Raised-bed gardening is a form of gardening in which the soil is formed in 3 – 4 foot (1.0–1.2 m) wide beds, which can be of any length or shape. The soil is raised above the surrounding soil (approximately 6 inches to waist-high), is sometimes enclosed by a frame generally made of wood, rock, or concrete blocks, and may be enriched with compost. The vegetable plants are spaced in geometric patterns, much closer together than conventional row gardening. The spacing is such that when the vegetables are fully grown, their leaves just barely touch each other, creating a microclimate in which weed growth is suppressed and moisture is conserved. Raised beds produce a variety of benefits: they extend the planting season, they can reduce weeds if designed and planted properly and reduce the need to use poor native soil. Since the gardener does not walk on the raised beds, the soil is not compacted and the roots have an easier time growing. The close plant spacing and the use of compost generally result in higher yields with raised beds in comparison to conventional row gardening. Waist-high raised beds enable the elderly and handicapped to grow vegetables without having to bend-over to tend them.
Raised beds lend themselves to the development of complex agriculture systems that utilize many of the principles and methods of permaculture. They can be used effectively to control erosion and recycle and conserve water and nutrients by building them along contour lines on slopes. This also makes more space available for intensive crop production. They can be created over large areas with the use of several commonly available tractor-drawn implements and efficiently maintained, planted and harvested using hand tools.
Circular waist high raised beds with a path to the center (a slice of the circle cut out) are called keyhole gardens. Often the center has a chimney of sorts built with sticks and then lined with feedbags or grasses that allows water placed at the center to flow out into the soil and reach the plants' roots. The charity Send a Cow is promoting the creation of these in Africa.
Materials and construction
Vegetable garden bed construction materials should be chosen carefully. Some concerns exist regarding the use of pressure-treated timber. Treated pine that was traditionally treated using chromated copper arsenate or CCA, a toxic chemical mix for preserving timber that may leach chemicals into the soil which in turn can be drawn up into the plants, a concern for vegetable growers, where part or all of the plant is eaten. If using timber to raise the garden bed, ensure that it is an untreated hardwood to prevent the risk of chemicals leaching into the soil. A common approach is to use timber sleepers joined with steel rods to hold them together. Another approach is to use concrete blocks, although less aesthetically pleasing, they are inexpensive to source and easy to use. On the market are also prefab raised garden bed solutions which are made from long lasting polyethylene that is UV stabilized and food grade so it will not leach undesirable chemicals into the soil or deteriorate in the elements. A double skinned wall provides an air pocket of insulation that minimizes the temperature fluctuations and drying out of the soil in the garden bed. Sometimes raised bed gardens are covered with clear plastic to protect the crops from wind and strong rains. Pre-manufactured raised bed gardening boxes also exist.
- Kitchen garden
- Therapeutic garden
- Waru Waru – A traditional Quechua, pre-Inca system involving raised beds
- Hughes, Megan McConnell (2010). Better Homes & Gardens Vegetable, Fruit & Herb Gardening. Wiley. pp. 68–69. Retrieved March 2, 2012. ISBN 978-0-470-63856-9
- Nones, Raymond (2010). Raised-Bed Vegetable Gardening Made Simple. Countryman Press. Retrieved March 2, 2012. ISBN 978-0-88150-896-3
- Millarville Horticultural Club (1982). Gardening under the arch: homespun hints and money saving tips from the rigorous high country of Alberta's chinook zone. The Club. pp. 291–292. Retrieved March 2, 2012. ISBN 0-88925-406-0
- Whiting, David E. (1991). The desert shall blossom: a comprehensive guide to vegetable gardening in the Mountain West. Horizon. pp. 41–42. Retrieved March 2, 2012. ISBN 0-88290-418-3
- Kemery, Ricky (January 29, 2012). "Unlock your creativity with keyhole garden". The Journal Gazette (Fort Wayne, IN). Retrieved March 6, 2012.
- Lively, Ruth. "Does Pressure-Treated Wood Belong in Your Garden?". Fine Gardening Magazine. Retrieved March 6, 2012.
- Bird, Christopher (2001). Cubed Foot Gardening: Growing Vegetables in Raised, Intensive Beds. Lyons Press. Retrieved March 2, 2012. ISBN 1-58574-312-7
- Linhart, Rita and Richardson, Antoinette (2012). "Raised Bed Gardening - low cost, high yield and simply done". Books on Demand. Retrieved March 14, 2012. ISBN 978-3-8370-1841-7
- The Synergistic Garden—A video by Emilia Hazelip, which provides practical information on how to garden with raised beds.
- Appeal: Keyhole gardening saves lives in world's most eroded land