Peter Chan plants three rows of lettuce 12 inches apart on top of a raised bed.

Raised Bed Gardening Using the Peter Chan Method

by Judy Kilpatrick

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.

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.

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."

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.

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.

About the Author

For Judy Kilpatrick, gardening is the best mental health therapy of all. Combining her interests in both of these fields, Kilpatrick is a professional flower grower and a practicing, licensed mental health therapist. A graduate of East Carolina University, Kilpatrick writes for national and regional publications.

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