Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sunken-bed vegetable gardening in Central Florida

I've posted previously on sunken bed gardening in arid regions. (Ours isn't arid most of the year, but it shares characteristics with arid regions.) I'd like to say that my sunken bed in front is intentional, but it came about when I needed a few cubic feet of fill for a construction project in my backyard. I filled the large (ten-by-ten) trench with a couple cubic feet of topsoil and compost, but apparently not quite enough. After the soil settled, I ended up with a bed sunken maybe five inches. That bed has been incredibly prolific this season (see the photos below), and very easy to keep watered. Much easier, in any case, than my beds in back, which aren't exactly traditional raised beds, but resemble raised beds. (I have spent several years filling in these beds with compost, leaves, mulch, etc. They appear to be level beds, but that's only because I have raised the entire area by several inches. I was digging in a spot yesterday and found an old brick buried under four inches of soil, mulch, leaves--a couple of years ago, it had lain on the surface of the garden, and somehow gotten inadvertently buried under successive seasonal plantings...)

In any case, the one problem I can see in sunken-bed gardening is our heavy rainfalls causing flooding, erosion, root rot, etc. All the problems that people who garden in heavy, silty soils experience. S far, this hasn't been a problem with our arid spring. We did have torrential rains in early April, and I didn't notice any problems after four or five inches of rain. But time will tell.

I know people in Central Florida who have had some good success with raised-bed gardens, but they have some obvious drawbacks here, including increased transpiration/evaporation that makes proper watering difficult, and the fact that they tend to get infested with pests and diseases. My friend Bill, from whom I learned a lot about gardening in Florida, used raised beds for several years, but ended up dismantling them when the diseases and pests got too bad. He blames the raised beds, specifically, for the mounting problems in his garden.

1 comment:

David The Good said...

I'm definitely going to have to experiment more with sunken beds. Might even start on one this afternoon, if weather allows.

I posted a link today to your other article on watering - and plugged you on the homepage at The advice you share will definitely be helpful to my readers and I want to send them back your way - thank you.