Raised beds – a different approach

thegardener's picture
Dwarf apples in raised beds
Espaliered apple
Young fruit trees

Raised beds – a different approach
I was fascinated to discover recently a whole garden given to raised beds and polytunnels. To provide privacy to the residents the property line fence was the site for dwarf espaliered fruit trees. Although not often seen here, espaliered trees are ideal if you want to cover a linear bed with plenty of exposure to sun, and preferably away from cold winds. Typically, young branches are bent over and trained to grow horizontally, with say 10” vertical space between the horizontals, to create an arrangement we see in grape vine culture. With more dwarf varieties of apple becoming available you should have plenty of selection to choose from, but remember you may need specific varieties for pollination. The photos show a garden that is only two or three years old!
The most interesting thing I saw was the use of a layering technique in which centre of the bed had a three or four foot shrub, under which a lower vegetable or fruit crop was grown. This method is not restricted to raised beds but the intense cultivation gave the gardener big bang for buck. In one case a black-current bush was underlain by carrots, in another, cape gooseberries had a couple of other crops below it. (The cape gooseberries (physalis) tells us it was in a warmer climate than ours … warmer than zone 5).
The soil in the garden was very clay-rich, so constructing the raised beds allowed the importing of good quality light loam, a mixture of organics, sand, silt and clay providing good drainage and air movement along with nutrients, with a cover of mulch added annually. The beds were about 12 to 18” apart, with landscape fabric to prevent previous years’ perennial weeds from surviving, cover a by a couple of inches of gravel that was easy to remove wind-blown seedlings, and kept the gardener’s boots free from mud.
Glynn Wright.
Word count = 314, October 23, 2016
File: vol 6, # 9 .docx