Raised bed gardening offers many advantages
Gardening is an enjoyable hobby and a healthy activity for all ages and community groups, according to Obadiah Njue, Ph.D., horticulture specialist and chair of the Agriculture Department at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. Gardening provides fresh and healthy food to the family and community.
Raised bed gardening is growing in popularity, Njue says. "If lack of space is the reason for not having a garden, you no longer have an excuse. Any space with ample light and access to water is ideal for gardening." Examples of such spaces include, raised beds (square foot gardens), containers (plastic, clay, wood), patios, doorsteps, window sills and hanging baskets.
By far, raised beds are the most commonly used method of small space gardening. And there are several cool season crops that would do well in raised beds such as collards, cabbage, mustard greens, turnip greens, kale, lettuce, radishes and Swiss chard, Njue says.
There are some advantages to raised garden beds. "Raised bed gardens bring your garden closer to you," he says. "They can be raised to a convenient height. You can avoid bending over to pull weeds, harvest or trim plants."
Raised garden beds can produce more vegetables and flowers per square foot than ordinary beds, and they are easier to manage. There is reduced soil compaction.
"A properly designed raised bed garden allows you to do all your gardening from outside the bed," Njue says. "Plants can be spaced a little closer together in a raised bed because you don't need places to step. This increases productivity per square foot of bed and reduces weeding when the plants begin to mature."
Raised beds tend to drain away excess water better than ordinary garden beds.
Water, fertilizer, compost and mulch can be applied more carefully and efficiently because they only need to be applied to the garden beds.
"Raised beds can extend your gardening season," Njue says. "They tend to warm up a little sooner in the spring and remain productive later in the fall."
For more information on raised bed gardening, consult your county Extension agent or staff.