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Raised Beds vs. In-Ground Planting

Kayla McVey
Latest posts by Kayla McVey (see all)

Spring is here, and gardening is near!

Gardening should be accessible to everyone, from teachers in classrooms looking to inspire young minds, hobbyists, those who live in apartments, handicapped people, and more. At Homestead Collective, we want to have a positive impact on the gardening and homesteading communities. 

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of Raised Beds vs. In-Ground Planting so you can decide what works best for you! 

Diving right in, Raised Beds are above-ground structures that house plants. They can rest on the ground or can be supported by legs to be more accessible. Raised beds are filled with soil and are typically made of wood, galvanized steel, or other building materials.

In-Ground planting is a more traditional type of gardening. Typically done with raised or flat rows, and the ground is turned with either a tractor or hand tiller. 

There are plenty of advantages to Raised Bed Gardening:

  • Less maintenance after initial set up – minimal weeding and no tilling necessary. 
  • Aesthetically pleasing – everyone loves a pretty garden.
  • Advantageous in steep, rocky terrain, wet climates, and areas with high clay content.
  • No foot traffic in beds as opposed to in-ground.
  • Easier to control diseases and pests.
  • More accessible to those living in apartments, the disabled, and elderly. 
  • Preferred for smaller plants that are densely sown – root vegetables in deeper beds (carrots, beets, etc.), cooler weather veggies (Brussel sprouts, lettuce, spinach), onions, garlic, mints (spreads easily and QUICKLY), and peppers. Avoid planting tomatoes in raised beds – try a container like a 5-gallon bucket!  Potatoes and other plants that occupy lots of space also thrive better with other planting practices.

Just as raised beds have many advantages, in-ground does as well! Here are a few:

  • Much more cost-effective– fewer materials are needed with the initial setup, assuming the soil has been properly maintained.
  • Again, in places with nutrient-dense soil (looking at the Midwest specifically), the existing soil is best to use.
  • Less product is needed to maintain plant and soil health due to less drainage.
  • More surface area to sow more plants, space plants out, and grow plants with deep root systems.
  • Easier for community/school gardens due to higher yields and lower costs.

Praises have been sung for both gardening methods, so let’s take a look at the disadvantages. 

There are challenges that come with raised beds. Here are our main concerns:

  • It’s expensive. Not everyone can afford the wood, metal, etc., needed to build bed containers – this can be remedied by reusing recycled items and finding free scrap wood or metal.
  • Drainage. The soil drains better, but this also calls for watering more frequently to keep plants hydrated.
  • Not well suited for crops with a deep root system, like potatoes and varieties of longer carrots.
  • Building the structure can be challenging for people who don’t have the tools needed and those who are handicapped.
  • Soil health is necessary to maintain a productive garden. More fertilizer and compost will be needed throughout the growing seasons to keep your garden happy.

In-Ground poses its own set of issues such as:

  • Labor intensive with or without heavy equipment to maintain the garden and weed control.
  • Not very accessible for handicapped or elderly people due to lots of kneeling and bending.
  • Less control of what enters your garden – insects, animals, and disease 
  • Foot traffic leads to compact soil that doesn’t drain well.
  • Poor soil quality – rocky, high clay content, erosion from heavy rains, etc.

Another option that’s great for specific plants in concert with in-ground or raised beds is container gardening. Great for herbs, tomatoes (trellises are also fantastic for indeterminate varieties.), and flowers. The most important part of container gardening is ensuring the containers have drainage holes and the plants receive the proper amount of light.

Types of containers:

  • Hanging baskets
  • Window boxes
  • Barrels
  • And Baskets

At the end of the day, all practices mentioned can be used together. It’s a matter of choosing which setup suits your unique situation and specific needs. The most important part of being successful with gardening is using the resources available and diligently researching to ensure the best results. Happy planting!

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