I am amazed at some of the things called ‘RAISED BEDS’ I see advertised or in articles, whether for sale new or plans for do it yourself, these are NOT raised beds but CONTAINERS. They are filled with all sorts of growing medium and people think they are growing healthily vegetables. Please think again.
Healthy food comes from healthy soil.
I know, I’ve heard it all before ‘my soils no good’ Well the essential art of gardening is to enhance the cycle of life by finding ways to restore humus to the soil. All gardeners find their own way to achieve this. All Soil can be improved, sure it may take time but quality produce only comes from quality soil. As you observe your soil .like any other living thing it is always changing and telling its own story. There is more life beneath the soil than above therefore you need to encourage and cultivate its existence.
Understanding your soil is a basic requirement for the success of your veggie garden. You can build tremendous satisfaction from working with the soil, building its tilth, fertility & water holding capacity.
2000 years ago the Greeks noticed that plant life thrived on landslips. Loose soil allows air, moisture, warmth, nutrients and roots to properly penetrate the soil. In the 1920’s the biodynamic method brought back the raised bed plantings
The curved surface area between the 2 edges of the bed provide more surface area for planting and the penetration and interaction of the natural elements than a flat surface . They also have the advantage of being raised (10-30cm) above the surrounding area adding more life, increasing soil depth, air, more earthworms, and micro organisms and with improving drainage.
Beds can be any length, ideally 1 metre wide so you can easily reach across the bed.10-30 cm higher than the original surface.
The preparation of the raised bed is most important
I feel gardens need to be dug especially in the beginning. The tired and compacted soil needs to be woken up, loosened and aerated. Roots from nearby trees that are invading will need digging out. Try to only dig the topsoil. All the life is there. Traditional double digging is a good method to use. In addition the top few cm of soil from the pathways can be dug out and added to the bed. Over time the more compost you add, on a seasonal basis, the lighter the soil becomes.
Modified Raised Beds
Raised beds can be surrounded by a structure. They should be between 10-30cm high. Although this reduces the surface area it contains the soil. It’s an ideal system on slopes and terraces.
It is a disadvantage if there is any risk of running type grasses e.g. couch, kukupa.
Tree roots seek out rich soil and water, invading cultivated beds robbing the plants of nourishment and stunting their growth. They should be dug over as often as needed depending on the severity.
I have used small permanent raised beds for the past 30+ years. When I started the site of my garden was part of our driveway, highly compacted soil mixed with gravel that sloped away. The tilth improved quickly with raised bed and good biodynamic compost and within a couple of seasons you only required minimum effort to grow anything.
To make the beds
Mark out your bed & foot paths. Dig over the bed area . If you think it’s too much work, remember that this is a once off job and it does not have to be done instantly, take your time and you will be surprised how much your soil will reveal about itself as it’s awakened.
Top soil from the surrounding area (footpaths) is added and then the soil can mounded up to form a bed approx 1 metre wide - this will increase the soil depth and improve the drainage quite dramatically .Do not dig into the sub soil layer.
Quality humus rich compost is dug into the beds *If in the beginning you do not have any compost there are many ‘organic’ fertilisers on the market. Be careful when choosing, for many have added soluble fertilisers. Such as Nitrogen (N) and phosphate (P) for the future go and learn how to make quality compost.
· The beds can now be planted.
· As the beds warm up & plants become established they can be mulched.
· Simple really
If you make the effort this is the opportunity, as there is nowhere else on this earth like your garden, with its own combination of soil, micro climate, microorganisms and YOU. As you interact with your garden, no matter how small, you put your stamp on it and contribute to its individuality and not just have fresh produce but have fresh produce rich in the earth’s own energies that are truly good for you and your family.
Nobody else will be able to produce vegetables that taste quite the same as yours. What could be better than eating food grown in your unique garden?