Raised Bed Gardening, part 1

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Every year since we’ve owned our farm, we’ve delightedly tilled up the soil and lovingly poked seeds into the ground, envisioning the beautiful garden to come.  We’ve put up fencing and marked the rows.  We’ve cultivated the aisles.  We’ve hoed and hoed and hoed between the seedlings.  We’ve fertilized and picked off bugs and trellised cucumbers, and so on and so on.  And every year, it has been a great struggle.

Our problems have run the gamut and are probably familiar to anyone who has started a garden before-  some years the weather has been very uncooperative (once we had a late frost 15 days later than usual and several summers of drought), the bugs have been merciless, the wildlife has taken its share (one year the deer got all but 2 melons), but the weeds have been our main downfall.

We always started out with neat tidy rows of plants popping up where we wanted them.  In no time though, the weed seeds sprouted or the Johnson grass tubers we missed made whole new plants.  We formed plans of attack- everyone has X number of rows to weed each day or certain crops to tend to- but still they got ahead of us.  We’d get several days of rain in a row and the task would be enormous when we could get back in to work.  Slowly, the weeds would overwhelm us and we’d get hopelessly behind.  That was in large part because, if you really look at the area of the garden, much more of it was devoted to non-food growing areas than for crops!

The traditional method of row gardening makes sense if you raise acres and acres of a single crop and use machines to do most of the work.  But for those of us who are interested in raising the greatest amount of food with the least effort and in the smallest spaces would probably find much more success with raised bed gardening.

With this plan, the planting area is narrow enough to be reached easily from all sides, but every bit of soil is put towards growing food.  You don’t have all the wasted space of walkways and aisles, both of which have to be kept weeded as well as the rows of plants themselves.

In addition, rather than just taking what you get with that dirt plot that was “lawn” a couple of months ago, you are actually creating spaces that have the most nutritious, well-balanced soil possible.

We purchased kits of pre-formed frames for raised beds (we decided we could not make them any cheaper).  They came in 4 x 4 and 4 x8 foot dimensions.  So far, we have put up 8 of the larger size since we not only want to grow a lot of surplus food to “put up,” but we also want to establish beds of medicinal plants as well as herbs for cooking.

I’ve spent a while reading books about raised bed gardening and becoming convinced that this must be a better system.  I’ve begun purchasing and mixing the soil “ingredients” that will go inside them.  This has been a premature spring and I have been itching to tuck plants and seedlings into the new beds, but I’ve had some trouble locating one ingredient I intended to use.  In addition, that really late freeze we got one year has me a bit scared.  I should note though, that raised beds will be much easier to protect from frosts than long rows.

Periodically, throughout the growing season, I will give updates about our experiences as well as give reviews and recommendations for books you may want to read yourself.

Do you already use a raised bed system?  Do you think it is a better way to garden?  Please share your experiences in the comments section.  

Related Posts: Raised Bed Gardening, part 2

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SOURCE : preppingtosurvive.com

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