Snap! Crackle! Pop! No, these are not the sounds that come from your Rice Krispies when you pour milk on them. These are the sounds that come from your back and your joints every time you bend or squat. And it’s not only the sound, but it’s also the fury – the fury of pain that makes it more difficult to lower yourself down and lift yourself back up. Unfortunately, in-ground gardening requires that you do just that. For many people who can no longer bend or squat without pain, gardening seems like a pastime that’s now past its time. But it doesn’t have to be this way. If you can’t come down to the garden, then let the garden rise up to you.
I’m talking about building raised beds. Raised beds are a system of gardening in which the soil is formed in 3–4 foot (1.0–1.2 m) wide beds, which can be of any length or shape. Inside the bed, the soil is lifted above the surrounding ground and is held in place by a frame made of wood, rock, or concrete blocks. Raised beds can be as high or as low as you want them to be. If you can bend a moderate amount, then maybe you only need to raise the soil a few inches. On the other hand, if bending even a small amount yields an overabundance of discomfort, then you can raise the soil waist or chest high if need be. With a raised bed, you can still garden without having to bend or squat.
Raised beds also have several other advantages over conventional in-ground gardens. The soil in them warms up faster than that of conventional gardens, which means you can get your vegetables in the ground sooner. Raised beds are also easier to care for, as you don’t have to spend a lot of time watering and weeding them. And because they tend to be only about 3-4 feet wide, you can easily cultivate them without stepping inside and compacting the soil.
So if you find that your back and knees don’t take so kindly to bending anymore, don’t feel that you have to give up gardening entirely. You may just have to bring it to a whole new level.