Tuesday, January 23, 2018 By: Ask A Master Gardener

Advantages of Raised Bed Gardening

Raised Bed Gardening
Tom Ingram: Ask a Master Gardener

Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Q: I seem to struggle with my vegetable garden each year. Would a raised-bed garden help? JL
A: Raised-bed gardens are a great option for the home gardener and also get us away from the idea of having to plant our crops in rows. The idea of planting crops in rows began with the use of a horse to help cultivate our gardens. The straight rows made plowing easier, and that practice continues today with tractors. However, for the home gardener, row gardening wastes space that could be utilized with crops.
Here are some of the benefits you will experience with a raised-bed garden:
• Higher yields — Raised beds provide you with more space for growing plants.
• Better soil — Typically, when we build new raised beds, we purchase a quality garden soil with high levels of organic matter. This strategy is much easier than working year after year to try to get your soil to the proper soil texture and nutrient balance. Not that you won’t have to work on it each year but at least you will likely be starting with a higher quality garden soil than you find in most residential yards.
• Water conservation — Plants grown together in a denser growing environment decrease water evaporation and help keep roots cooler in our hot Oklahoma summers. You also tend to use less water, as you are typically watering smaller areas.
• Less weeds — Plants that are closer to one another tend to discourage weed growth. But, in either case, mulch is always a great idea.
• Longer growing season — Soil in raised beds tends to warm up earlier in the season, extending your growing season.
• Better pest control — It’s typically easier to control pests in raised-bed gardens, as they are easier to cover with insect-screening fabric or perhaps equip to help discourage hungry rabbits and squirrels, etc.
Raised-bed gardens come in a variety of sizes, but the maximum width we usually recommend is about 4 feet, as you will want to be able to reach into your garden from either side without needing to walk in it. The height of the bed can vary greatly. A 6-inch height is fairly standard; however, you can build your beds higher if you want to be able to sit more easily to care for your garden rather than stoop or get down on your knees.
It’s also best to orient your raised-bed garden north-south with the taller plants on the north end to avoid shading the smaller plants.
Yes, raised-bed gardens are a great solution, and this is the perfect time to start planning. You can find more information about raised-bed gardening by visiting the “Hot Topics” portion of our website and clicking on “raised bed gardening.”
Garden tips
  • Early February through March is the recommended time to plant strawberries. It is important to plant them in full sun and in well-drained soil. There are several types from which to choose. June-bearing varieties do best in our area. They have a single crop usually in early May to mid-June. Ever-bearing strawberry is another variety that fruits May to June, a few during summer and again in the fall. The quality and size of this type of strawberry plant may not be as good as June-bearing varieties. For full information about plant selection, planting and care of strawberries in your garden, obtain OSU fact sheet "Growing Strawberries in the Home Garden" online or in the Master Gardener office.
  • Mid-February is a good time to begin pruning and fertilizing trees and small fruits.


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