Have You Considered Trying Raised Bed Gardening?

— Written By Bill Hanlin and last updated by JoAnne Gryder

raised garden bedsPeople not used to the heavy soils in our area can find vegetable gardening a bit challenging. This was especially true in 2013 when the weather, and soil, remained wet during most of the summer. One way to overcome poor water drainage in most of our soils is to go to a raised bed system.

Raised beds are typically constructed out of different materials to build the soil up so that good water drainage is encouraged. Also, the taller the raised garden the easier it is for someone with physical disabilities to work in the garden. For example, the Wilkes Senior Center has two raised bed gardens that are approximately three feet tall and can be worked without bending over.

Another advantage of raised beds is that certain root crops tend to do better. Crops like carrots and onions are stunted in our heavy soils. Raised beds will allow these crops to grow larger due to the looseness of the soil.

There are a wide variety of construction materials that can be used for raised beds. Pressure treated lumber and old railroad ties can be used, however new railroad ties should be avoided because the creosote can damage plants. More permanent materials like cinder blocks and retaining wall stones can also be used.

The type of soil put in the raised beds can also vary. Using our native soils is generally not recommended unless it is heavily amended with compost or manures to improve soil structure. The bagged soils sold at garden centers can be ideal for raised beds because they tend to drain well, but it can get expensive for a large garden area.

The internet has numerous recommendations for soil mixtures in raised beds and most can work in our situations. The main factors to keep in mind are good soil drainage and the appropriate pH. A pH that is too low or too high will cause poor growth and reduce yields

Written By

Photo of Dr. Bill HanlinDr. Bill HanlinRetired County Extension Director (336) 651-7333 william_hanlin@ncsu.eduWilkes County, North Carolina
Updated on Apr 3, 2014
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