Gardeners take hobby to new dimensions

Mack Johnson | North Carolina Cooperative Extension

March 8, 2014

Different types of gardening are now trending in large segments of society. The increase in gardening interest has spawned concepts not usually considered when a person mentions gardening. We have edible landscapes, gardens for drinking, square foot gardening, and even vertical gardening.

One common factor in many of these styles of gardening is the actual garden space. Urbanization and community development have removed the traditional garden plot and encouraged gardening in smaller spaces.

Gardening in raised beds is one option addressing these constraints. Though not a new concept, raised bed gardening has been around for centuries. Raised beds offer the opportunity to increase production while reducing garden area. These bed surfaces typically are between 6 and 12 inches above the existing ground level. They can be any size imagined by the gardener, but a bed no wider than 4 feet with any length allows tending from both sides and eliminates stepping in the garden area. Step-free garden soil reduces compaction, increasing soil aeration and plant productivity.

Raised beds offer gardeners several advantages. Raised beds warm up quicker in the spring, allowing for earlier planting. These beds also allow the garden to be worked after a heavy rain, because you are not actually walking in the garden area.

Framed raised beds are more effective for reducing erosion. Water will drain through the bed, resulting in less frequent watering. Weeding and harvesting may be easier because of elevated surfaces. Framing material can be block, stone, brick, pavers, or rot-resistant wood such as landscape timbers or treated lumber. The framing material forms a retaining wall for the soil and a lip above the soil line to retain water.

Caution: Treated lumber requires a plastic liner between the soil and the lumber because of possible chemical leachate.

Desired plantings for the bed will aid in determining placement of the raised bed. Vegetables need a minimum of six hours of direct sun. Positioning the bed from north to south allows more evenly distributed light as the sun travels over the bed. This position requires placement of the taller plants on the north end to increase light distribution and reduce shading for other bed plantings. Increased production can be attributed to literally planting wall-to-wall, resulting in the entire garden surface being used.

Natural soil is not the best recommendation for a raised bed unless compost, organic material, peat moss and other materials are added to improve the soil. A good working soil will contain one part organic, one part sand, and two parts soil. A purchased soil-less mixture, such as potting soil for containers, will also work well.

North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, is partnering with Robeson Community College’s BioNetwork to present a workshop about “Raised Bed Gardening” on March 22 at 10 a.m. The workshop will consist of classroom presentations in RCC’s Workforce Development Building, located at the rear of campus, and hands-on demonstrations outside at the GreenZone, so dress appropriately.

Because of limited space, registration is required by March 19. For accommodations for people with disabilities, call Mack Johnson at 910-671-3276 by March 17.