By Jennifer E. Beaver
As I mentioned in my last column, I’m a big fan of raised bed gardens. These simple structures give you tremendous bang for your buck. But since I still sense a few pockets of resistance out there, here are five compelling reasons to start a raised bed today:
1. Raised beds go anywhere– even on top of concrete.
Their compact size (usually 2’x4’, 4’x8’, 3’x6’) make them naturals for our tight urban environment. Build one on top of your patio or driveway. Add legs and a bottom and put it on your balcony. Got some lawn space? No digging required! Give the grass a buzz cut and dig out the weeds. Lay down cardboard or at least 10 pages of newspaper. Soak. Add soil. To grow vegetables, choose a site that gets six hours of sun per day.
2. Raised beds grow just about anything.
You can grow ornamentals, of course, but vegetables are the most popular crop. Right now, thanks to our Mediterranean climate, you still have time to put in a second round of heat-lovers like tomatoes and summer squash. In the fall, switch them out for cool-season broccoli and lettuce. For the best yield, plan in square-foot increments (read All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew’s or visit squarefootgardening.com). Get stress-free garden design help at gardeners.com. Type “Kitchen Garden Planner” into the search box; click the tab “Design Your Own Garden.” Drag and drop the veggie symbols onto the squares. Each represents one square foot. Takes the guesswork out of how many to plant in each square.
3. Raised beds are efficient.
Every dollar spent in a garden produces $25 worth of vegetables, according to seed giant W. Atlee Burpee Co. And raised beds do it better. Why? The soil is fresh, unpolluted and stays well fluffed because we never walk on it. Put water where needed using a soaker hose or tube system. Get up close and personal with your veggies by ladling sun-warmed water by hand.
4. Raised beds are affordable.
A do-it-yourself 4’x8’ raised bed made of lumber and deck screws will set you back about $60. Or you could buy the Frame It All Raised Vegetable Garden (4’x8’x12”, $219 plus shipping; 8’x8’x12”, $289 plus shipping) online from Home Depot. Corners that let you slide in boards then stack the frames cost $10-$20 for sets of two; check online for sources.
5. Raised beds elevate your social status.
You could spend a lot of money on a new patio set, or you could plant a raised bed. Think of it as your personal Field of Dreams. You’ll share tomatoes and herbs instead of baseball, and your friends will love you for it.
Jennifer E. Beaver, a Wrigley resident, is a master gardener and author of Container Gardening for California.