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Is Raised Bed Gardening Right for You?
Raised Garden Beds in the Rocky Mountain Regions
For several reasons, raised beds are particularly useful in the Rocky Mountain region where we tend to have rocky, alkaline soil and shortened growing seasons. Raised beds allow you to create your own soil profile, instead of trying to amend a subpar growing soil, which can take up to 10 years depending on your starting point.
Raised Garden Beds and Soil Compaction
Raised beds provide easier access and an opportunity for minimal soil compaction. Consider the importance of soil compaction, and how hard it is to ameliorate.
“Soil compaction reduces total pore space of a soil. More importantly, it significantly reduces the amount of large pore space, restricting air and water movement into and through the soil. Low soil oxygen levels caused by soil compaction are the primary factor limiting plant growth in the landscape setting…. Soil compaction can change a block or aggregate structure (with good infiltration and drainage) into a massive structure (with poor infiltration and drainage).” Whiting, David. Colorado Master Gardener Program: CMG GardenNotes. 2011-2014.
Raised beds are key to reducing foot traffic and thus soil compaction. Stepping on moist soil can cause 75% compaction the first time and up to 90% compaction by the fourth round. With raised beds, you should be able to limit any foot traffic to once a year in the spring when you prep your beds for the season to come. During the growing season, you should be able to top dress additional amendments avoiding further soil
Short Growing Seasons
In addition, raised beds can extend your growing season. They warm faster in the spring allowing for earlier soil amending and planting. You can add hooping and a protective covering, such as 6 ml clear plastic, to create mini greenhouses.
Limited Garden Locale
Raised garden beds allow for more garden location versatility and add an aesthetic value if you live in a suburban or urban setting.
Other Recommended Resources
A couple of our favorite sources for constructing raised beds and drip irrigation systems include the following:
How We Built Our Raised Beds
Our beds are all 12” deep for maximum rooting depth since they are being built on new construction soil (all the top soil has been scraped off). They were double dug to prevent the creation of an impermeable interface with the soil we are building and the subsoil. Their widths range from 3-4 feet, allowing for us to easily reach anywhere in the bed without having to enter the bed, compacting the soil. The frames are built with 2×6 redwood boards. Redwood has natural oils that make it exceptionally water and decay resistant. These beds are 3’x30’, 4’x12’, 4’x12’, 4’x6’ and 4’x6’. Support poles are 4x4s sunk between 24”-30” inches and nailed to the frame.