The Great Debate: Raised Beds vs Design

I continually hear gardeners talk about raised beds as if it’s a holy grail.

I hate bursting bubbles, but this cookie cutter approach to gardening and life needs to end. Lets begin.

Better Water Retention
Yes, when you build a bed and fill it up with healthy soil it will retain water better. However, this is true of all garden beds with healthy living soil, not just raised beds. Living soil helps to retain, capture, and recirculate water endlessly as organisms drink, pee and eat each other in the soil biome. You can do this without building a box.

There is a downside to raised beds and water retention in particular areas. Here in Texas, we tend to have high winds and high heat through a large portion of our year. When you raise anything, it’ll catch more wind. Water will wick away much more quicker when you raise your garden bed. Heat rises and will have a similar effect as the wind. These two things combined and you’ll have to drown the soil to get the moisture to stick around. 

Less Weeding
This is partially true. You’ll live weed free for a while, but nothing stops weed seeds if you continually till the soil. Enjoy it while it lasts. The best way to eliminate weeds is again to build on soil and to eliminate the tillage. The weed seeds are adapted to frequent soil disturbances. Eliminate tilling and there are no more weeds.

Warmer Soil + Earlier and Longer Season
This is more true for colder climates. Texas has a growing season that is all year round. You can extend the year longer for particular crops, but if you are willing to wait a few weeks, you can get away with doing less work for similar yields. In colder climates, the need to get crops started earlier is more apparent since their growing season is shorter compared to Texas.

Every Garden is Raised and Other Considerations
When you build soil, you are raising the bed without the frames and the extra materials. You’ll have more gardening space without the frames, and it’s much easier to change a design over time to something that could be more functional. In my opinion, the main driving force to raised bed gardening comes from advice from people who are already doing it and have established credibility in the field. The majority then follows and it spreads. This is true of many other fields and disciplines and not just gardening. The sad truth is that although it worked in their area, it doesn’t always replicate itself in another location or condition.

The Greater Debate
This brings us to the greater realm of design. The first step is identifying the building blocks and the limitations enabling a greater realm of creation to unfold. Copying ideas can be successful when the elements of design are taken into consideration for various climates and conditions. Otherwise, ideas should be constructively criticized and thoughtfully questioned.

So. . do you raise a garden bed? You can, but think about the factors that are going to interact with the garden, and you may find other paths instead.

Breaking Boxes

People find every little reason to box your ideas in. I assume it’s done with the positive intention to inform; however, it most often has the criticism with no constructive value to it. It’s simply there to bog you down.

You have to consider these rules and regulations before doing anything. That’s going to take a lot of money and time. There’s no money in that. and so on. .

This phenomenon of criticizing starts at an early age of a child when parents and teachers are telling us, “NO!,” without explaining why not. From there, it snow balls into an idea that we cannot do anything without someone holding our hands.

My suggestion is to unlearn the idea of “NO,” break down the mental boxes and go for it. We have all the resources and knowledge available to us at our figure types. The only reason you need to move forward is if you love it. You don’t need another reason why.

Self-Reflection: Face Yourself

Do it! As soon as you can.

Here’s the rundown. When we are working on our passions and life legacy, it’s hard to see through our own eyes the areas we really need to work on. It’s easy to see the successes. It’s easy to report our wins and ignore the losses.

The shortcomings and challenges we face hit our blind sides or they blur out around our peripheral vision. It’s hard to face the mountain we have to climb. It’s difficult to face up to the reality of a huge portion of ourself, the failures. Many times, we don’t see what’s happening and it continues to happen because of unconscious ignorance.

The cure to unconscious ignorance? Mindful observation, self-reflection, documentation. I’ve been working as a part time educator and a part time gardener. I reflect everyday on what’s going well and what needs work in the garden. As a teacher, it’s difficult to see myself, what I’m saying and doing in the classroom. I get feedback from other teachers, but it’s difficult to get the reality of what’s going on. To change the paradigm of ignorance, my co-worker and I are going to video our lessons, reflect on what we’re doing well, and find potential solutions to our shortcomings, continually challenging us to become better educators.

It won’t be easy at first, it’ll most likely be humiliating, but that’s what makes it fun. In time, we’ll make great strides through many laughable moments and failures, warriors in the field of education and cultivating yourself.

Learn, Re-learn, Unlearn

Creating the person you want to be requires a set of skills or learning, relearning and unlearning. Nobody has all of the answers so we seek out ways to find solutions to the problems we face, learning what the world has to offer. As time progresses, we find that we can improve on the model through mindful observation and relearning the finer details of what we’re pursuing. Inevitably, a new model finds its way into the mix and requires a new way of seeing the world and unlearning it all to learn and relearn everything all over again.

The scribe is the perfect example. Knowledge and information was isolated to a singular group of people who could afford books and have the luxury to learn how to read and or write. In time, the Gutenberg press changed that paradigm, then the telephone, and the telegraph, radio, television, and today the world wide web. Scribes are everyone on facebook, their blog, tweeting, and participating in this grand sharing of information that was once a selective luxury.

The choice now is whether you put what you’re learning to good use, relearning it all to make it better, and unlearning antiquated ideas and methods to create new paradigms.