It seems to me that almost anything that is part of organic gardening can be and more than likely will be questioned by someone who is unfamiliar with the process. The unfamiliarity with any given process is the very reason they question —– they don’t understand the why of what is being done.
“Raised beds” Questioned
I was talking to one of my readers the other evening and she said her Stepfather — who has seen her establishing beds for her garden and also has seen some of the results — has started to “soften” a bit towards what she is doing. Still ——there is the questioning.
For a seasoned organic gardener (like me) it sorta rolls off. I know what I’m doing and if the questioning party hung around long enough they would see the proof that it works. But for someone who is new to all this — it can cause a bit of “uncomfortable” doubt to well up in their heart.
The question put to my reader was in the form of concern that her “raised” beds would dry out quickly and she would not have enough water to water them.
Allow me to state that in all the years I have gardened I have never watered. (I did in this past season’s drought — carry several buckets of water to my peppers and cucumbers. That’s about the extent of my watering for the 32 years. ) And yes, I always have bounty —-even in drought. As a matter of fact, that is when organic gardening shines the most ——in years of drought.
The Answer is in the Reason for the Method
The answer is wrapped in the reason for raised beds. Once you understand that — it’s simple.
The method of creating raised beds in your garden is not done for the purpose of having raised soil that heats up faster in the sun. That can be a side benefit in a cool spring if you pull some of the mulch back, but it is not the purpose of creating them.
Soil improvement begins by loosening the soil to a depth of 12 to 24 inches. This can be accomplished by digging or a combination of digging and tilling. This is the first step in creating conditions under which plants can thrive. Organic material is then incorporated into the bed. It is impossible to loosen soil to this depth and then add organic material without having the beds “raised” to a level 12 to 24 inches above what it was. Thus, the so called “raised” beds are automatically created when you improve your soil.
If your beds are parallel to each other you can fill in the paths with wood chips, pine, or straw and they will not appear “raised” at all. My garden beds are that way.
Now — about drying out.
I think it interesting that someone who gardens by planting in freshly tilled soil leaving it exposed to sun and wind is concerned that an organic gardener’s “raised” beds will dry out.
That being said— yes, of course it would dry out. Which is one of the reasons you cover the beds with mulch. Mulch protects the soil from the elements, keeps the moisture in and in addition protects the organic matter in the soil from combining with oxygen causing it to disappear. (Called oxidizing.)
What Soil Preparation (that results in those “raised” beds) Does
The combination of loosening the soil, adding organic matter and mulching works to make better growing conditions for plants by giving them soil in which they can put down roots and get the proper nutrients. The texture of the soil will be improved. Drainage will be good, but at the same time the soil will hold more moisture. The benefits are especially visible in times of drought.
So — does soil that is 12 to 24 inches above the rest dry out? Not if you cover it properly.
If you can’t water will you still have a good harvest? I certainly have for 32 years. You can too.
Remember the reasons for what you are doing.