By Beverly Sandlin
For all of the hype about square foot gardening and raised beds, when two of my sisters, both avid and experienced gardeners (better than I am) stopped by last week, we had a little discussion and all decided that raised beds and square foot gardening is less productive and harder than the time tested standard row garden.
I can hear it already, “Heresy!”
So, here is why three sisters in Minnesota are going back to row gardening:
a. The raised beds dry out faster and hence need more water.
b. The raised beds aren’t high enough to stop the back breaking work of weeding.
c. The raised beds get just as weedy, if not more so after a few years of use, than regular in-ground beds.
d. With the intensive planting of a square foot garden, if you go on vacation for a few days at just the time the weeds are coming in, you can lose a whole crop of root vegetables (carrots, onions, radishes, etc.) because as you pull out the weeds the intensively planted fledgling veggies also come out.
e. Raised beds need tending at least 3 times a week. A standard row garden and you can get by with once a week weeding.
f. It is a lot easier to work a hoe between rows of plants while standing up than to sit and constantly be bent over weeding in a raised bed.
g. It seems to be actually easier to manage the fertility of the soil in a standard garden than in a raised bed – we don’t know why, we only know what is…
h. It is easier to water the whole garden than individual plants.
i. Intensive planting in small beds leads to more conflicts with companion planting.
j. Lots of paperwork recording when you planted what, where, how to plan rotations, companions, etc.
k. Expensive and time consuming to put in and get the right mix of soil in them.
All that said, what do we see is good about raised beds and square foot gardening?
b. Fewer tools and no rototiller or cultivator needed.
c. Good for wet areas.
d. They can be very attractive.
e. Great for someone who has the time and is obsessed with their garden – picking at it every day and never leaving home.
f. It is easier to build little mini-greenhouses over the beds thus extending the growing season.
So, what do we three sisters see that could work?
b. Intensive planting and vertical growing can save a lot of space in a small garden plot.
c. It is easier to fertilize and water a small garden.
d. It is easier to fence a small garden and protect it from wildlife.
We three sisters from Minnesota,
think Mel got obsessed and made a good thing too hard and complex.
I’m amending this article… First, an apology for perhaps being too blunt, geez a characteristic of an old woman perhaps? :-)
But, I also got this private email that Phil said I could share...
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