Raised-bed gardening means growing plants in soil raised above ground level. You can make this possible by forming a mound before flattening the top. That may or may not hold together. As such, Almanac points out it is more common for raised garden beds to be enclosed in freestanding boxes open at the top and the bottom.
Of course, other shapes are also possible. Wood was the traditional material, though brick and stone saw occasional use. Nowadays, metal has emerged as another popular option for interested individuals. Sources such as Grow Your Yard say there are both pros and cons of metal raised garden beds, meaning you need to do more research before you can make the right choice for yourself.
What Are the Pros of Metal Raised Garden Beds?
Here are the pros of metal raised garden beds according to Wildyards and other sources:
Easy to Install
If you care about ease of installation, you will want to consider raised garden beds made using metal. Generally speaking, you can expect these to come flat-packed. However, if you want, you can find examples that come pre-built. Either way, raised garden beds made using metal are about as easy to set up as raised garden beds get.
Manufacturers have a keen awareness that frustrated customers don’t make for repeat customers. Thanks to that, they put serious effort into making sure that their flat-packed products are as easy to put together as possible. As such, you should have no problem installing your raised garden beds made using metal.
Less Need For Time and Effort
On a related note, ease of installation means you need to put less time and effort into your raised garden beds. Once you have installed them, you can fill them up before proceeding to your gardening. This is critical if you have a very busy schedule, meaning you need to be as efficient about these things as possible. After all, if you can’t do so, you might not be able to do raised-bed gardening at all.
The single greatest benefit of raised garden beds made using metal would be their increased durability, which translates into longer-lasting usefulness than otherwise possible. Exact numbers can see variation from case to case for a wide range of reasons. For example, some metals are more durable than others.
Similarly, some soils are harsher on metal than others. Even so, the fundamental fact of the matter is that metal lasts longer than wood and other common materials. Indeed, the common claim is that raised garden beds made using metal can last 20 years or more, which is more than twice what you can expect from raised garden beds made using metal.
With that said, there is an enormous difference between metal expected and not expected to see this kind of use. Steel is an alloy of iron and carbon, meaning it rusts when exposed to air and moisture. Fortunately, it is possible to coat it using less reactive materials, which insulate it from its surroundings. The National Materials Company points out that galvanized steel is popular for a couple of reasons.
One, it is coated in zinc, which protects it from rust. Two, it comes with minimal fuss and hassle, thus making it an excellent choice for people who want to start using it as soon as possible.
This means you should choose rust-resistant steel for your raised garden beds because you will get much poorer results from its non-rust-resistant counterpart. Much the same goes for other metals, many of which can also undergo corrosion.
What Are the Cons of Metal Raised Garden Beds?
For comparison, here are the cons of metal raised garden beds according to Bountiful Gardener and other sources:
Not So Easy to Build
Some people enjoy making raised garden beds using wood. That is still possible using metal. Unfortunately, it is a much more difficult process requiring more expertise, experience, and equipment. This may or may not be an issue depending on what you want from your raised garden beds.
For instance, if you want something standard, you can just buy that from the manufacturers. In contrast, if you want something more customized, you are going to have issues unless you are already capable of doing metalworking.
You get what you pay for. Metal is the longest-lasting material. Sadly, it is also the most expensive material. Chances are good you will pay several times the price for raised garden beds made using wood when you choose raised garden beds made using metal.
Still, you may win out in the long run because you need to take repair and replacement costs into account when choosing between competing possibilities. Just like how metal deteriorates faster under certain circumstances, wood also deteriorates faster under certain circumstances.
In particular, high humidity is bad for their durability, particularly when it is a softwood unsuited for such conditions rather than a hardwood adapted for the same. Always consider local factors when choosing between the two because what is true in one environment is by no means guaranteed to be true in another environment.
Harder to Source
On a related note, sourcing is one of the reasons that metal is so expensive compared to wood. Most of the time, you aren’t going to be able to just get either galvanized steel or something comparable from someone you know.
Even if you choose to scavenge metal, there is a good chance that it has started corroding, which is not what you want for your raised garden beds. In contrast, you can get wood for your raised garden beds.
Yes, there are some potential issues with doing so. For example, wood is sometimes treated using methods and materials that make it unsuitable for making raised garden beds.
Similarly, scavenged wood isn’t necessarily the kind of wood that will make for the greatest durability. Despite this, it is hard to compete with something that is either free or next-to-free when it comes to cost comparison.
Metal isn’t as good an insulator as wood. Due to that, it heats faster during the summer and cools faster during the winter. These are not good things. Plants don’t do well when they are exposed to temperatures that fall beyond their tolerances.
Poorer insulation increases the chances of that happening because of the swiftness with which the soil temperatures can change. You can plan around these issues. To name an example, if you are concerned about your raised garden beds becoming too hot, you can put them somewhere out of the direct sun.
The issue is that this planning will mean more expenditure of time and effort. That is particularly true if you are using raised garden beds that can’t be moved once they are in place, thus making it that much more important for you to avoid any mistakes.
What Is the Point of Using Raised Garden Beds?
If you want to get a full understanding of the pros and cons of metal raised garden beds, you also need to include the benefits of using raised garden beds according to Fine Gardening and other sources:
Less Prep Work
For starters, raised garden beds mean less prep work. You can expect to have to put a great deal of time and effort into getting them ready for use at the start of things. After that, you can start benefiting from less prep work for various reasons.
One example is how you don’t need to dig around to loosen the soil because you won’t be compacting it by walking on it. Another example is how you don’t need to remove rocks, sticks, and other unwanted items because you have much more control over what goes into the soil. Put together, you can save a fair amount of time and effort at the start of every growing season.
Get Started Earlier in the Growing Season
Speaking of which, you can get started earlier in the growing season if you set up raised garden beds. To an extent, this is because their higher elevation makes them easier to heat, meaning they can start supporting life sooner in spring than their ground-bound counterparts.
Raised garden beds made using metal are particularly convenient in this regard. As mentioned earlier, they heat faster than their wooden counterparts, meaning they can give quite a head start when compared with the latter.
Unrivaled Control Over the Soil
You have limited control over ground-bound beds. Certainly, you can make changes. However, you have to work with the soil that you have in considerable part unless you are willing to go to unreasonable lengths to get exactly what you want.
Speaking bluntly, if you want that much control over the soil, you should just set up raised garden beds because those give you unrivaled control over their contents.
Simply put, you are responsible for filling them up, so you get to fill them using whatever you want rather than whatever you have on hand. This kind of control enables you to do things you wouldn’t be able to do with ground-bound beds.
Fewer Threats to the Plants
Raised garden beds are more protected from potential threats. First, you have control over the soil you use to fill them. That means you should be able to choose soil that is free from pests and pathogens, thus making it that much more difficult for those to get access to your plants.
Second, there is a wide range of pest animals that can’t get access to raised garden beds. For example, animals can’t exactly burrow their way through empty air when raised garden beds are standing clear of the ground. Similarly, animals can’t exactly chew their way through solid metal when raised garden beds have been surrounded using said material.
Third, weeds have a harder time sprouting up in raised garden beds, meaning they won’t be choking out desirable plants by consuming the same resources. On the whole, raised garden beds are much better than their ground-bound counterparts for fending off potential threats even though they aren’t perfect in this regard.
Reduce Soil Erosion
Soil erosion has been a major issue since time immemorial because it damages one of the fundamental factors that make most forms of plant life possible. Unfortunately, there isn’t a single cause of soil erosion. Instead, there is a whole host of them. Some of these causes are slow and hard to notice.
In contrast, others are much more blatant. Sadly, soil erosion can affect you even if you are just a home gardener, meaning you need to look out for the problem. Otherwise, you could find your soil becoming less and less capable of supporting plants.
Raised garden beds can’t protect your soil from every cause of soil erosion. Still, they can help out with some of the most common by holding the soil in place.
Gardening can be tough. It isn’t uncommon to hear stories about people putting serious strain on their bodies by holding awkward positions and otherwise stressing themselves by doing so.
This is particularly important for older individuals because they tend to be less capable of bearing that strain than their younger selves, which can make for pain and other unwelcome outcomes.
Raised garden beds bring the soil closer to them, meaning they don’t need to stress themselves quite as much. Something that can save them a fair amount of suffering in the long run.
Should You Use Metal Raised Garden Beds?
Summed up, raised garden beds offer a lot of benefits without much in the way of drawbacks. Instead, the bigger issue is choosing the right material for those raised garden beds. If you are either working with a budget or want something customized for your particular preferences, you should use wood.
Alternatively, if you just want to spend as much of your spare time on gardening as possible without being concerned about the upfront costs, you should use metal for the best results. Be warned that your local conditions should also influence your choice because not every material is equally well-suited for every environment.
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