Raised beds – what are the benefits?

Our method of growing veg is using permanent raised beds, using minimum till, which essentially means we don’t rotivate and turn the soil upside down every year using heavy machinery or a lot of spade work.

In case you hadn’t noticed (!), it hasn’t stopped raining for the last couple of months which is posing a few challenges. It makes weeding much harder and it’s not very pleasant to be working outside with your feet encased in mud and water working its way through your waterproofs. However, because of the raised beds we can still work on the field, unlike those that rely on heavy machinery.

Woodchip paths

A lot of the raised beds are separated by paths that have wood chip down which serves a number of purposes:

  1. It looks nice!
  2. It acts as an amazing soak for all the rain, slowing it’s movement off our land
  3. It suppresses the weeds and grasses which try and compete with our crops.
  4. The woodchip is full of beneficial fungi that helps feed our soil
  5. Means you can work in the rain without creating a mud bath.

*The aim is to get wood chip down between all the raised beds. We always need more of both wood chip and time to get it to the places we need it!

Raised beds used for market gardening with woodchip paths

Perhaps there will be a forced switch from machine and chemically assisted intensive mass produced farming to a farming that can access the land and grow food despite the weather.  

About half of our beds are now ready for planting – this means that they aren’t really weedy. They may have last years crops still growing/flowering like the kale and sprouts but we can leave these for the pollinators until a couple of weeks before we need to plant out the next rotation. I’m hoping the land will dry out sufficiently so that we can get the two wheeled tractor on and flail mow the crops in situ. This is considerably less work and less disruptive to the soil than digging everything out. If it doesn’t dry out in the next month, we’ll be getting the spades out!

In the poly tunnel and greenhouse

Whilst it has been raining though we have also been very busy in the greenhouse. My spreadsheets are telling me to be sowing more and more and that we need to start getting seedlings into the ground.

My list of sowings in the green house since the last update:

  • 12 courgettes (24 to be thinned out to 12) 
  • Nasturtiums  – 6 varieties 
  • Firework chard x 72
  • Ring of Fire chillies x 28 pricked out
  • Marmande tomatoes approx 40 sown
  • Lettuce di Canarino approx 80 sown
  • Prize pak choi approx 80 sown
  • Lavender multi sown  – will need thinning  – this is hopefully to be made into a hedge
  • Chives 4 pots
  • Coriander  4 pots
  • Spinach – approx 80 plants
  • Llema lettuces  40 plants
  • Black Tuscany cavalo nero kale sown – approx 80 plants
  • Super Aqua Dulce broad beans 60 plants (120 – to be thinned out)
  • Tray of Sturon onions

In the poly tunnel we are starting to see the first signs of aphids / white fly on the lettuces. This is a little bit annoying and it seems to be earlier than last year. Although I don’t have an exact date for when they arrived last year and perhaps as it was unseasonably warm this time last year it might have just felt later than it was.

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