I finished my first garden box over the last week. Many of those I have talked with over social media will likely be shocked by this revelation. I have not been kind to garden boxes in the past, and to be perfectly honest, I will not be kind to them in the future.
Thinking Outside the BoxThis is not because boxes are not useful; it is because garden boxes are used too often without gardeners knowing why they use them. Quite often I have someone ask me how much it costs to make one or say that they cannot do a garden because they are not able to afford a box. I ask them why they need a box to garden, then they give me a blank stare and eventually say, “But you need one to grow a vegetable garden…”
Reasons For the BoxYeah, I guess that means that every garden I grew before last week actually didn’t exist. And I suppose that means that the person asking me how to grow one should not be asking me about how to garden since I have been doing it wrong for decades! But that isn’t really the case is it? Most folks can grow a garden just fine in the soil outside their front or back door. In fact, the overall condition of soil in America is astoundingly good, and there are only a relatively few reasons to look at planting in a grow box rather than the existing soil:
- Handicap accessibility. This is one of the top reasons I see for grow boxes, especially for the beneficial mind-altering effects gardening has.
- There is existing concrete, asphalt or gravel where you would like to garden, or you need to make these areas productive.
- Ground water in the garden area is too high and you need to raise the garden to dry it out.
- A large number of rocks are in the soil and you are trying to grow a root or tuber crop.
- You are hoping for a head start in the early part of the year and you don’t need to worry about the bed cooling off early at the end of the season.
- You have tests that show that your soil is toxic and remediation is not a viable option.
Keep it SimpleI guess that you could put a seventh reason, that you just like tidy little boxes. But that would be the weakest reason since it is based on shear aesthetics. So I will leave it off the list, because personal taste can be so fickle. One of the other reasons that I could ad is that some people just seem to think that things will not work or is somehow massively better because it has a heavy human signature on the work. But that is also not true. There is no proof or even reasonable speculation that a high level of human manipulation is needed or beneficial. In fact, the more science I see the more I find that constant human manipulation is detrimental.
So when you are planning your garden, don’t get caught up in a costly “have to” and keep it simple unless you have a specific need you have to address. It will be cheaper in the long run and you are likely to have much more fun.