By: Mack Johnson
Extension Horticultural Agent
North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center
Different types of gardening are now trending in large segments of today’s society. The increase in gardening interest has spawned concepts not usually considered when one mentions gardening. We have edible landscapes, gardens for drinking, square foot gardening, and even vertical gardening. One common factor in many of these styles of gardening is the actual garden space. Urbanization and community development have removed the traditional garden plot and encouraged gardening in smaller spaces. Gardening in raised beds is one option addressing these constraints. Though not a new concept, raised bed gardening has been around for centuries. Raised beds offer the opportunity to increase production while reducing garden area. These bed surfaces typically are between 6-12 inches above the existing ground level. They can be any size imagined by the gardener, but a bed no wider than 4 feet with any length allows tending from both sides and eliminates stepping in the garden area. Step-free garden soil reduces compaction increasing soil aeration and plant productivity.
Raised beds offer gardeners several advantages. Raised beds warm up quicker in the spring allowing for earlier planting. These beds also allow the garden to be worked after a heavy rain, because you are not actually walking in the garden area. Framed raised beds are more effective for reducing erosion. Water will drain through the bed verses possible runoff, resulting in less frequent watering. Weeding and harvesting may be easier due to elevated surfaces. Framing material can be block, stone, brick, pavers, or rot-resistant wood such as landscape timbers or treated lumber. The framing material forms a retaining wall for the soil and a lip above the soil line to retain water. Caution: Treated lumber requires a plastic liner between the soil and the lumber due to possible chemical leachate.
Desired plantings for the bed will aid in determining placement of the raised bed. Vegetables need a minimum of 6 hours direct sun. Positioning the bed from north to south allows more even light as the sun travels over the bed. This position requires placement of the taller plants on the north end to increase light distribution and reduce shading for other bed plantings. Increased production can be attributed to literally planting wall to wall, resulting in the entire garden surface being used.
Natural soil is not the best recommendation for a raised bed unless compost, organic material, peat moss, etc., is added to improve the soil. A good working soil will contain 1 part organic, 1part sand, and 2 parts soil. A purchased soilless mixture, such as potting soil for containers, will also work well. .
North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, is partnering with Robeson Community College’s BioNetwork to present a workshop in “Raised Bed Gardening” on Saturday, March 22, at 10 a.m. The workshop will consist of classroom presentations in RCC’s Workforce Development Building (located at rear of campus) and hands-on demonstrations outside on RCC’s campus at the GreenZone, so dress appropriately. Due to limited space, registration is required by March 19. For accommodations for persons with disabilities, contact Mack Johnson at 910-671-3276 by March 17.
For more information or to register, please contact Mack Johnson, Extension Horticultural Agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, at 910-671-3276, by E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit our website at robeson.ces.ncsu.edu. North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, sex, age, veteran status, or disability. In addition, the two Universities welcome all persons without regard to sexual orientation.