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Do I really need a raised bed?

 
Posts: 109
Location: Central Texas
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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?
 
                        
Posts: 278
Location: Iowa, border of regions 5 and 6
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hozomeen wrote:
Am I missing something that makes a framed raised bed a better idea?



Not having to bend over so far?
 
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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it is all a matter of choice..generally people that used raised beds do so to improve drainage or so thing heat up earlier in the spring, also to get their beds up out of the mud in a wet climate.

however..it isn't necessary to even have raised beds if that isn't what you want..i have both at my property.

the raised beds are nice for easier reaching when you get old..but they also require a LOT more irrigation if you are in a less rain climate

i have a  soaker hose that i can water mine with..but they do still dry out faster.

some of mine are enclosed with wooden boards and some are not..if you slope the sides rather than enclose with wood, you have a larger planting area
 
master pollinator
Posts: 11352
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I have not had good success with raised beds because I'm in a droughty climate with well-draining soil.  My beds are slightly sunken.

 
gardener
Posts: 1948
Location: PNW Oregon
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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

 
            
Posts: 4
Location: Western Colorado
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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.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
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i find the beds you are talking about work much better on sloped ground than boxed beds. and you get more surface are to plant too so that is nice.
 
Bring me the box labeled "thinking cap" ... and then read this tiny ad:
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