me have pretty good soil immediately. I did have to do some digging before I put them in to improve drainage. If I had started with reasonably good soil I probably wouldn't have gone with raised beds but would still use the same layout so that I am not walking on and compacting the soil where I am planting my garden.