A labor-saving tip that I recently came across suggested consolidating crops in raised beds to reduce our gardening workload.
The idea isn't new and it does have merit, but gardening in raised beds still requires effort. I find it very satisfying despite the annual chores that I'll be facing once again in the next couple of months.
My first vegetable and strawberry beds suffered from poor soil. When I learned how to amend by mixing in compost and aged manures and scooping up soil between beds, the growing areas became raised almost by themselves, with pathways all around.
Yet these growing areas still required the same attention that any other garden bed needed — replenished organic matter, watering, weeding and fertilizing.
The greatest advantage was not less labor but improved drainage in winter and easier irrigation in other seasons.
I became committed to my simple raised beds until raccoons succeeded in dislodging the rock borders and moles created even more havoc as they probed for worms under the mulch.
It was time for more permanent structures.
Thanks to my husband's expertise, most of my vegetable garden now consists of three boxes, 12 feet long by 4 feet wide by 2 feet high, built with 2 x 12 pressure-treated boards and 4-inch posts, topped with 2 x 6 redwood trim all around, wide and sturdy enough for sitting and holding containers as I work.
Although the lumber is considered no threat to edibles, I lined the interior sides with heavy-duty black plastic. Quarter-inch hardware cloth covers the bottom.
Despite their good looks, convenient height and sturdy construction that protects crops from critters, these beds are not maintenance-free.