Growing plants in raised beds solves many of the problems involved in plant culture. Although certain plants grow well in boggy soil, the vast majority of plants thrive only when soil is well-drained and loose enough for roots to grow without resistance from compaction. While permanent raised beds with constructed borders -- such as boards, rocks or other edging -- is common, the Peter Chan method creates raised beds by mounding dirt. According to Mr. Chan, the Chinese have used borderless raised beds to grow plants successfully for many centuries.
1. Stake Out Your Plan
Planning your Peter Chan raised-bed garden includes the basic elements of plant culture, such as locating shade plants in the shade and full-sun plants where they can receive at least six hours of sunlight each day. With your proposed plants light requirements in mind, stake out the area for your raised bed. While the length of a garden bed can vary, the Peter Chan system uses 4-foot wide beds. Place stakes at the four corners of your bed. String twine between the stakes to keep your edges straight.
2. You Gotta Dig It
Drainage is the main feature of a Peter Chan raised-bed garden. To ensure good transition from the mound of soil -- raised bed -- to the soil below, you have to dig the bed site before you create the raised bed. Beginning in the center of the bed, turn soil a spade's depth deep. Work from the center outward to the bed boundaries. According to Chan and Gill in "Better Vegetable Gardens the Chinese Way: Peter Chan's Raised-Bed System," Chinese farmers used to tell their youngsters, "Dig your soil deep and good, and plant shallow."
3. Raise Your Bed to New Heights
Using good quality top soil mixed with amendments such as compost and well-rotted manure, mound dirt on your bed. The finished height of your Peter Chan raised garden should be 6 inches. Using a garden rake or hoe, taper the sides of the bed so that the top surface of your 4-foot-wide garden is 3 feet wide. Complete a raised bed by digging a small furrow around the base of the bed to catch water run-off.
4. Reap the Benefits
Gardening with the Peter Chan raised-bed method gives you an early start in spring because raised beds warm up faster than the surrounding soil. With good drainage and an amenable root run, plants in raised beds grow faster and produce higher yields. The Ohio State University Extension reports yields per square foot of a raised-bed garden can be double the yields of a conventional garden. Other benefits include the need for less water for irrigation because only the beds are watered instead of an entire location and compaction of paths, which keeps weeds and vegetation down.
- Better Vegetable Gardens the Chinese Way; Peter Chan and Spencer Gill
- The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation: Permanent Raised Bed Gardening
- Ohio State University Extension: Raised Bed Gardening
- Sunset: How to Make Good Planting Beds
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