Raised Bed Gardens – Why Start One?

raised bed gardens
Raised Bed Gardens

Over the years when I drove by a home that had a raised bed garden, I often wondered why bother? Why didn’t they just till up the ground and plant their vegetables in the earth like humans have been doing for ever? I’m sure the Garden of Eden was not a raised bed garden!

During all of the years that my family was growing (my baby is 20!!!), I planted, tended, and harvested large amounts of vegetables from my massive garden plot -100′ x 50′ at one point. It produced an abundant supply of potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, beans, cukes, sweet corn, popcorn, radishes, peas (though they were often eaten before they made it to the table), green beans, kohlrabi, squash . . . you get the idea.

We ate fresh produce from the family garden all summer long, and during winter months, enjoyed preserved vegetables and fruits that were frozen and canned in the fall of the previous summer.

As the kids grew and my work responsibilities became more time consuming, the size of the vegetable garden shrank to a more manageable 50′ x 40′ area and I created a water garden including a pond with a waterfall in the area that was reclaimed. Tending both gardens was often my therapy. My eldest brother once commented on how beautiful my gardens were and I told him it was my therapy. He promptly replied, “You must need a lot of therapy!” At that time my kids were fully grown and venturing out on their own and I was recently divorced and needed a way to keep myself occupied that didn’t cost a lot of money. Gardening for me, has always been a way to forget my troubles.

Beau in the Backyard Pond
Beau in the Backyard Pond, July 2002

Moving yards of mulch one wheelbarrow at a time and hoeing, weeding and cleaning out the pond are as dirty a job as anything I’ve done, including cleaning out the dairy barn on the farm I grew up on. But it is so satisfying and rewarding to be able to reap the rewards of the hard labor and aching muscles after a day in the gardens. And I sleep so much better than after a stressful day of managing computer networks and user requests.

After Steve’s stroke my gardens have gone to seed and weeds. I spend very little time at my home, although I do hope to get them under control at some point. In the meantime, I’m gardening in my new home at Steve’s. We setup two raised bed gardens last spring, and added another last weekend. We chose to do raised beds for a number of reasons. The main one being that there are two massively huge oak trees shading both the front and back lawn. They’re beautiful, but the roots are large and barely below the surface of the ground so digging up the lawn for a garden would be harmful and difficult. With the raised garden beds,
we can locate them in the area that receives the most sun without disturbing the ground and tree roots.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to like having to garden within the confines of a 4’x4′ wood structure. Turns out I love it! They are so easy to prepare, plant, weed (it takes second – truly), and the produce is delicious. It is truly amazing how much is produced from one bed. I follow Mel Bartholomew’s method the All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space which describes in details how to get started. I loaned the book to my neighbor so she could learn about the method, and we installed a 4’x4′ garden in her backyard two weeks ago.

The true beauty of the raised bed gardens is that it frees up my time so that I can give more attention to the water garden and perennial gardens, which I enjoy even more than the vegetable gardening.