The three most important concerns of the gardener are soil compacting/erosion, space limitations, and plant yields. The traditional gardener is forever battling the first and because of the second concern is forever wishing for more space to increase the final concern. When planting in rows, the soil between rows is the pathway and little or no distinction is made between plant row and path. Rain water and irrigation collects everywhere and causes erosion as well as making it difficult to tread in the garden (due to the amount of mud). In order to get higher yields the gardener must increase the size of the garden because there has to be so much space between rows of plants.
The raised bed garden overcomes the concerns of the gardener quite easily. The first concern (soil compacting/erosion) is defeated simply by reserving a piece of land for plants. The top soil is removed and the subsoil is loosened. When the bed is loosened to a depth of 18 to 24 inches, the top soil is replaced. The act of loosening the soil will bring the height of the bed to approximately 6 to 8 inches above the surrounding soil. The bed is usually kept within the dimensions of 5 feet by 20 feet since they are not to be disturbed by the gardeners feet. Since the bed is never stepped in, the soil never gets compacted. Each year the soil is worked lightly with a hoe (to mix in fertilizer) and raked into shape again. A tiller is never needed to rework the soil. Because the bed is above the level of the surrounding ground, flooding is never a problem and therefore erosion is minimal. The pathway between beds can be left in grass or covered with mulch (hay or grass clippings) to further reduce flooding and erosion.
As before, the beds are no more than 5 feet by 20 feet. A completed bed has 100 square feet of planting space. This is almost a third of the planting space of the traditional 50 foot by 20 foot garden (32% of 1000 ft. is 320 ft.). The pathways between beds are usually 1 to 2 feet so they take up minimal space. Hence, the mobile home park or apartment complex resident can easily construct one or more beds. Multiple beds do not have to be adjacent and obviously do not have to be 5 feet by 20 feet. (My 5 beds are 2 foot by 10 foot.) The pathway can be left in grass so the beds would easily fit into any amount of available space.
There is also the method of interplanting where more than one variety of plant can share a bed. Interplanting is somewhat complex so the amateur should consult a text such as Getting the Most from Your Garden by the editors of Organic Gardening Magazine (copyright 1980 by Rodale Press, Inc.). With the ability to interplant and place beds in any available space, the amateur gardener is able to ignore the seed packet directions for row spacing and plant at least twice as many plants simply by following the plant spacing in every direction (carrots are planted 3 inches apart in every direction instead of 3 inches apart in rows 12 inches apart).
Offered by Roger.