Benefits of Raised Bed Gardening

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Spring has finally arrived and warmer temperatures are luring us outside. I imagine you have also experienced the havoc that COVID-19 has played on our food supply over the last year. All of this presents the perfect opportunity for you to enjoy the benefits of raised bed gardening. Not only will you reap the rewards of fresh food but you can also benefit from “gardening” exercise and the proven scientific fact that gardening can be therapeutic for your mental self. Raised bed gardening is a perfect option for you if you don’t have suitable native soils and may be limited on space.

Site selection is important when deciding where to place a raised bed or container garden. Most plants, especially warm-season crops need eight or more hours of direct sunlight, so this requirement is essential in reaping an abundant crop. What about a water source? Will we water appropriately if it is not convenient? Most vegetables need at least one inch of water a week. Siting the bed close to a water bib or outside spigot will help us to water consistently. When you construct a bed, four foot wide is the recommended width enabling you to reach the middle from either side. The length may be decided by your situation but remember you will need to walk around it instead of through it, so eight, ten, or twelve feet may be long enough.

Options for the bed construction are almost as endless as your imagination. The most commonly used material is wood. Naturally rot-resistant wood like cypress and juniper are excellent choices but cost may be a concern. Treated lumber can be an option and most chemical wood treatments now contain copper and are considered safer than the lumber treated prior to 2003 when arsenic was involved in the wood treatment. Stacked cinder blocks or bricks may be an option for you. Even a small plastic wading pool can serve as a raised bed or large container, just make sure you place some drainage holes in the container.

Obvious benefits of raised beds are the choice of substrates or soilless mixes that you may choose from when filling your bed. Soilless mixes, usually purchased in bags from your local nurseries and box stores, need to provide good drainage and the ability to hold moisture, air, and nutrients. Using native soil can introduce weed seed along with fungal and bacterial pathogens that can definitely create more work and even disastrous results in your new bed. Be careful when selecting products labeled as garden soil, it may be too heavy and unable to provide proper drainage without amending the soil.

You should be able to grow all of your favorite veggies in your raised bed except vining plants such as pumpkin and watermelon. Smaller vining crops can be trained on a trellis and works very well, giving you straighter and cleaner fruit. So let’s get that bed built and enjoy some therapeutic gardening this growing season.

For more information, contact Mack Johnson, Extension Horticultural Agent, at 910-671-3276, by email at, or visit our website.