I Don't Really Get Raised Row Gardening - Can Someone Explain?


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So I've been studying and planning for my garden this coming spring and looking into raised bed gardening. It seems the gardening world is very very enthusiastic about it. But I have some doubts about it that I can't seem to find anyone addressing so I thought I'd ask here. My concerns are:

1. People have labeled the bed area in the bed-and-walking row system as the "growing area" and people keep talking about it as if the plants are only going to grow in the bed, and only to the depth of the soil mound you've created. Obviously the roots of the plants that go in these rows will go down a lot more than that and out, too... so why does the soil below or beside the mound never seem to matter?

2. The most frequent method I see being used is cardboard at the bottom of the bed and/or wood chips in the walking rows. Both these materials are super high in carbon. Both will probably take awhile to decompose, but they both seem like serious Nitrogen sinks that will end up demanding a lot of extra fertilizing.

3. One of the most frequently-touted advantages to this system is the lack of work. You never have to dig. But won't the sides of the hill erode pretty quickly? I have a fairly sandy soil in a decently rainy climate and I can't see those mounds holding their shape for very long at all, even with lots of amendments.

4. Some people say to use your own garden soil as a base (digging the soil out of the walking rows and onto the mounds) then adding compost. But I've been warned that this will result in flooding because the walking rows will end up sitting lower than the surrounding land. Others say to use completely new material, layering compost, straw and fresh imported soil. But doesn't that sort of defeat the financial benefits it has over raised bed gardening?

5. The approach also says you should never have to dig, that all your organic matter is added through mulching (just putting compost and other organic materials on top and letting the nutrients slowly seep in). But everyone else seems to say that for you to get the most out of your compost, you really need to work it in with a shovel, especially if you want improved soil structure. Not sure what the right answer is here.

6. And finally... One of the major benefits listed is that the mound will warm up faster in the spring. Won't this also mean it will be the first thing to freeze in the winter? Does it really extend the growing season at all?

All in all, I don't understand why you don't just apply all these methods (walking rows and growing rows, mulching the walking paths, mulching with organic matter on the growing rows, etc.) to a flat garden.

Even if you can only answer to one of these "complaints", I'd really appreciate it! I just want to understand what all the fuss is about.
Thanks!
 
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Personally I wouldn`t give a fork or trowel for raised beds, I see them as a fad or fashion. The only benefit that may be is for anyone disabled in some way, and then it must be so much easier to reach (as long as the beds are high enough.

The subject is hardly a headache - just a matter of choice.
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I see your method as Row gardening, where you have rows of mounded soil in between walkways. I see raised bed gardening as a large container with walls holding everything in, just like a container, but larger.

Cardboard on the bottom seems useless or even detrimental. If you have worms in your soil, you would want them to squirm up into your raised bed to airate the soil and leave their castings about.

Whether you use your own soil with amendments, or brand new, you simply want to have the correct type of soil for the plants you want to grow. Between sandy (very well drained and holds few if any nutrients) and clay (holds water and nutrients like a hoarder), you want the proper mix for your plants. Some flowers like clay, and Alpines like very well drained, almost rocky soil.

I've read that you dig your compost into the top 6" or so of the soil.

I have a raised bed that's 1ft tall. It makes working the soil easier for sure, but theres nothing wrong at all with flat beds AFAIK.
 
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Sorry - I should have titled this "raised row" - that would have been more accurate. Thanks for the responses so far :)
 
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I've seen some other users here using rows. One advantage I can think of is size.

You can make long rows and use a small tractor to till, fertilize and other things on a larger scale with way less work.
 
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Raised bed gardening and raised row gardening are two different things. If you want your onions to grow large, you plant in a raised row, then when they start to bulb out, you remove most of the soil , almost down to the roots. This allows the onion to expand to larger fruit. This type of gardening is good for root crops such as turnips, beets, and carrots. It allows you to water in the low areas between the raised rows. This prevents a lot of the problems such as root rot, and small yield.
Raised bed gardening is good for us that are tired of fighting weeds down on our knees, I have gone to a box bed system in my green house . The bottom of the box is about a foot off the ground. and have at least 18 inches of soil in them These are 4 beds 7 foot by 3 foot by 18 inches deep. This keeps pests at a minimum, elevates the garden to a higher level that allows me to stand when working the garden.
 

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I do raised rows, some is garden soil I had trucked in and some is the same trucked in soil mixed with my dirt which has a high clay content. Never have used any liner at the bottom. I add amendments each spring and between plantings depending what I was growing. I turn the dirt over and use my tiller if the dirt has gotten compacted.

Weeds can be a problem but, they always are. Hoe the around the raised rows to keep them from invading your better dirt. I wouldn't worry about flooding, just be aware of leaving a way for water to drain.

I never grew anything that did not require work. That's what gardening is, work.
 

Sheryl H.

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I am starting a new garden in new area due to a move. I'm considering raised rows and they're so neat looking. But like the OP said, won't it erode? You make a nice pretty row and then a hard rain comes...it'll be all gone? How does the soil not "fall" off the top of it's little hill. I couldn't see hard compacting it with large long rows. It'd take till next season! lol:)
 
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The dirt does not fall off. It's only from 2" - 4" above the rest of the dirt unless I'm doing melons, taters, things that do better in mounded rows. Yes you will get some erosion but, it's not significant.
 
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And if a little soil does erode it is easy to just rake it back up on top of the bed. Below are pics of mine and I rake it up at the start of every season. Doesn't take long at all.
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Sheryl H.

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okay. Makes better sense. This picture's off the internet but this is what I envisioned, it's not very wide at all. Definitely like the wider look of yours and others that I see now.
 

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okay. Makes better sense. This picture's off the internet but this is what I envisioned, it's not very wide at all. Definitely like the wider look of yours and others that I see now.
That picture is of basic high hill row gardening. With the wider beds your garden suddenly becomes much larger in growing area especially for row crops such as beans. What's also good about this method is that you can make the row as wide as you like for such crops as corn. Narrow rows are also involves more labor and soil temperatures are much harder to maintain
 

Sheryl H.

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What equipment do you make these with the flat area on top? We have a large tiller, small tiller, and tractor, with various attachments. I can always Google how to do it. (since this was someone else's post maybe I can be pm'd unless they don't mind LOL)
 
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What equipment do you make these with the flat area on top? We have a large tiller, small tiller, and tractor, with various attachments. I can always Google how to do it. (since this was someone else's post maybe I can be pm'd unless they don't mind LOL)
I don't have any equipment. I did the whole thing with a shovel and a hard rake. I made the tops flat with the smooth side of the rake.
 
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I don't have any equipment. I did the whole thing with a shovel and a hard rake. I made the tops flat with the smooth side of the rake.

Get a tiller Chuck, your back will thank you for it. HD has small ones for like 150 bucks.

How do you keep the deer out with only that low fence? Guessing there's another fence. All 4 of my garden areas are high fenced to keep them out.
 
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Get a tiller Chuck, your back will thank you for it. HD has small ones for like 150 bucks.

How do you keep the deer out with only that low fence? Guessing there's another fence. All 4 of my garden areas are high fenced to keep them out.
I had to stop gardening in that large garden. I am getting up in years and I just couldn't do it anymore, it was a tad over 1/4 acre So now I just took over my wifes flower garden and am container gardening too. For deer I make a repellant. Sort of like that stuff you buy named Deer Away except my stuff works and cost a hell of a lot less to make.
 
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