Q: I think I want to try building a raised bed this year, because I’ve read they are warmer and I can plant earlier. But I rent my house and don’t want it be a big expense and I might not want it to be permanent — so I don’t want to spend a lot in case I don’t like it! Any suggestions?
A: No matter where you live, the climate presents challenges for gardeners who grow their own food. In the north, cold is a limiting factor for some crops. A raised bed will warm up faster in the spring and can be planted sooner. In the fall, the reverse is true — it holds heat longer, so you buy another week or so of growing time. But there are other reasons to make raised beds:
Raising makes them higher and a little easier to reach. How high is a “raised” bed? It could be much higher than ground level to accommodate a handicapped gardener, or merely a gardener with a bad back. It can be made as high and as wide as you need. You can garden in otherwise impossible spots! With a raised bed, you have the opportunity to literally make the garden and load it with really great soil in the right spot.
Raised beds also enable you to easily alter heavy clay or rocky or thin topsoil, because you can simply add new, higher-quality soil on top of the problem. Another advantage is that raised beds don’t get stepped on so soil doesn’t get compacted!
When creating new raised beds, take soil from what will be your pathways and use it to build your beds. If necessary, bring in additional topsoil to build the depth of your beds. In either case, the planting area will be higher and deeper, which is especially beneficial to root crops.