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Raised Beds

It’s Springtime and many people are preparing their gardens. By now tillers have been brought out of storage or rented and those old plots have been turned over. There are even a few new plots being made, but what about those people that live in apartments, mobile home parks, or on small city lots? There aren't many gardens in those areas, yet I refuse to believe that it is because those residents don’t want a garden. Perhaps it is because they don’t have enough room to put in a garden. This is because a traditional garden in the US requires (ideally) 50 feet by 20 feet of space. Fortunately there is a method of gardening that has been around longer than the US that can be used by all gardeners to conserve space, especially in small areas such as mobile home parks and apartment complexes. This method goes by several names (such as the square foot method, growing beds, and biodynamic French-intensive method) but is more readily known as raised bed gardening.

The professional gardener should already be aware of this method (because this method is more widely talked about in the published gardening venues than any other method), but may not use it due to personal choice. Unfortunately the amateur gardener (commonly referred to as the hobbyist) may not know of this method (unless he or she has researched gardening for solutions to problems with his or her existing gardening). So why is raised bed gardening not the preferred method? It could be because of the history of gardening in the United States. Nevertheless, raised bed gardening is better than traditional American gardening because it prevents soil compacting and erosion, uses space more efficiently, and produces higher yields.

The plow and the tractor were great aids to the early farmer and planting in long rows was a necessity since it was difficult and time consuming to turn around and plow the other direction. Tillers work best in straight rows and it is still difficult and time consuming to turn them around to return to the other end of the garden. If we look further into history we see that row cropping (traditional method) is pre-dated by raised bed gardening. Raised bed gardening was (and still is) widely used by the rest of the world. Farmers throughout the Orient have used raised beds for over 4,000 years. The Chinese continue to depend heavily upon raised beds. Even the ancient Babylonians used raised bed in their Hanging Gardens and the Greeks wrote about this method over 2000 years ago. In the Americas, the Aztecs used beds exclusively for all of their crops, colonial America used raised beds, and the Oneota used a form of raised bed called ridge-till to grow their crops on a flood plain, Raised beds were used to maximize yields with minimal space or to overcome soil fertility problems.

Offered by Roger.