I'm asking this mainly to learn before I spend money and effort. This year our produce hasn't been good and mainly because of critters. So I was wondering if raised beds will help to keep the critters from digging from underground esp the tubers. We lost all of our potatoes and sweet potatoes this year :(
I'm kind of the opposite of stormy. I love gardening directly in the ground (that is my method of choice for most things). The only reason I use raised beds is because we have some. However, I do know some pros and cons. Here are some observations:
- The soil will get warmer, since sun can shine on the sides of the raised beds, instead of just on the top of the soil. This may mean that different nutrients will be available to the plants (e.g. more phosphorus, less potassium, less magnesium)
- The soil will dry out faster.
- You can isolate your plants more easily.
- They're higher up; so, you might not have to bend down as far to do stuff. This may also help them to stay warmer, since heat rises (which might occasionally prove helpful if there's a light frost, although it's probably unlikely to make a huge difference).
- It's somewhat like container gardening.
- Making raised beds and sifting all the Morning Glory roots out of your soil to go in it is a lot of work (yes, I had to move and tediously sift a lot of dirt as a youth).
- You're unlikely to walk on the soil much, which means the soil won't get as compacted, and the plants might have happier roots.
- Plants don't seem to grow the same way in them.
- Some raised beds close off the bottom and others don't.
- People like them a lot and think they look good.
- If you're into square foot gardening, you'll probably be wanting to learn about raised beds. You may want to study square foot gardening and its pros and cons.
- Some peppers might be easier to grow in raised beds than directly in the ground. I'm guessing this may be due to soil temperature, but also due to the probability that the soil in the raised bed will be a looser kind than the soil in the ground.
- To me, it seems like they kind of limit how you can garden and arrange your plants, but that doesn't seem to bother most people.
- They kind of do some of the layout planning for you.
- They're usually navigable (whether you like it or not).
- Pests will still invade raised beds (including at least aphids, whiteflies, slugs, ants, and carrot root pests).
- Cats are known to use them as a litter box.
- If you put too much soil (or other stuff) in a raised bed with wooden sides, it may lessen the life of your raised bed and/or burst the frame.
- Raised beds are pretty manageable.
- Our Morning Glory problem actually did go away (as far as the raised beds were concerned). We put black plastic underneath the soil (I was against it, though, since I figured some plants might like to grow deeper, but we did it anyway for the purpose of keeping the Morning Glory out). However, our Creeping Charlie problem began in the raised beds. I don't know where it came from; just one year (maybe 25 years after the raised beds had been built), it grew there (and we had evergreen weeds that a friend of mine thought looked nice; so did I, to be honest).
- If they're tall enough, they may be proof against rabbits. The kind of raised bed you make depends a lot on what pests it'll keep out.
- They're usually permanent (until they break). Don't expect to move them somewhere else.
- Broken raised beds (with boards coming off) will dry out faster than regular ones.
- You can get cement raised beds, but I haven't tried one of those.
If you're trying to keep nematodes out, you might try EarthBoxes instead. I've heard that can work.
]2I am glad you asked this question. For the fifty or so years I've been gardening and landscaping, the ONLY way I will prepare for new plants is to make a raised bed. This gives your plants drainage and air no matter what kind of soil you have. I will never ever plant plants in a flat untilled unused ground ever. Trees might be an exception. I never use any lumber or concrete blocks to make raised beds. Roots are pretty much only concerned with the first 4 to 6 inches of soil. Fluffing up a bed, then compacting it (I know sounds weird) adding shallow trenches around that bed whether it is in the garden or a plant bed next to the lawn...is all one needs to do. I add DECOMPOSED note the capitalized word here, decomposed organic matter as I dig and turn over. Shoot your bed will easily become 3 to 4 feet high. Then you rake, throw a big piece of plywood over the top and jump up and down on it to get rid of large air pockets. THEN you dig your 6" x 6" trenches at the bottom throwing the soil up onto the bed, rake and plywood jump up and down compacting again and you are ready to plant. That bed will stay about a foot higher than the original surface. I always clean out the trenches to throw the soil back up and around the plants on that bed.
What animals have been eating your tubers? Most underground animals do not eat the plants. They do wonders for aeration, top dressing, eating grubs that are harmful. If they are eating your tubers you should think about feeding them something else...they don't want to eat tubers. Gophers, perhaps, rats for sure, deer and rabbit and raccoons for sure. If your garden is accessible to all wildlife the simplest thing to do is fence with good old chicken wire. I've got all of these animals and more and have no problems at all with my 3' high wire fencing, buried 6" deep...I now have a green house over the whole shebang to deter deer and elk but they've not bothered my garden. Why? Because I put out bales of hay for them to eat way away from the garden. Raised beds are for drainage and warmth for the plants. Won't do a thing for wildlife that is starving. I grow lots and lots of potatoes, carrots, fennel, beets and not once have I had a problem. I have at least 20 rabbits, wild rabbits kind of tamed that I feed, deer, elk, gophers...I want the moles to find a home here. I feed feral cats that keep the bunnies, mice, rats in line. These are brand new beds out of pumice soil. I should send pictures of this year's beds but this shows the raised bed, the trenches need some digging out...this is the only way I will ever make plant beds vegetable beds...I live in the wilderness and have no problems with any animals. That lower wall is wired, no bunnies can get in. They don't need to because I feed them! Tell me more about the loss of your potatoes. Do you have pictures of 'after' munching?