Last weekend Joe and I spent the greater part of our weekend working out in the garden getting our new garden beds into place. It was not work for the faint of heart. It was TOUGH. We welcomed the excuse to keep busy though (at least I did). With the loss of Binks our beloved collie it felt a little off around the farm. When the greenhouse was delivered a few months back the builder made the mistake of showing me the wood and metal garden beds that he made for another customer. I took one look at my old cedar plank beds and decided it was time for an upgrade.
I ordered 8 replacement beds for the garden and a few weeks later they were loaded on a flat bed trailer and delivered to the farm. Joe and Roger unloaded them off the trailer while I chatted with his wife about how I was going to fill them.
These garden beds are 5 feet wide by 10 feet long and 3 feet deep. They are hefty and huge.
Joe and I calculated what it was going to cost to fill them completely with dirt and compost (gulp) it was going to be over $1000!
Can you tell I’m more of a react first, think later kind of gal? We scratched our heads, did some research and borrowed my dads tractor. We spent Saturday moving the beds into place, filling them with logs, woodchips, dead grass and any compostable material we could find from the back lean to area. We had more than enough to fill the beds about 2/3 full with the mixed goods and then finished the top foot off with a mix of garden soil and compost. It was still expensive but now as the wood and chips break down we just have to add a bit of soil to the top each year. I was way too exhausted to plant anything that weekend after getting everything into place so we just admired our handy work and went out to dinner.
The garden beds are a mix of wood and metal and will house all of the veggies this year. Typically I mix flowers in with my veggies but I wanted to try something new this year and last year the flowers overtook a lot of my tomatoes. I have big canning plans in store for tomatoes this year and they’re going to need some room. I’m also excited to try my hand at growing artichokes. I was able to find a few plant starts at a local nursery. Stay tuned.
There are pros and cons to growing in a raised garden bed vs. the ground.
In my experience, when it comes to vegetables, growing in raised bed has more advantages than growing in the ground.
Pros of growing in a raised garden bed:
- Better Soil Control – If you are in an area with heavy clay or sand, this gives you the opportunity to grow things that might not perform well in that type of environment.
- Warmer Soil – Because the soil gets blasted by the sun (assuming you are not in the shade) the soil warms up faster and stays warmer longer. Plants love this. Tomatoes hate having their roots get cold.
- Less Weeds – Because I add new soil to the top each year there are less weeds to deal with and the weeding schedule is easier to manage. I can’t say it enough how much I love my Japanese hand weeder. I can weed all 8 of my garden in about 45 minutes if I stay on top it things when the weeds are young.
- Less soil Erosion – This year after I got the soil and the logs in the garden beds I watered heavy to make sure that the soil wouldn’t settle too much. Because the raised beds are framed in, even after a hard rain the plants shouldn’t be going anywhere.
Cons of growing in a raised garden bed:
- Limited Growing Space – Larger plants like zucchini or tomatoes might take up a lot of room in the square rather than being able to be planted in rows straight into the ground.
- Can be Costly to get started – With the price of lumber right now things can get out of hand when it comes to raised garden beds. My first beds were just 10×50 cedar plants with stakes in the corner to keep them anchored into he ground. They don’t have to be over the top. Build some inexpensive ones and see how you like them. If you love them then invest more down the road.
- Soil – Buying soil to fill our beds was not cheap. I’m hoping next year (and we won’t) we won’t need near the amount that we needed for this year to get started. Regardless, you still have to invest in the soil that you put into your beds. The better the quality, the better your vegetables.
- Water – I have to keep my beds watered more than I do plants directly into the ground.
There are so many pros and cons in raised bed gardening. For my flowers I use my low maintenance practices and plant right into the ground. The vegetables though seem to just grow better for me in the raised beds. Gardening is a learning experience and every year you’ll change, adapt and find new techniques that work for you and your space.