Raised beds have become the norm for anyone who wants to grow their own food. But are they really necessary? Here, I'll explore the pros and cons so you can decide whether or not they are for you.
Leek plants in a wooden raised bed
Raised beds are a staple on Gardeners' World and virtually every other gardening programme, but is it necessary to shell out a lot of cash on raised beds before you even get a seed in the ground?
It's important to remember that raised beds aren't cheap, and even if they can be constructed from recycled materials, there needs to be a significant benefit before I invest.
Wooden raised beds on an allotment site
Advantages of raised beds
If you have a physical disability, then bringing the growing surface closer to you will help.
The soil inside a raised bed will heat up earlier than the soil in a conventional veg plot on the ground.
Because you won't be walking on the soil, it will be less compact. As a result, crops might be better and heavier yielding.
Wooden raised beds
All operations (sowing, planting, thinning, weeding and harvesting) are easier with raised beds.
They do look quite smart and add an air of professionalism to your patch.
Disadvantages of raised beds
The initial cost is high and perhaps could be better spent on buying seeds and plants.
A quick online search shows a standard 6ft x 4ft raised bed is going to set you back anywhere from £70 to an eye-watering £300! You'd have to grow a lot of food to get that sort of investment back.
The cheapest raised beds are made of recycled materials, and these could be an excellent investment if you can get them.
Apples, parsley, broccoli, radicchio and parsnips
Check that ready-made beds are well treated to prevent rotting, as the boards are going to be constantly wet on the inside.
Unless you are well organised, there may be a delay to sowing and planting while you construct your raised beds.
As the soil temperatures in raised beds are often higher, the growing media may dry out more and need more water.
Raised beds will need maintenance and eventually replacing. Most will last just eight to ten years. Wooden ones may last longer if effectively pressure treated.
Metal raised beds will rust. Even galvanised ones will eventually rust unless they are regularly painted.
New galvanised raised beds
- You may need to buy extra topsoil and compost to fill your raised beds.
You may have set your heart on getting raised beds to grow your fruit and veg, and I won't stand in your way.
I do recommend just stopping and considering whether you need them. For some, raised beds may mean the only opportunity garden, and I wholeheartedly support them in this case!
But if you don't need them, it may be worth considering whether your hard-earned cash could be better spent on other things.