Raised-bed gardening is in fashion today, but I believe they’re overrated. I’ve planted in rows and in beds, and I think there are myths spread about row gardening that are simply false.
The idea in intensive gardening is that building beds with compost gives plants the best soil, and that intensive gardening reduces weeds between plants. Theoretically, that sounds great, but practically, it just makes no sense.
First, the alternative to composting is not spraying chemicals all over the place. The alternative is plowing, as gardeners have done since the beginning of time. Plowing and composting accomplish the same thing. When a garden is plowed, all of the organic matter and manure on the surface is flipped upside- down and buried under 6-8 inches of soil… and left there for a year. The soil on top is harrowed our tilled and planted in. Next year, that decayed material (i.e., compost) is flipped back to the top and is planted in.
Composting is not a new idea… it’s what plowing has always done.
Second, in most “intensive” or “raised- bed” gardens, those who boast about not spraying chemicals ignore the addition of 1001 products to their gardens, which cause costs to turn gardening into an expensive hobby, rather than a sustainable means of food production. The pictures of newly constructed garden beds look very nice, but let’s get some pictures of these gardens in mid-July of year three… not so beautiful. In the world of Pinterest and blogging, all that people see are the new pictures… rarely ever the results. If we see the results, row gardening would appear much more sustainable.
The costs of row planting are primarily machinery: tractors, cultivators, tillers, etc. This, I believe, is what attracts people to intensive gardening: the hope that we can do more without the help of machinery. Not gonna happen.
Give row planting a chance.