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.

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Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary!

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