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Old school vs new school - raised beds

I wonder if ‘old school’ gardeners are anything like ‘old school’ skiers, or bikers, or even students. You know, they start every sentence off with “when I was (enter hobby/profession/age), I didn’t have any of this fancy stuff. I (skied on skis twice my size/only had two gears and my bike weighed 85 pounds/had to walk 5 miles to school and no one missed a day).”

Do these gardeners of yore need to mention that they only watered by hose, covered their plants with their kids’ blankets, and started all their plants on the dining room table in yogurt and sour cream containers? Heck, maybe I just described you, present-day; and by no means is there anything wrong with that. There are plenty of gardeners out there that roll by the mantra “keep it simple stupid” and when they come talk to me, I give them suggestions (with scientific support, no less) about the beauty of drip irrigation, or the effectiveness or frost cloth and plastic for cold protection. I show them photos of my setup for seedling starts – LED lights, heat mats, humidity domes – and they appear impressed. But then they bring out a photo (sometimes printed out) of their dining room table, their garden, and their harvest. And I’m impressed.

Whatever works for you and we all know our gardens better than anyone else. I have been gardening for twenty some-odd years, and over time I have figured out some things that I like – varieties, tools, seeding dates – and I tend to stick to those, regardless if there may be a better alternative. I have always planted my vegetables in raised beds or containers, and have had decent success. My pots of tomatoes or peppers have always been more maintenance, but I appreciate the ability to move them around, relocate, etc.

Until 2023. I had four containers that failed miserably and while it can be challenging to figure out the reason for failure (even though that is my day job), I have decided to make some changes in hopes of greater success. I painted the black plastic white to cool down the soil temperatures; I won’t plant such big plants so perhaps the transplant shock is lessened; and I am going to run drip irrigation to the pots so the “too wet, too dry” routine, especially when the summer heat settles in, is ameliorated. Less stress = more fruit. Hopefully.

Raised beds have been a component of all my gardens since I moved back to Durango in 2007. They “look” organized in my yard, which I appreciate as I can be a bit of an OCD gardener (everything has its place and loosey-goosey gives me the heebie-jeebies). But they also have actual gardening benefits: since they are raised they dry (and thus warm) more quickly in the spring I can get my cold-season crop in earlier; the dimensions lend themselves to a square-foot planting style; and in the fall when I apply a couple inches of leaves to the beds, they tend to stay put.

I have used everything from cinderblocks (not my favorite as they seem to pull water from the soil), to wood (no pressure treated allowed), and now have moved to steel. I am not sure if the steel has any real benefits other than stability and you can increase the height of the bed relatively easily, although not very cheaply.

And they look cool. Even to the old-schoolers that walk by.