Raised Vs Lowered Beds, That is the Question
By Greg Peterson
I am often asked raised or lowered garden beds, and I always say it depends. In warmer climates it is always better to lower the beds or at least put them at ground level. Raised beds and pots are more susceptible to the heat of the day because they are taking in heat from not only the top but from the sides as well. This can cause the soil to dry out much more quickly and, in some cases, super heat the soil in the bed or pot, killing the microorganisms in the soil and your groceries.
If you have a situation in which you have to raise the beds or plant in pots, wood is always better than block. One caveat with wood, however, is that you want to make sure that it is not treated. So avoid railroad ties and termite-resistant wood as they leach their chemicals right into the soil and subsequently into the food.
My favorite bed method is to put your garden at ground level or lower. That way, the garden becomes a water and leaf/mulch catchment area, making your job just a little bit easier.
When a new gardener approaches me for advice the first thing I tell them is that growing food is one great big grand experiment so try as many new things as you can. I began planting my new urban farm this summer which encompasses a 300 square foot south facing back patio with virtually no place to grow food in the ground, so I have to grow in pots, boxes and my TowerGarden.
I killed a few tomatoes, the carrots and greens I planted in mid August did not come up, and I can’t blame them, as the soil in the raised boxes got a bit too hot. The Malabar spinach that I planted in two separate pots did very well in one pot and struggled along in the other. Ahhh the challenges of growing food in the summer heat. I am looking forward to the fall’s cooler temperatures and planting the garden boxes and pots.
I have however had wonderful luck this past month with my hydroponic growing system called the Tower Garden. It is designed to grow nutrient-rich healthy food in a small space and, although the system is simple, you are still nurturing plants so you need to pay attention to it. You can’t just set it up and walk away.
I purchased my first Tower Garden in the spring of 2012 and have had tremendous success. They are as simple to use as planting the tower, managing the nutrient mixture and harvesting. The biggest challenge is finding or growing plants to plant in the tower. I found that Vilardi Gardens was able to supply me with a nice selection of plants to plant directly.
Susan Vilardi provided us with plant plugs (teeny versions of full size plants), which included kale, chard, lettuce, basil, and parsley, which I am growing for my fall juicing needs. She also provided full-size peppers and tomatoes that I unpotted and added to the tower. After only a month of growing the tomato plant has bloomed and is 5 times the size it was when I planted it, and we are just starting to harvest kale, chard and lettuce. The great big grand experiment continues and healthy food lands on my plate, which is good for my body and soul. This is how I stay plugged in.