This article is a reprint from The GardenWorks Project blog, with good information on raised beds for any gardener!
Raised Bed Gardens for Our Neighbors in Need
The GardenWorks Project provides families in need of food assistance with a 4x8’ raised garden bed in which to grow their own food at home. Some have asked – isn’t it easier and less expensive to plant right into the ground? Why would you incur the extra expense of purchasing wood and soil, and the extra volunteer labor needed to build the bed?
The quick answer is that we want our clients to be successful, and the combined gardening experience of our leadership and volunteers agree that gardens with raised beds are much easier to start, and grow healthier, more productive plants than ground-level beds. Here’s why:
· Raised bed gardens are easier to install. It is much easier to build a raised garden frame and fill it with fresh soil and compost than it is to remove sod, break up hard, compacted, often lifeless soil. Our volunteers arrive at the client’s home, help build the frame, place the frame right on top of the grass (cut short), fill the bed with bagged soil and compost, and are ready to plant in about 20 minutes. It would take longer than that to prepare a ground-level bed, and the soil would not be nearly as soft and welcoming to seeds and tender seedlings.
· Raised beds grow less weeds. Our raised beds are filled with weed seed-free soil. When preparing a ground-level bed for planting, most gardeners till the soil, which exposes thousands of weed seeds to sunlight, allowing them to sprout and grow. Additionally, the dying sod layer beneath the bed acts as a weed barrier and provides soil nutrients as it decomposes.
· Raised bed soil is healthier. The soil under a typical lawn is very compacted, full of clay, and devoid of life (worms and beneficial microorganisms). The GardenWorks Project provides clients with fresh soil and nutrient-rich compost, ensuring healthy soil right from the start without a need for chemical fertilizers.
· Raised bed gardens produce higher yields. Because The GardenWorks Project gardens are built with healthy soil from the start, our clients enjoy stronger, disease-resistant plants that produce more vegetables than a ground-level garden. Also, in a raised bed the roots have more vertical space to grow, so our clients can grow more plants in less space.
· Better water drainage. Water drains through the soil better in a raised bed with fresh soil and compost compared to a ground-level bed, where drainage is often stunted by clay soil. Good drainage increases the health of the plant by allowing oxygen to reach the roots and preventing root rot.
The mission of The GardenWorks Project is to relieve hunger by providing the undernourished in our community with all of the resources and education to grow their own food at home. Most of our clients have never gardened before, and success in their first gardening season is critical to building their confidence. Raised beds eliminate many of the gardening pitfalls that could cause a gardening newbie to throw in the towel. Building raised bed vegetable gardens allow our clients to grow more vegetables, providing families with fresh produce to eat, right from their own backyard.