Today, if the weather cooperates, my kids and I will be starting our Square Foot Garden. We have a lot of work to do, as the boxes aren’t even on the ground yet. In fact, we still have to build a square foot garden box.
Though it’s tempting to just hoe out a patch of ground and plant some seeds, I’m convinced that the initial work we put into building raised garden beds will pay for itself in the long run. Why? Let me count the ways.
1. Weed Control. Because a raised garden bed is planted above existing soil, you can put down weed barriers between the ground and the soil you put in your garden box. If you’re diligent to use weed-free soil in your box, any weeds in your garden should be few and far between.
2. Pest Control. Our neighborhood has a little gopher problem. If I were to plant my seeds directly into the ground, the gophers could eat my garden right up. But with a raised bed, I can put chicken wire down beneath my garden, keeping the underground critters out. And if I have to, I can make a little chicken wire cage to place above my garden box, keeping out other animals.
3. Better Soil. When you plant a garden directly in the ground, you need to start with the soil that’s already there, and that soil might not be ideal for gardening. You can add things to it to make it better, but it may never be ideal. However, when working with a raised garden bed, you can use whatever soil will work best for your garden, right from the get-go.
4. Portability. What happens if you move? With an in-ground garden, you leave it behind, and start all over at your new place. But if you use a raised garden bed, particularly a small one like a square foot garden, you can bag up your soil and take your garden box with you. At least that’s what I did when I moved.
5. Higher Yields. Because of the better soil used in raised bed gardens, they tend to have higher fruit and vegetable yields than traditional row gardens.
6. Accessibility. One of the best things about raised bed (specifically square foot) gardens is their accessibility. Because each garden block is only 4′ x 4′, you can easily reach every single plant to water, inspect, and pick the produce.
7. Adaptability. For those who aren’t mobile enough to get down on the ground to reach their gardens, small raised beds are adaptable. Just put the garden on a tabletop. Since the garden is not dependent on soil beneath the box, you can put your garden box anywhere you like.
8. Frugality. Seeds are expensive. In a traditional row garden, you scatter the seeds, then thin the plants as they grow, wasting seeds. In a raised bed garden, you plant only the amount of seeds you need. Properly stored, the additional seeds will be good for another year or two, saving you money on next year’s garden.
9. Longer Growing Season. Gardening seasons depend on the temperature of the soil. The ground in a 4′ x 4′ box will warm up more quickly than the ground under the lawn. In addition, it’s relatively simple to make a cold frame for a raised garden bed to extend the gardening season further.
10. Aesthetically Pleasing. Raised garden beds look neat and tidy. In addition, if you’re a creative person, you can make some pretty cool looking gardens. Your garden could easily become the focal point of your yard.
Photo by Serene Journal.