Raised beds and organic gardening

Raised beds can be made of wood, masonry or other non-toxic building material. Raised beds can vary in size depending on the size of the project and the materials used in their construction and gardeners’ preferences.

Raised beds are typically 6 to 8 inches high, 3 to 6 feet wide and 6 to 8 feet long. Some raised bed frames are further elevated above the ground with blocks or bricks to make them more accessible to people who have difficulty bending or stooping.

Organic gardening can be challenging – but there are positives to building organic raised beds:

  • Manageability: Raised beds offer a manageable way to garden a smaller space intensively.
  • Prevention of soil compaction and plant damage: One of the greatest advantages of raised beds comes from the protection the structure provides from foot traffic, especially from children working in a garden area or pesky trespassers in allotments. Since people work on the paths and don’t walk in well-designed raised beds, the organic soil does not get compacted and plants are less likely to be damaged.
  • Longer growing season: Raised beds warm up more quickly in the spring and drain better (assuming the soil is properly prepared), allowing for a longer growing season and better growing conditions. Straw can be used to insulate and promote root growth.
  • Less weeding and maintenance: Once the soil in a raised bed has stabilized, compaction is almost non-existent so the need for seasonal tilling is minimal. Weed populations decrease over time in a raised bed that is well cared for and mulched.
  • Better drainage: A well-prepared raised bed allows the soil to drain better than in an in-ground garden. 
  • Easier soil amendments: A raised bed can enable organic crop growth in an area that otherwise would not support gardening. On steep slopes, raised beds can act as a form of terracing. Raised beds can be built on parking lots and other compacted, difficult-to-garden urban soils. For specific crops that thrive in particular soils, raised beds can be amended appropriately.
  • Material conservation: Because the gardening space is concentrated, the management of water, organic fertilizer, organic mulch and soil amendments can be more carefully controlled, leading to less waste.
  • Access for gardeners with disabilities: Raised beds, at the proper height, can improve access for wheelchairs, or for gardeners who have a hard time bending over.