Gardening season is almost upon us which means now is the time to think, plan and dream up our spring gardens

If you’re a beginner gardener, you may be wondering which type of garden bed will work best for you: raised or sunken?

As much as this decision seems guided by aesthetics, it’s more important to take your soil conditions and region into account. Choosing the right type of bed will ensure that your garden plants thrive in their perfect environment.

Each has its advantages, so let’s look at the pros and cons of both and see which garden bed best suits your climate and yard conditions...

Raised garden beds

raised garden bedsPhoto by Priscilla Du Preez on UnsplashRaised garden beds have grown in popularity over the last few years, both for the beauty and the ease that they bring to gardening. They have allowed new gardeners to test out their new hobbies with small plots, and since they’re lifted off the ground, raised beds are easier on gardeners’ backs during weeding, watering and harvesting.

Raised beds are useful in regions with a more temperate climate where the rainfalls are plenty as they keep plant roots from becoming waterlogged. Since raised beds are known to dry out more quickly, they do increase the need for watering, but that can be amended through using mulch and compost to help absorb and hold moisture. Raised beds also naturally allow you to extend your gardening season as they warm up earlier in the spring.

With being so high up, they create an advantage for those with dogs in the yard or with a critter problem. Although, beneficial insects like worms may have a harder time moving into your garden, especially if built on a concrete or wooden slab.

If choosing to build a raised bed, you’ll need to purchase some new materials or you can try to repurpose materials like bricks, wood and containers. You’ll also need to buy soil and swap it out every few years.

Sunken garden beds

sunken garden bedPhoto by peng wang on UnsplashWhere raised beds promote better drainage, sunken beds are below ground level and are designed to maximize water collection and store water until it can be absorbed by the soil. They also provide a little shelter from the blistering sun while keeping things cooler in hotter climates. They’re most useful in areas where little rain occurs, such as desert-like climates or drought stricken areas.

In climates prone to flooding, sunken beds can be problematic as they take advantage of sparse rainfall. If you’re really set on sunken beds, the solution can be digging and creating drainage around the beds so they don’t overfill with water and drown the plants.

The perk to sunken beds is that you can practice no-dig gardening. Although digging is traditionally practiced in a sunken bed, we’ve now learned that it disrupts the soil life and promotes weeds and poor soil quality early on. We want to avoid digging in order to keep the soil structure intact so that it can successfully retain moisture in drier climates.

You won’t need many materials aside from some cardboard and compost and soil to start off your no-dig sunken bed. Adding compost also helps to hold moisture while adding a slow release of nutrients, and you can also top the bed off with a thick layer of mulch to prevent water from evaporating.

When it comes to raised versus sunken beds, both have their benefits and their setbacks. It all has to do with working with changing climates and environmental conditions. Check soil conditions before starting your garden and be mindful of changes in weather in your region so that your garden bed(s) can be the most successful in your area.