Raised Beds

One of the many advantages to gardening in raised beds is that it’s not necessary to till them.  We’ve been swamped with rain over the past two weeks, making it impossible for me to till and prepare our fall gardens.  Although we have some raised beds, I planted sweet potatoes in them once the spring lettuce was done, and the sweet potatoes won’t be ready to harvest until October.  So yesterday, in the rain, I began making some more raised beds.  I’ve been planning to add more anyway, but the prospect of a muddy remainder to summer motivated me to move that project up the priority list.

Raised beds, overflowing with sweet potato vines.

Raised beds, overflowing with sweet potato vines.

With raised beds, crop plants can be grown close together (there being no need to leave space for walking or tractor tires).  Not only does this dramatically increase the yield in a given area, it has the effect of crowding out and smothering most weeds, cutting back on the time spent weeding.  And without the soil compaction caused by a tractor, weeding is much easier.  With a smaller area under cultivation, the available compost and organic matter can be concentrated on the area where the crops are grown, enriching the soil faster and more efficiently.  With a smaller area to protect, it’s easier to keep the deer out too.

Many people incorrectly assume that you have to have a large farm in order to grow enough food to feed yourself, or make a significant impact on your food budget.  But, using raised or permanent beds, a typical city lot is more than large enough to provide food for a family.

We may gradually transition to that style of farming, but for now we’re still primarily using our 18 large gardens, emphasizing crop rotation and cover cropping.  If I was starting all over again I’d probably try to implement a more intensive method of raising vegetables, using raised beds or permanent beds, rather than row crops that require a tractor for cultivation. For anyone thinking of trying to start growing some of your own food, I’d recommend starting with a backyard raised bed or two.