|Raised bed fail. Our appalling parkway beds. Extra demerits for having used treated lumber! *|
Raised beds have some pluses and minuses. Lately I’ve been thinking about their drawbacks. Namely:
- How fast they dry out in a hot climate.
Now I can also think of a few reasons one might want to grow vegetables in a raised bed:
- You do a soil test (and you should do a soil test, especially if you live in an urban area) and the results come back showing that you have heavy metals in your soil.
- You live in a very wet climate.
- A disability prevents you from kneeling or leaning over to garden.
- Your soil has no contaminants, but has some other problem, say bad texture or lots of buried rocks/chunks of concrete.
- You have dogs/rabbits/chupacabras, etc.
I’ve come to the conclusion that for Southern California and, by extension, any dry climate, raised beds are a bad idea unless, of course, you have any of the issues mentioned above. Particularly in the summer, the raised beds I have in the parkway, pictured above, have performed poorly. So poorly, that I’m going to remove them soon. If a soil test shows high heavy metal levels I’ll just go with some ornamental/insectary plants.
Above, broom corn (Sorghum bicolor) doing just fine straight in the ground.
|A partially sunken bed. Extra points for finding the stinkhorn mushroom.|
This bed is somewhat of a compromise. I cut the bed in half lengthwise to make it half as tall as it used to be thus getting two beds for the price of one. Then I sunk it into the ground In effect, the veggies are in the ground but I still have the neatness and defined borders of a raised bed.
Again, if you’re in Seattle raised beds are probably a good idea. But here in SoCal, I’m going to skip them from now on if just because of how much water they waste.
*ETA: A note from Mrs. Homegrown re: that topmost picture of the sad, sad raised beds. They look terrible because after a couple of seasons of struggling with mysteriously declining crops within their borders, we’ve given up on them and did not plant them this spring. I don’t want anybody thinking they look so poorly *only* because they are raised beds. That pair of beds has produced very well in the past, but has some sort of soil problem now–one which we can’t figure out. So I wouldn’t agree with labeling the picture “raised bed fail”– it’s more of a gardener fail. It may have something to do with the fact that they are raised, that the soil texture has deteriorated over time due to the elevation–that is Erik’s theory. I’m not so sure that’s all that is going on. Nonetheless, I do agree with the overall point of this post: that in this climate sunken beds make a lot of sense.