A bushel of fresh picked banana and cajun belle peppers from the garden
A bushel of fresh picked banana and cajun belle peppers from the garden

Many a visitor to the farm wants to know why and how we garden with raised rows. It’s a conversation we always welcome – simply because we love sharing the methods that have helped our garden to produce much of what we consume throughout the year.

For us – vegetable gardening is all about simplicity. It’s about maximizing yields and minimizing our work load. Our raised row garden allows us to accomplish those goals – all while keeping our garden neat, tidy, and manageable.

Our tomatoes and peppers during the first year of the garden
Our tomatoes and peppers during the first year of the garden

Raised row beds can be the solution for so many common obstacles gardeners face. There is no need for an expensive rototiller – or to spend precious resources on costly raised borders such as stone, wood or plastic edging. In addition, you can have your garden set up and planted in a fraction of the time it takes to just till your garden.

Our garden is not massive by any standards – measuring only 40′ x 60′ from end to end. And yet, within that space, our 30 or so 20′ long raised rows routinely provide us with 3000+ pounds of fresh tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, peas, green beans, lettuce, popcorn and more – utilizing the simplest of gardening methods.

What are Raised Rows:

Shredded leaves make a great base for your first raised row beds
Shredded leaves make a great base for your first raised row beds

Our raised row beds are 8 to 12″ high planting areas built above ground using a combination of organic materials and top soil. We keep ours at about 18″ wide, with a gentle taper on each side to help with drainage. The 18″ width allows proper root structure development for most plantings – while conserving the overall space of the garden and allowing enough room for the walking rows.

Building Your Beds…

When first built – you can use readily available and inexpensive (usually free!) organic materials to construct the base of the bed, then cover up with a few inches of topsoil. When we originally built our beds – we marked out our garden rows, and placed down an 18″ wide layer of straw, shredded leaves and compost.  We then added a 2 to 4 inch layer of topsoil on top and began our garden in about half the time it takes to make the first tilling. For more in-depth information on constructing your beds, see our post on : Preparing Your Raised Row Beds

Maintaining Your Raised Row Beds:

You can maximize your work load and resources by concentrating soil building efforts to the growing rows. Here - we only plant our annual rye cover crop into the raised rows - not wasting it in the walking paths.
You can maximize your work load and resources by concentrating soil building efforts to the growing rows. Here – we only plant our annual rye cover crop into the raised rows – not wasting it in the walking paths.

The best part of raised row gardening is the ease of which you can maintain vibrant productive beds from year to year.  With the simple practice of using cover crops and adding compost to rebuild vitality – your beds will continue to produce great vegetables each season – with much less work – and without the need to add synthetic fertilizers. It also allows you to concentrate all of your compost and soil building efforts in the specific 18″ wide space of the row, not wasting them all over the garden.  For more on maintaining your beds, see : Keeping Beds Productive.

If you have always wanted to garden – but don’t think you can because you don’t have a rototiller, great soil, or endless hours of extra time – raised row gardening really can be the answer. It has worked wonders for us!

In addition to the references above – you can also check out our entire section on raised row gardening on the blog here : How To Garden With Raised Rows, and How and Why To Plant Cover Crops.

If you would like to receive our DIY & Gardening  Tips every Tuesday – be sure to sign up to follow the blog via email in the right hand column, “like” us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary!

10 thoughts on “Raised Row Gardening Basics – A Simple, Hassle Free Way To Grow A Great Garden Next Year!

  • August 12, 2014 at 2:09 pm
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    Do you place your plastic covering over your garden plot at the end of every year? Or just the first initial year? Also do you plant specific plants that keep pests, like deer, away? I have spent nearly the last two hours reading your website! I just love your generosity, thank you so much for sharing and helping.

  • February 15, 2014 at 7:12 pm
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    what do you use for top soil? do you purchase it?

  • January 3, 2014 at 9:34 am
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    I really like this idea. It would not work for me as I have chickens (from neighbors) that go around and scratch until the dirt is displaced. They would destroy the raised beds. Plus some crops like more than 12 inches of soil to send their roots down so I would till first and then raise the bed.

  • December 16, 2013 at 10:01 am
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    I found your post at the Homestead Barn Hop! Great post on raised beds. I can’t wait to have my own soon. Thanks for the great read!

  • December 3, 2013 at 2:35 pm
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    You always have such great information here. I’d love for you to share it on the Maple Hill Hop today! Continued blessings…

  • December 3, 2013 at 10:25 am
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    Have you already posted part 3 and 4 I can’t seem to find anything for these two parts.

    Dwight

    Date: Tue, 3 Dec 2013 13:03:43 +0000 To: fireplug7849@msn.com

  • December 3, 2013 at 10:25 am
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    How do you turn under your rye or other cover crop/green manure?

  • December 3, 2013 at 8:10 am
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    We’re planning a straw bale garden for this spring – any experiences with that ? Lots of similar pros between the two approaches.

    • December 3, 2013 at 9:33 am
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      My wife and I did the straw bale garden for a couple of years. Had some success with those.

      • December 3, 2013 at 10:27 am
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        Our urban setting is another factor for us trying the straw bale approach. Ultimately we have plans for 3 rows , with 5 bales per row. 1st year is going to be one row to get things down then expand the following year.

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