What Are the Benefits of Raised Bed Gardening?

What Are the Benefits of Raised Bed Gardening?

“Are raised beds easy to grow in and maintain? I live in North Carolina. During the winter can I put a tarp-type Greenhouse over them to help protect vegetables from the cold.” Question from Karen of Rougemont, North Carolina

Answer: There are many benefits to growing in raised beds and very few downsides. Here are the pros and cons of raised bed gardening, followed up by methods to help maintain your garden through winter.

Pros of Raised Bed Gardening

  1. Deeper, Lighter Soil: If you fill your raised beds with good soil from the start, it helps root crops grow deeper and all plants set deeper roots for higher yields. We recommend using either Black Gold® Natural & Organic Raised Bed & Potting Mix or one-part ground soil to two-parts Black Gold Garden Compost Blend. If you have more alkaline soil, the addition of Black Gold® Natural & Organic Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss is helpful. Top off the beds with additional quality topsoil or amendment yearly.
  2. Easier Weeding: Raised beds have looser soil, are higher, and often cover a smaller area, making them easier to weed. It’s also easier to harvest after rain and stay clean when beds are surrounded by pebble, straw, or cut grass.
  3. Easier Harvest: Because they are raised, the beds are easier to harvest and replant.
  4. Easy Planning and Rotation: When you have just a few geometric beds, it is easier to design plantings for yearly rotation (Click here to learn more about the importance of rotating crops)

Cons of Raised Bed Gardening

  1. Initial High Cost: Raised beds are not inexpensive to install if you start out right.
  2. Less Space for Big Crops: Unless your beds are large and you have trellising, you have less space for large crops like vining pumpkins, squash, and melons or multiple rows of corn.
  3. Need Replacement: Eventually your beds will need to be replaced. Metal and plastic options last longer. Cedar raised beds are also long-lasting. Never use treated wood to create raised beds because the wood contains heavy metals that can leach into the soil and be taken up by crops.

Raised Bed Covers

Floating hoop covers are the easiest and best insulating covers to extend growing in raised beds. You also may consider adding a cold frame to your raised bed plan. They make it easiest to continue growing herbs and greens through winter. (Click here to learn more about cold-frame gardening.)

I hope that this helps!

Happy Gardening,

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist

I Need Tips for Cold Frame Gardening

“With which of your products does one prep the soil for winter crops in a mini greenhouse, type Cold Frame Mini Green House by Juwel (I just got one)?  It will face South-East.  Any experience growing with this method?  Any easy crop recommendations?” Question from Judy of Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts

Answer: Thank you for your questions. I have gardened in a cold frame and observed successful and unsuccessful cold-frame gardening. In your northern garden, I would place the cold frame in a sunny south-facing spot close to your home. The reflective heat from the house will provide some winter protection, and the warm sun will help heat the cold frame. If you can, I would also recommend sinking the cold frame a few inches below the soil level, even though I see that the frame you have purchased has clear sides. Really good cold frames are set below the soil level to better hold heat in winter. On unexpectedly hot fall or winter days, be sure to prop the top open to keep the internal temperature from getting too hot.

Cold-Frame Soil

As far as soil, I would amend your ground soil at the base of the frame with good compost, like Black Gold Garden Compost Blend, at a 1:2 ratio of soil to mulch. The addition of earthworm castings would also be enriching. The lighter and more fertile your soil, the better your veggies will grow.  Adding a layer of compost as a protective mulch would also be helpful. (Click here to learn more about creating the best soil for raised beds.)

Cold-Frame Vegetables

It is essential to grow cool-season, frost-resistant crops. These are largely winter greens and root crops. The greens that I recommend include mâche, kale, lettuce, and spinach. The best root crops include winter carrots, radishes, and turnips. Parsley and chives are good herbs to try. (Click the following link to learn more about growing winter root crops and click this link to learn more about growing cool-season greens.)

I hope that this information helps!

Happy gardening,

Jessie Keith