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Allotment: To plant in raised beds or not?


I was wondering what everyone's preference is, and why, when it comes to planting veg in raised beds.

The reason for my asking is because I will be obtaining my allotment space real soon and I am trying to plan ahead as much as possible.

There is a part of me that thinks I should divide the space I have into raised beds, but the other half obviously is saying to just stick the veg into the ground.

I will be trying the "no dig" method (the one Charles Dowding uses)   but really stuck on the raising of beds or not :neutral:


  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 34,053
    I'd say, in an ideal world , raised beds are the way to go. 
    But, it's an allotment, it's not yours and you might not have it forever. 
    Think of the cost and time and effort involved in making them first. 
    Why not mark out where the "raised" bed will go and just start working on them this year. You can always add the edges at a later stage.
  • ZeroZero1ZeroZero1 Posts: 577
    Raised beds don't have to be very raised, essentially they are just a hard barrier between path and gardening soil. On our allotment people use decking boards, which are relatively inexpensive. 
    It's about weeding and mowing if you have grass. without boards the weeds infiltrate into your veg. It will take a while for the veg soil to become clear of weeds anyway, but on the whole raised beds organise your plots and i for one am very pleased I have them. Perhaps you can put down wood chips in between as a weed suppressant
  • Thanks for the replies.

    I'm not sure if this is common or not but this allotment seems to come with quite a few 'free' perks: -

    They receive a tonne of wood chippings from a local tree surgeon
    Lots of free wood (some of the guys are builders on site and they take all the scrap wood)
    Lots of horse manure
    Pallets and Cable Drums.

    So to build a raised bed would only cost me screws/nails technically and laying down wood chips will also be a free viable option too.

    I think deep down I will do raised beds when I can because I also have 3 young boys that I want to be hands on on their own little plot I want to design for them situated on my plot as its going to be pretty big actually and I think raised beds for them would be better to prevent squished veg.

    But other than that there isn't really any disadvantage to raised bed growing is there?
  • I had the same ideas to raise or not I have decided not having looked around at other adjacent plot holders and the cost.

    But as you say with three young boys and free materials then I would say go for it they don't need to be high just six inches would work remember they need filling and that can take a huge amount of material.
    "A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in."
  • The no-dig method is fine if you have someone working full-time to remove weeds, in a walled garden with meticulous planting that allows no space for weeds to get in-between.  My allotment is surrounded by plots covered in weeds on a site surrounded by weeds. I work full time, have children and a garden at home that needs attention.

    I rotovate at least once a year, before planting and [only] hoe after that.
    With raised beds you can only weed by hand, your beds and the paths in between require a lot of effort to keep weed free (and this is usually what causes people to give up their plots). Cheap weed sheet actually makes things worse as it decays after year two or gets covered in enough mud so that weeds just grow on top.

    Raised beds also dry out quicker, so your watering effort will have to be greater.

    I've seen a lot of people spend time setting up 'perfect' allotments and when the weeds take over after the first year they can't face starting all over again.  I'm sorry to sound negative, I just want to help you make an informed decision so you have something where you're happy with the effort required to sustain it. 

    If I may suggest it, why not create one or two raised beds to start with and see how you find working with them for a season (don't forget something that helps you net them easily).  Good luck, let us know how you get on.

  • NewBoy2NewBoy2 Posts: 1,813
    I have two proper raised beds both 30 inches high and 48 inches square. It gives  a great depth for parsnips , carrots and other root vegs.
    easy to weed and harvest from
    Scaffolding boards cut length and filled with alternate layers of top soil and manure and topped up every season.

    Agree with Zero.

    Raised beds don't have to be very raised, essentially they are just a hard barrier between path and gardening soil.

    Allotment growing is like a buffet.......try a bit of everything
    Everyone is just trying to be Happy.....So lets help Them.
  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 34,053
    I think, and I might be wrong, that Charles Dowding says the " no dig" means less weeds, because, he says , most weeds germinate after the ground has been "turned" as it brings weeds to the surface.
    After over 40 years of turning the ground over, I'm having to fight the temptation to dig, but , I think it's working.
  • debs64debs64 Posts: 4,921
    I use raised beds on my allotment with clippings for paths 
    only my first year but going well so far 
  • NollieNollie Posts: 7,053
    I have raised beds because I have thin soil on top of rock, so they were essential to get any planting depth. 6 beds, 1.2m x 3.2m. If I had deep soil, would I bother? Probably, it is easier to keep tidy and weed-free. 

    My main problem is bindweed, it keeps coming up from under the paths and invading the beds - it’s difficult to try and dig it out by the planks as the roots are so long. I recently created another bed and cleared as much as I could, laid down three thick layers of cardboard and built the frame on top, with the cardboard overlapping outside the frame. Within a couple of weeks, fresh bindweed was pushing up through the cardboard. Just a cautionary tale, check with other allotmenteers if they have any problems and try and eradicate all perennial weeds before building your beds!

    I think if I were to start afresh, I would, depth permitting, grow in the ground for a year first, to see what horrors appear because I think they might be easier to deal with on open ground.
    Mountainous Northern Catalunya, Spain. Hot summers, cold winters.
  • Allotment BoyAllotment Boy Posts: 6,171
    edited August 2018
    As always there are advantages & disadvantages and many have been listed already. I agree it is essential to get rid of perennial weeds first if you are to succeed with raised beds. It is worth noting that charles Dowding says he often used a frame (wooden Boards) to make the bed but when established he takes it off so the bed is just a raised mound. This is because the boards can be a refuge for slugs snails & other pests. On our Allotments we have  people with both open plots & raised beds. Many start with raised beds & then return to open site later. If you are going to try no dig then beds are essential.
    AB Still learning

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