Saturday, April 17, 2010

Rows or Raised Beds?

I spent a lot of time this winter thinking about a vegetable garden.  Where it should be placed, how big it should be, what vegetables I want to grow and the biggest question of all - Rows or Raised Beds?

In the past I have always gardened in long narrow rows.  Some of my earliest gardening memories are of marking out rows with string at planting time in my mother's garden.  But when I considered my property I was intimidated by the amount of work before me.  Our three acres is covered in grass (or weeds disguised as grass).  In order to create a vegetable garden I would need to dig out the lawn and then fill in the resulting void with top soil and amendments like sand and peat moss.  To remove all that lawn and dig up the soil I would need to hire someone with a tractor or spend some quality time with a rented rototiller, or worse, a shovel.  As well, to bring in such a large amount of amendments I would have to hire someone with a truck to deliver them.  I've done this type of thing before but in much smaller gardens.  To accomplish this work in a such a large space would take some time to accomplish and I wasn't sure if it could be done quickly enough to actually grow anything in our short summer season.  The other option was raised beds.  My experience with raised beds is quite minimal so I wasn't sure if this was a good alternative or not.

Previous gardens involved  A LOT of digging!
Then one day I spied a book called All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew.  I've heard of this method before but not in any detail.  So I picked up the book and began to read.  I am now convinced raised beds are the way to go.  This book details how to build a raised bed, the size requirements, discussion about the soil mixture required, and gives instruction on how to space plants in a raised bed for maximum use of growing space, among other things.  I finished that book and couldn't wait to get started.  Rather than spend hours digging up lawn or paying someone to do it for me I'll be placing a box right over top of the lawn.  No digging at all.  And I will have nice lawn paths between my beds which will look pretty.  I won't need to worry about amending soil each year because I'll buy the soil to put in my box just once!  Once a year I can add a small amount of compost and stir it in by hand because the soil won't be packed down from walking on it.  Best of all I can build the boxes quickly and get started planting vegetables immediately.  Of course this all sounds great right now because I haven't tried it yet - the proof, as my mother says, is in the pudding.  So we will have to wait and see how this experiment progresses throughout the summer.  But my hope is that there will be fresh salad greens on the table in the coming months.

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