Raised garden beds are cropping up in backyards all over HRM...and front yards too! They are an excellent option for urbanites who want to grow fresh, delicious food while enjoying the fresh air, sun and pleasure that comes from gardening.
Here are some ideas to maximize the benefits of raised beds in your urban environment.
Save your back: Build beds that are 12" tall (or more) to help you enjoy the physical benefits of planting, tending and harvesting food. Beds that are 4 feet wide allow access within an arm's reach from both sides and make picking salad greens a breeze.
Grow longer: the soil in raised beds often warms up earlier in spring than the surrounding ground allowing you to get cool-season crops planted sooner, extending the growing season and increasing your vegetable crop choices. Raised beds also allow for easy installation of row covers and frost blankets for early planting and late harvests.
Overcome poor soil: Rather than trying to improve sandy or clay soil, raised beds can be easily filled with nutritious garden soil. Use a mix of clean top- soil, compost, peat, well-rotted manure or other moisture retaining, high nutrient materials like seaweed. Make your own compost from lawn clippings, plant-based kitchen scraps, leaves and organic garden materials.
No-till: The days of tilling are behind us for farming and till-free practices extend into urban growing too. Tilling disturbs nutrient-producing soil microorganisms that feed plants. Don't till....instead, top dress your soil each year with good quality, well-rotted compost and leave the rest to mother nature. Allow compost to naturally decompose so that it improves soil texture that helps plant roots develop and absorb nutrients easily.
Reduce weeds and spreading grass: When installing raised beds, line the bottom with clean, wax-free cardboard to prevent weed seed germination before filling them with rich soil. Adding an inch or two of natural mulch will prevent surface weeds, preserve soil moisture and add valuable nutrients as it breaks down over time. Raised beds prevent grass from getting into your vegetable garden the way it tends to with in-ground gardens.
Clean and neat: Raised beds are easy to mow around while maintaining a neat and tidy appearance. Spread mulch or pea gravel in paths between raised beds to keep feet clean in wet weather. Paths also help direct foot traffic, keeping your soil from being walked on and compacted. Finally, raised beds keep out ground rodents and are easier to cover to stave off larger animals.
Whether you want food, flowers or both....raised beds offer a convenient way to garden that is easy on the body while promoting an active, healthy lifestyle. Get growing!