Why raised bed gardens? For starters, the dirt is better | Local News

In the hit country music song “Buy Dirt”, Luke Bryan sings the words, “…if you want my two cents on making a dollar count, buy dirt.” Okay, it’s not a song about raised bed gardens. But, there’s a correlation that does make sense. 

Raised bed gardens have grown in popularity through the years for a number of reasons. They’re relatively simple to set up, suitable in limited spaces, and they offer the solution to one problem that many people living in Bedford and Franklin Counties are known to have when it comes to gardening: red clay. “The soil, the clay, it’s hard to amend [turn into fertile soil] here,” said Darlene Hensley, the Nursery/Lawn and Garden Manager at Moneta Farm and Home Center in Moneta. 

So, what can you do? Simple. Build a raised bed garden. And buy dirt. 

“The soil you can buy for raised bed gardens already has the nutrients in it,” said Hensley. Another advantage is the soil isn’t compacted, meaning it’s easy to work with, to make holes for plants, and to tend to for weeding and such. “There are also organic fertilizers available that can be worked into the soil, which are safe for both pets and people.” 

Hensley said raised bed gardens are typically set up in square foot patterns. The general rule of the garden thumb is about one square foot per plant. The minimum recommended height is about 10 inches, but that may not be deep up for some crops, like potatoes. For accessibility purposes, lower beds are better for young children learning new gardening skills. Beds that are at least 24” tall are optimal for wheelchair access and ones 36” off the ground helps avoid excessive bending over. 

On a Wednesday afternoon, Nick and Melody Groetsh visited Moneta Farm and Home Center to shop for plants for their raised bed garden. “It’s a hobby garden for us,” said Melody Groetsh. “Carrots, onions, tomatoes, basil – we typically plant what we’re going to need for the two of us.” 

Hensley said growing herbs in raised garden beds is popular, especially because they can placed so close to the house. “It’s convenient – when cooking in the kitchen, you can just step outside your door and get fresh herbs,” she said. 

For first-time gardeners, Hensley said a popular size to begin with is usually 3”x6” or 4”x8”. That’s 18 to 32 plants, when counting by the square foot rule of one per plant. Tomatoes, onions, carrots and herbs are popular for raised bed gardens. Hensley said it’s a good idea to avoid “viny” plants, like cucumbers, squash, beans, and such. “They [viny plants] take up a long of room and require a lot of water,” said Hensley. “Bush cucumbers are a good choice though.” 

The answer to when to plant has some variations. Hensley said most start planting around the 15th of April. “Frost is always a concern,” said Hensley. The ‘frost date’ is May 10th, which is usually when the threat of frost ends. “Frost clothes are available for gardeners who plant early. The fiber allows water and air in, but keeps the frost out,” she said. 

If you’ve ever thought about giving gardening a try, the good thing is you still have time this year. Places like Moneta Farm and Garden Center, Capps Home Building Center and Lowes are just a few of the places that have experts, like Hensley, and supplies, to help get you started. “We have all the supplies,” said Hensley. 

Like good dirt. It’s a good investment for the fruits, veggies and herbs of the labor of love that come from it throughout the summer and often long after. “I’ve still got tomatoes in the freezer from last summer’s growing season,” said Melody Groetsh. “There’s nothing like vegetables you grow on your own.” 

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