First of all, what’s the difference?
Also known as garden boxes or planter boxes, a raised garden bed is just a container or box filled with soil in which plants are cultivated.
The most popular material for raised beds is wood, although they can also be built of concrete, stone, bricks, logs, galvanized metal, durable fabric, or other materials.
Raised beds come in a variety of sizes depending on the materials used and their location, and the gardeners’ preferences. 6 to 8 inches high, 3 to 6 feet broad, and 6 to 8 feet long are common dimensions for raised beds.
Some raised bed frames are elevated above the ground using blocks or bricks to help those who have trouble bending or stooping.
For in-ground garden beds, on the other hand, some people prefer to cultivate plants in their original, native and unaltered soil, while most in-ground garden beds are created by tilling, modifying, and adding compost to the natural soil. This results in a slightly mounded in-ground vegetable bed that stands out from the rest of the yard.
In-ground gardens can be easily customized, allowing the gardener to be creative with the plant choices, layouts, and more.
When it comes to setting up the garden, a solid foundation and adequate preparation is necessary for the long-term development and health of the plants. This is attained by first selecting the greatest location for the garden as well as the optimum soil mix and growth medium.
Raised Garden Bed Advantages and Disadvantages
- Reduced plant damage and soil compaction – Raised beds are famous for their protection from foot traffic, particularly from youngsters working in the garden. The soil does not become compacted and plants are less likely to be harmed since people work on the walkways rather than walking in well-designed raised beds.
- Improved drainage – A raised bed may be suitable in an area with a rainy environment or flooding issues. When water is elevated above ground level, it drains considerably more easily through the soil, than it would in ground gardens.
- Early planting/longer growing season – In a colder region, when the ground freezes in the winter, raised bed’s soil will warm up faster in the spring. This will allow you to cultivate the soil and plant the first batch of cold-hardy seedlings sooner.
- Aesthetics – Many individuals believe that a raised garden just looks more attractive! When it comes to border/frame material, there are a lot of choices to pick from, making it simpler to customize.
- Better and improved soil – When working with raised beds, soil quality is the most important factor for a healthy garden. You may fill it with any sort of soil and nutrients you choose, most preferably organic matter. If you do it correctly, you’ll have a fantastic soil environment for your plants to thrive.
- Accessibility and ergonomics – Many people have back problems or other physical illnesses. Gardeners don’t have to bend over as much to plant, weed, and harvest vegetables in a raised bed since it’s higher off the ground. The beds can be used in a multipurpose manner too, as they can make perfect seats whenever the need arises while in the garden.
- Not permanent – Some places, such as a leased house or apartment, may prohibit people from planting a garden and/or digging in their yard. Luckily, raised bed frames are temporary structures that are easy to move around, making them vital for avoiding conflicts between landlords and tenants.
- Fewer weeds and invasive plants – When the right organic matter is added to the raised beds right from the beginning, the gardener should be able to eliminate any weed seeds and seedlings that would be in the ground soil. The raised walls should also be able to prevent weeds that would creep into the raised bed.
Invasive plants like mints and blackberries should also be locked out. You can also lock out weeds that would invade from beneath the raised bed by providing a weed barrier, like cardboard, beneath the raised bed.
- Material conservation – There is less waste when dealing with raised beds because of the close and careful control and management of water, mulch, soil amendments, and fertilizer.
- Easier pest control – Raised garden beds provide extra defense against pests. Their heights are meant to be potential deterrents to potential pests like snails and rabbits. It is also a convenient way to add hoops and floating covers that are neatly tucked at the edges of the bed. This is effective against rodents, birds, squirrels, and other invaders.
- Costly to put up – Unless you are lucky to find the initial materials to put up the raised bed for free, a little initial investment will almost certainly be required to get a raised bed built and filled with soil and compost.
- Irrigation is essential – Even in the greatest soil conditions, raised beds will always dry up at a faster rate, compared to in-ground gardens, making it necessary to provide more water options for when they dry up. This could be the main reason not to use a raised bed.
- Material degradation – The material in the raised bed and that used to build the raised bed may lose its viability over time, necessitating the replacement of either the structure or the soil in the bed. It is therefore good to be cautious when choosing materials for the raised bed. Always go for durable materials like stones or hard-wood lumber.
- Reduced natural insulation – As much as the raised bed will warm up faster in the spring, it will cool down and freeze at a faster rate in the fall and winter, because the soil temperature fluctuates more in a raised bed.
- More labor is required – More manual work and additional decisions are required to put up a raised garden bed. This will include putting up the frame and filling it with soil and organic matter. To do this, you will require a bit of handy work, muscle, and a few tools.
- Hard to mechanize the bed – It is a big challenge to use machines, such as tillers, that ease the gardener’s work on raised beds.
- Limited curves and shapes – Unless you are specifically crafty and adept to make your own raised bed designs, raised beds are more rigid lines as compared to in-ground gardens, which give room for more imaginative designs that may achieve a more gentle, natural, and flowing design.
- Raised beds are semi-permanent – It’s not that it isn’t possible to, but it is difficult to alter the arrangement of the garden once you have installed the raised garden beds.
In-Ground Garden Bed Advantages and Disadvantages
- Less costly – Money can be saved by utilizing the existing soil rather than importing soil. When topsoil is extremely rare in your locality, it is safe to try and enhance the available soil, rather than importing new soil that is unknown to you. The money saved can then be utilized to acquire organic additions necessary to enhance the natural soil.
However bad the state your natural soil could be, even clay soil, when appropriately blended and adjusted with organic materials can develop advantages better than the man-made soils.
- Easy to set up – A tractor or a big rototiller can be used to create a well-drained and level ground, fit for gardening/cultivation.
- Use of existing soil – When properly tilled, mulched, and watered, most natural soils are good for gardening and may yield bountiful harvests, even without necessarily having to add organic inputs.
- Less permanent – An in-ground garden may readily be changed with different crops through rotation, or can be otherwise relocated.
- Easier irrigation – Compared to raised beds, which need careful design and installation of their irrigation systems, those for flat in-ground gardens are quite simple to build and easy to install.
- Lower water requirements – In-ground beds do not dry out as quickly as raised beds, but rather require little water to keep them in good shape.
- Less drainage – Depending on the climate and the type of soil in the garden, in-ground gardens are more prone to flooding.
- Compaction of the soil – When the garden has been stepped on too much or has lots of clay in the soil, it might compress and become compact, subsequently hurting the plants.
- Late planting – The soil will take longer to warm out after a freeze, especially after winter.
- More initial weeds – Regardless of the geographical location, most natural soils have numerous weed seeds in them. This can, however, be reduced through mulching.
- Takes longer to improve the soil quality.
Are Raised Bed Gardens Better?
Raised bed gardens are not always the better option.
Depending on your location, raised beds could be your best option if you live in a wet and rainy environment or have very poor and compact soil.
However, if you live in a hot, dry environment with good soil structure, an in-ground garden bed is the most ideal option for you.
Other elements may have an impact on how you set up your garden bed. Although raised beds appear to be the more popular alternative, it’s not necessarily the greatest.
Can You Use In-ground Soil To fill A Raised Bed?
You can use in-ground soil to fill up a raised bed, but only in rare circumstances, if and only if the native soil in your yard is close to being perfect.
Most gardeners, however, go for artificial soil that is in the right state for their little crops to thrive and are bug and weed-free.
Most people avoid the natural soil on grounds of being unsuitable for reasons such as poor drainage or bad/unwanted composition, such as being rocky or potentially having weed seeds.
For such cases, you will need to work hard to modify the soils extensively before relocating them to your raised garden bed. In other instances, the native soil could have been polluted by herbicides and other chemicals, in which case, you should avoid them completely.
Before setting up a garden, it is important to conduct a small survey of your desired garden area and weigh out the options of whether to choose a raised garden bed or an in-ground garden.
It all depends on the factors for growth and sustainability of the garden, such as drainage and viability of the soil, with regard to your current and future needs. This way, you will figure out the resources and the time you will need to plan for the desired garden.
Both raised garden beds and in-ground gardens are wonderful designs worth giving a try. The potential benefits of either garden, however, solely depend on your specific garden space, soil, the prevalence of pests, and aesthetic preferences.
The above points should guide you to settling on the best gardening method for you.