Outsmart Those Rocks!
Raised bed gardening is extremely popular right now, particularly in New England, and with very good reason. New England gardeners digging in their yards sometimes feel like they’re not really digging in soil, they’re digging in rocks with a little dirt thrown in to hold it all together.Once built, a raised bed or hugelkultur mound (we’ll get to hugelkultur in a moment) placed on top of all those backbreaking stones turns gardening from work to joy. Raised bed gardening also hugely increases where you can garden. Heck, you can even build a hip-high container, put all terrain wheels on it and pull it wherever you want!
But wait, there's more!
Raised beds also have several other advantages. They drain better and the soil is less compacted, which makes it easier for roots to grow (just don’t walk in your raised bed!). Gardeners aren’t stuck with whatever soil they happen to have in the yard, either. It’s common for gardeners to add topsoil, moisture-retentive compost and other nutrient rich matter to their raised beds, ensuring healthy, high-yielding vegetables or flowers. Need another reason to love raised beds? In the spring, soil in a raised bed warms faster than the cold, thawing ground. With a raised bed and the addition of a landscape cover over your plants, you can begin the spring growing season early by a month or more, and extend it well into the fall.
Raised Bed Materials
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to raised garden beds. A raised bed can be as practical and homely as a simple heavy-duty black plastic garbage bag filled with soil, or a work of art made out of sculpted cedar that would look right at home at Martha Stewart’s next garden party. They can sit on the ground or be raised up on stilts, which is a godsend to those who love to garden but have some physical limitations. Raised bed kits made of wood, plastic, or metal are easy to find at a local Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Lowe’s or through an online retailer, often under $100. DIY versions include hollowed-out hay bales, pallets, or even a simple mound of soil.
And that simple mound of soil brings us to hugelkultur. Hugel is “hill” in German, and hugelkultur is the practice of cultivating plants on a hill or mound that is composed of layers of decomposing wood, branches, leaves, grass and plant clippings, topped off with soil. The decomposing wood from the logs and branches at the base attract earthworms and other beneficial soil life, which in turn provide aeration and nutrients to the plants grown on the sides of the mound. Decomposing wood is also wonderful for water retention, meaning less watering. Once a hugelkultur mound is built, plants can be grown in that rich environment for years to come with little further effort. We hope we’ve convinced you to give raised bed gardening or hugelkultur a try, because they certainly make growing your own vegetables and flowers a heck of a lot easier, and the ways you can use these beds is practically endless.
For more information about Hugelkultur:
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