Taking Gardening to Another Level
People commonly ask us: why do you prefer raised beds? I could answer this question in many ways, because there are a variety of benefits unique to raised bed gardening.
- Warmer soil temperature earlier in the season. Raised beds lead the season change faster because they are effectively less insulated than their in-ground counterparts. Because raised beds allow for a warmer root zone, we can plant summer fruiters earlier in the Spring.
- Pest Deterrence. In our experience, far fewer pests make it up over the side of a 1.5’ bed than would pile into a ground-level garden. In particular, high gauge “gopher” wire we attach beneath the bed prevents tunneling vermin from assaulting crops from below.
- Attractive. We don’t mean to boast, but we think the beds look pretty good.
- Easier Gardener Access. Tending the crops in a raised bed does not require a full stoop or squat. You cook your food on a counter rather than down on the floor. Why not grow it up off the ground as well? This back-saving adds up with large garden square-footage; our weekly gardeners tend thousands of square feet of garden per week.
While we are excited about each of these benefits, none of them are the core reasons we prefer raised beds. Sometimes the follow-up question with regard to raised bed gardening might be something like: This fancy wooden bed must be an “up-sell”? In ground gardens are cheaper, right?
Absolutely not. While it seems intuitive that a no-materials, in-ground garden would be more affordable, this line of questioning cuts to the heart of why we prefer raised beds. We have determined that the opposite of common sense prevails in this case: if you want to grow a garden that meets Farmscape's high standards, raised bed gardens are much less expensive, if you take full account of all costs. Here are the two primary reasons we use raised beds:
- Ensures consistent soil blend across each location. At Farmscape we hang our hat on producing impeccable harvests in microplots across the city. Installing a raised bed with fresh soil at each site helps us keep the soil chemistry and soil texture predictable and consistent across all our gardens, which matters because soil is the trickiest of the three cornerstones of garden success: sun, water, and soil. For farmers and gardeners alike, adapting to a new site and “troubleshooting” new soil often costs several seasons of headaches and under-performing crops. We don’t think its fair for our members to pay specialist growers for weak harvests and a season or more of site-adaptation.
- Quick and cost-efficient set-up. To create a garden that meets our very high standards for food production, a raised bed installation is far cheaper than rehabilitating and double-digging on-site soil. To prepare in-ground beds we would need to dig out and amend soil a couple feet deep. If the project is not big enough to justify an earth mover, expect the cost of landscaping labor to outstrip the cost of raised bed materials by a wide margin, and that’s before factoring in the cost of custom-amending impoverished soil.
If you are a home gardener, you can learn from our wisdom here as well: do you want to spend months at the beginning of your hobby adapting to your on-site soil, or start with a blend you control? Do you want to spend long hours with a pickaxe and a pitchfork preparing your site?
There is no one right answer, it depends on what you want from your gardening experience. Sometimes the challenge is the reward. In our case, challenge stopped seeming like its own reward after about our twelfth garden installation and we got a lot more interested in consistent, graceful results.
In short, we use raised beds because they are the most cost-efficient and effective small-plot gardening method for the yards of Los Angeles.