Allotment Gardening: Raised Beds

We’ve been having a good old ding-dong on our site about raised beds, amongst other things. We’ve put a quarter of 201 into a raised bed system, with chipping paths in between, and so far we’re pleased with the results.

The benefits of raised beds include:

1. Being able to grow a wider range of plants on difficult soils or where a plant requires a specific pH as you can change the soil mix inside the box.
2. Reducing the need to bend down to work on the soil at ground level
3. Improved drainage (assuming you’ve improved the soil in the bed, that is) which allows the soil to warm quicker in spring and bringing forward the vegetable growing season
4. Pest control – carrot fly is defeated by a foot tall bed, slugs and snails do not like crawling across chipping or grit paths to get to plants and selective treatments like garlic sprays or seaweed mulches can be more easily applied
5. Watering is often reduced because you’re not watering the space between plants as they are closer packed in a bed, and retention is usually better too, because the sides of the bed reduce wind-induced evaporation slightly.

Anybody else got any benefits from raised beds to share?

There are downsides, of course. Raised beds are not suitable for all crops – you can’t really grow spuds in them, for example, because of earthing up. If you get a pest or infestation in a raised bed, you’ve got to tear out the bed and dig out the soil to get rid of it. If you are the kind of gardener who grows large amounts of crops for a big family, it may be better to stick to the long row system rather than fiddling around with raised beds, and – of course – the capital cost in setting up beds is considerably higher than just digging and planting. Also, until you get used to them, you are inclined to trip over them and bruise your ankles – or perhaps that’s just me.

But in general, we’re happy with our raised beds. I planted out our asparagus at the weekend, in what will be there permanent home (the grey bed) and I am fondly imagining the years of asparagus luxury ahead …

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Posted by The Allotment Blogger on Thursday, April 30, 2009


Blogger rosichan67 said...

Actually, you could probably devise some kind of raised bed for potatoes. I've heard of someone successfully growing potatoes in tires. Just add another tire and more dirt to the top. I've grown them in a tall wire ring above ground by starting at ground level and dumping on compost and straw as needed.

May 1, 2009 at 7:00 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

The raised beds are looking excellent. Really like the mixed colours.

My asparagus is going crazy but it is only their second year so I am leaving it well along. Come next year however...

May 2, 2009 at 10:26 AM  
Blogger The Allotment Blogger said...

Hi rosichan - we are growing first early potatoes in tyres this year to see how well it works, I'd have to say that we've heard very mixed accounts of the results from 'brilliant' to 'useless' so it will be interesting to see how we get on.

Amy, our asparagus isn't exactly going crazy, more like watching a maiden aunt walking down a slippery path - a gentle but determined progress!

May 4, 2009 at 7:27 AM  
Blogger niceyeahnice said...

Visual benefit - raised beds provide definition, and can make a plot look great. They help to keep grass/weeds in paths away from crops too - very helpful if you're a time-poor allotmenter. We're growing loads of spuds in our raised beds this year, though to be fair the soil level inside the beds was fairly low to start with (beds only just being raised). It's not the most space-efficient way of growing, but I'll take that for the benefit in appearance alone. Enjoying the blog by the way, thanks for sharing.

May 6, 2009 at 7:07 AM  
Blogger The Allotment Blogger said...

Great point niceyeahnice - the visual appeal is important I think. Although I have heard our multi-coloured approach described as 'odd'.

May 7, 2009 at 9:55 AM  
Blogger OnionFarmer said...

I came to the same conclusion about the benefits of raised beds on the allotment as I dread digging the whole plot.

I have started to put in some beds and this has certainly raised a few eyebrows amongst the old timers but I believe the system is right for me. It enables me to concentrate on growing areas and I get a real sense of satisfaction when I plant up or weed a bed. My allotment is bordered by a well used public footpath and passers by always comment on how lovely the raised beds look & I have only put 3 in so far!!

My choice of building material is Gravel Boards - it is possible to make good quality 2.4m x 1.2m beds for around £12.50 each.

June 4, 2009 at 7:22 AM  

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