I’m sleeping on the idea of raised beds...By Linda Fort
August 14, 2010
Raised beds are all the rage and anyone who makes a vegetable patch in their garden is encouraged to use them.
They look attractive and can be made into an interesting design feature.
However, they present problems with growing the vegetables – particularly in a very dry summer – which have made me start to reconsider the whole idea.
My raised beds are enclosed by wicker hurdles of about a foot high.
This looks very pretty and in a small garden I considered that to be important although the hurdles do not last very long and I am now on my second lot.
Their grave disadvantage is that they allow the soil to dry out all around the edges of the bed.
If I had used railway sleepers that would be not be a problem although they would have been unwieldy to deal with and taken up much more space.
Had I used sturdy wooden planks, I think the drying out problem would have been reduced but still present.
This is added to the natural tendency of a raised bed to drain quickly and dry out anyway.
One of my tomato plants – planted too close to the wicker edging – is now dying because the sides of its roots have dried and I wasn’t sufficiently vigilant in my watering to spot the problem.
A further concern arises when topping up the contents of the raised bed which inevitably settle and sink year by year.
I always have some garden compost but have in the past topped up with bags of compost from the garden centre – generally looking for something cheap and cheerful without paying a great deal of attention to what is inside the bags. After all I was only adding a top dressing to what was already there.
Now after a number of years I have a rather poor powdery mixture without much structure or guts and the crops reflect that.
Unfortunately I have a row of autumn-fruiting raspberries planted in the bed or I would give up the whole thing and bring it back to ground level.
My present ideas include lining the inside edge of the wicker hurdles with plastic or getting rid of the raised bed altogether.
Either way I will need to import some good quality topsoil before next season if I am to improve the yield of my little plot.
On the brighter side I planted some butternut squashes in pots and was certain I would not water enough or feed enough to get a good crop, but they have been delicious – picked much, much smaller than you will ever see them in the shops for maximum nutty flavour.