You are one of the lucky ones if you have healthy soil that needs little to no amending and if you can easily get on your hands and knees to weed and perform other garden maintenance activities. If this is you, then you have the option of planting a vegetable garden directly in the ground and maybe wondering why use raised beds for vegetables.
On the other hand, if you find yourself affected by any of the problems listed below, you may out of necessity consider building a raised bed vegetable garden.
- Soil type is not suitable for vegetables
If your garden has only clay or sandy soil, you will need to add a lot of soil amendments to make your soil suitable enough to plant most types of vegetables. Soil amendments can get awfully expensive and may need to be added each year. Alternatively, building raised beds that can be used year after year may be an easier and cost-effective option in the long run.
If your garden is located directly on top of a rock or a rocky area, amending the soil may not even be an option. Creating a raised bed vegetable garden may be one of the only options available to you.
- Poor drainage
Despite vegetable gardens needing a lot of water, poor drainage can be detrimental. If you find that the only area that you have to locate your vegetable garden is an area with poor drainage, you may need to install raised beds to help with drainage and be able to grow vegetables.
- Vegetable garden located on a slope
If you have any alternative locations for your vegetable garden, you should avoid locating it on a slope. Nutrients and soil can run-off easily from a slope, leaving you with poor quality soil.
However, if a slope is the only location you have, you can cut into it and terrace the slope, and then building raised beds on it. Your raised beds will be of different depths but by choosing vegetables that will do well at each depth, you can create a healthy vegetable garden on a slope.
- Burrowing mammals
Vegetable gardens are easily affected by different types of burrowing mammals, including rats, voles, moles, groundhogs, and gophers. Unsurprisingly most vegetable plants make very tasty snacks for these animals.
If your garden is affected by these types of animals, you can build raised beds and add wire mesh at the bottom the prevent burrowing mammals from getting near your plants.
However, you should not add any plastic or wood that will completely block access between the ground and your raised beds. This is because you don’t want to inadvertently block drainage and should maintain a link with beneficial soil organisms. http://veggiesgrow.com/a-gardeners-introduction-to-soil-biodiversity/
- Contaminated soil
If you know or even only suspect that your soil may be contaminated with heavy metals and other contaminants that can be taken up by plants, you can build raised beds to safely grow food.
- You can’t bend down
If you are unable to bend down and tend to an in-ground garden, either due to old age or a physical difficulty, growing vegetables in raised beds will make it easier and possible for you to continue gardening. Even if you can bend but are constantly affected by back pain, you should consider growing in raised beds.
There are many other benefits of raised bed vegetable gardening that you may want to make use of even if growing vegetables directly in the ground is a possibility for you.
- Less or no weeding needed
If you fill your raised beds with weed-free soil and compost, you will only rarely have to weed your garden. As anyone who has tried weeding a garden will know, this will save you a lot of time and energy.
- Easier to add a cover
If your pest problems are over-ground, you may need to install a fence or other cover over your vegetable plants. You may also want to continue your vegetable garden throughout winter and may need to install a winter cover to do this. Installing either both or one of these types of covers will be a lot easier and less costly if you already have raised beds that you can use as a base.
- Possibility of creating a tiered vegetable garden
You can build your raised beds in a way that you get two or three layers for your vegetable plants. This will not only allow you to easily show off your plants but it’s also an ideal solution for small spaces. Adding layers will allow you to access all areas of your raised bed even if part of it is against a wall or fence with no room for a pathway in-between.
- Neat and orderly look
Raised beds create a neat and orderly look for your garden. If you are a person that likes to keep everything neat and tidy, and literally in its own box, this look may be aesthetically appealing to you.
For some gardens, using raised beds may be one of the only ways of growing vegetables, while for other gardens, in which vegetables can be grown directly on the ground, it really comes down to personal need and preference.
You should however be aware that building raised beds can be costly at first and will vary a lot based on the material used, the height, and size of the beds, as well as the soil and other substrate used to fill the raised beds with. Raised beds can also be quite heavy and may not be suitable for more indoor areas, such as a balcony.
Alternatively, you can consider starting a container vegetable garden, if raised beds or in-ground gardening is not suitable for you.