What’s the best type of garden bed to grow your own food?

You might be wondering what kind of garden bed you should make to grow food at home.

Do I need to build or buy a raised bed?

Will a simple plot on the ground work?

What’s the best?

As a permaculturist, busy parent and working professional, I have a few favourites that are easy to setup, cheap and low maintenance.

Let’s have a look.

Do I need raised garden beds?

The main functional purpose of a raised garden be is to bring the ground closer to you. This comes in handy if you have knee or back issues or you’re not comfortable working in a low position.

Or convenience. For example, the raised bed pictured above makes it easy to quickly grab kitchen herbs from the deck when it’s raining.

Do you need one? For most people the answer is “no”.

Let’s move on.

“But wait!” you may be thinking. “Why are they so common then?”

Good question. Probably because they look nice and people just assume that’s what you need to have a proper garden.

If you’re good at building or have spare cash or materials, then go knock yourself out.

But you don’t need it. You won’t grow more or better food in one.

That said, one good reason to garden in raised beds could be because your spouse is a neat-freak. The only way you can turn your backyard from a lawn or an ornamental garden into a productive garden – without an argument – is for it to look pretty.

If that’s what it takes to grow your own food then do it! 🙂

What are key-hole garden beds?

In an earlier article we talked about the importance of not compacting the soil.

A key-hole garden is one way to achieve that.

You shouldn’t have wide garden beds to begin with because you can’t reach the middle without putting your weight on it and compacting soil.

But if your space requires a wider bed, then access in the shape of key-hole is one way around that.

Pro tip: Woodchip or carpet mulch paths around your garden bed and in key holes to block grass and weed growth. The grassy keyhole pictured above isn’t mulched yet and requires traditional lawn maintenance.

What the heck are sunken beds?

Unless you live in the desert, you don’t have to care about sunken beds. They keep the soil from overheating and they minimise evaporation.

Not a problem we have in New Zealand.

What’s the best kind of garden bed?

I’m too busy with kids and work to get fancy, so my garden bed of choice comes down to choosing a good spot, de-compacting soil, cardboard mulching it, adding high quality compost and finishing off with a nice think layer of mulch.

Easy as and works like a charm.

When I’m doing 10% of the work and mother nature is doing 90%, that’s how I like things.

Coming up next…

  • Where to place your garden bed.
  • How to choose what to plant.
  • How to plant out your garden.

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