Real Men Sow

Reasons to Use Raised Beds for Veg Growing


Earlier in the week, I talked about prettying up my garden veg patch and trying to recapture some order by installing raised beds.

I’ve only used a raised bed, once at my plot, but I’ve always thought them attractive which will satisfy my kitchen garden vanity. And the neat and tidiness will hopefully help with my new found veg growing OCD.

Of course, there are many other reasons for raised beds which many other gardeners appreciate. Here are a few that I reckon deliver big positives for raised beds.

Got Heavy or Poor Soil?
Is your soil heavy or of poor quality? Raised beds allow the gardener to start afresh with good quality growing matter. You can mix soil elements to your heart’s content, using anything from top soil to seaweed and leaf mould, leaving that horrible clay as a thing of the past.

Lack of Mobility
Raised beds are better on the back and joints as there is less bending down. Waist-high raised beds help the elderly and handicapped to grow vegetables without having to bend-over to tend them, and smooth, wide paths can be built in between to provide wheelchair access.

Meeting Specific Soil Requirements
If you’re looking to grow fruit or veg that is more demanding than most, or maybe just doesn’t like stony soil, you can install a raised bed to fit the crop. A good example of this is blueberries, which require an acidic soil to thrive.

Experimenting is great for veg growers! I’ve been reading Charles Dowding’s book on no-dig gardening, in which he uses raised beds to demonstrate his approach to building soil structure without the use of a spade. No digging? Reduced weeds? Sign me up!

Warmer Soil
Soil in raised beds drains better than your normal, in the ground stuff, so warms up faster in spring. This means that you sow seeds earlier than you might otherwise, extending the growing season.

Raised Bed Cons
Of course, there are cons to raised beds which I’ve considered whilst formulating my plan. One of the main drawbacks is price – if you can’t find things for free, good timber, such as sleepers or scaffold boards, and topsoil is expensive to buy.

Because they drain so well, raised beds may also require more watering which can make leaving them tricky when you go off on your summer holiday.

I’m keen to find out if the pros outweigh the cons with raised beds, and will be starting my new project this weekend. My mum and dad are moving to a place with a smaller garden, so I’ve pillaged 50 odd feet of sleepers to get me going. Exciting times, and I’ll be reporting back to evaluate how I’ve found raised beds compared to more conventional methods I’ve always used.


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  1. AlisonOctober 25, 2013 at 7:48 amReply

    I’m quite interested in the pros and cons of raised beds without timber surrounds, sometimes called narrow beds.

    Pros: Most of the same benefits of raised beds without the cost. (No rotting boards that need replacing in time). Fewer places for the slugs to hide. Warm up even quicker than raised beds.

    Cons: Birds scatter the mulch around onto the paths. Path vegetation if you have it can encroach on beds. Don’t hold raised shape so well on light soils. No useful framework to attach supports for your bed covers. Dry out even quicker than raised beds.

  2. AlisonOctober 25, 2013 at 7:50 amReply

    Should have said ‘easier to make’ too. That and the cost are the big reasons why I use narrow beds.

    • Jono

      JonoOctober 25, 2013 at 6:41 pmReplyAuthor

      Hey Alison,

      Thanks for your comment. The cost is a real downer. I’m lucky enough to have got the sleepers, but if I have to buy timber for the second bed I’m looking at 80 odd quid.

      I like the idea of narrow beds, will check that out. Thank you.

  3. david shinnOctober 25, 2013 at 11:55 amReply

    Hi Jono,
    As you know,I’m a reconvert back from raised beds to open growing.
    When I see the pros and cons of raised beds being discussed I always recall reading this article “Debunking the raised bed myth”.

    Hope your experiment goes well though as that’s what veg growing is all about. Our allotments only comprise seven plots but each one of us manages our own plot in a different way.

  4. Jono

    JonoOctober 25, 2013 at 6:45 pmReplyAuthor

    Hi David – thanks for that. Its a thought provoking (if a little ranty haha) read. I’ll admit, there was one point where I stopped and thought ‘oh no, what am I doing??’.

    I’m looking forward to observing the differences from how I normally grow. Order is the big thing for me now.

    The environmental stuff that Simon talks about got me a bit too. I’m lucky enough to have got recycled timber and I’ve completely lucked out on topsoil – the house over the road is tarmaccing their drive, so I’m spending some of this weekend wheelbarrowing their unwanted soil into my garden. :)

    Its doubled my determination to find some other more environmentally friendly source of timber for the second bed.

  5. LouiseOctober 27, 2013 at 10:48 amReply

    Hi. How about upturned turf, coverd over with cardboard/carpet to prevent the weeds . If you are in the process of still clearing an allotment plot. Could this be used as a border for a raised bed. There’s plenty of it and it’s free.

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About Real Men Sow

meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope. However, over a decade later, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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