Rows or Raised Beds - Pros and Cons
I am just starting to lay out my first actual vegetable garden after a somewhat disappointing attempt at container gardening due to some rather extreme weather.
So here is my dilemma - Rows or raised beds. The garden plot is about 24 feet by 30 feet oriented with the 30 foot dimension going east/west. It will be in full sun for all but maybe an hour or two in the morning.
I am thinking of planting pole beans, bush beans, tomatoes, both determinate and indeterminate, broccoli, some lettuce, maybe corn, cantaloupe and squash, carrots and maybe garlic.
The plot I will be planting was a patch of ground that was used as a chicken pen last year and is covered with a layer of pine shavings and chicken poop that has had a fall and winter to decompose. I will till this up as best as I can but I have a major layer of clay just 4 or 5 inches below. I am having top soil brought into cover the whole plot to about 4 to 6 inches in additional depth.
Now comes the hard part. If I go with rows, I can run a walkway down the center and have 10 foot rows on either side, with the rows oriented north/south. I guess I will still need paths between the rows to get in to weed so I will be devoting a lot of space to pathways.
If, however, I go with raised beds, I can utilize more of the land surface for planting and I get to group my crops more logically, even to companion planting and make rotation easier for next year.
So raised beds seem to be the better option. However, preparing the garden for raised beds seems to be a lot more work, first starting in fall when I want to till everything under (including the walkways, which will be covered in pine shavings). I don't want to frame the beds, just "hill" them, so when I till, I don't have to undo all the frames. But running a rototiller up, down and through the beds won't be easy and will knock down the "hills" and I will have to go through the job of re-hilling them again next year. But if I go with rows, the slight hilling necessary for drainage and fertilizing will be duck soup when it comes to tilling everything under, right?
What are your thoughts? Have you done both? If so, which was better for you?