Raised Beds Description and Rent policy

See also Constructing raised beds for practical suggestions.

Description

A raised bed is simply an area of ground raised above the level of surrounding soil to provide a small unit for cultivation. The basic idea is to provide an area that can be easily worked by hand without standing on the cultivated area. The soil can be a specialist type, or simply filled with mulch, compost, manure and soil from any handy source. Usually the bed is surrounded by a robust border made from wood, bricks or other long-lasting materials, to "contain and constrain" the soil.

Why raised beds?

In the context of this article, an allotment site may be seeking to accommodate new gardeners who have little time or experience and would benefit from having a smaller cultivation area. A raised bed enables beginners to gain confidence before migrating to a standard allotment plot. In some areas of Ealing the density of housing means that there may be a long waiting list. The availability of rentable raised beds could help alleviate this.

The availability of such beds, also offers older, or disabled tenants an opportunity to continue to enjoy the social and health benefits of allotment gardening while having less burden of work. A further driving force is that a number of Ealing allotment sites are seeking to get more involved with the local community. They are building links with local groups such as schools, Scout and Beaver groups who, with some parental assistance, are keen to get gardening experience but don’t have the capability for taking on a whole allotment plot.

Who organises their provision?

Whatever their purpose, if beds are to be installed, clearly somebody has to organise their construction, maintenance and supervision. Site Managers are volunteers: if they want to take on these responsibilities all well and good but as a general rule it is probably best if there is a thriving local allotment society on site that is willing to take on the job. A good rule of thumb is, if a site cannot organise work parties for helping with their installation and continued maintenance, it should not be thinking of installing them in the first place.

Rent considerations

For the year commencing October 2018, Ealing Council have recommended a price range of £15 to £25 for about 4 sq. metres. Approximately £5 per sq. metre. No reduction consideration for benefits or age. The rent is intended to reflect the cost of building the raised bed with a contribution to ongoing maintenance over about 5 years.

The raised is treated as a 'plot' for record keeping, being provided with a number for site and council records.

What rules apply?

Rentable raised beds are part of the site inventory and subject to the same tenancy agreement as applied to all sites and tenants. The same rules, including those covering non-cultivation, apply as to any other allotment plot. Depending on local demand a tenant may rent one or two raised beds. However, they may not rent a plot at the same time. A short overlap may be allowed if transferring from one to the other.

Please refer to Ealing Council (https://www.ealing.gov.uk) for a copy of the current allotment rules and guidance.

Practical Benefits and Problems

Benefits

  • Better drainage by avoiding standing water
  • Can provide specialist composts or soil
  • Crop yield can be better than planting in open ground
  • Weeds may be supressed by closer planting
  • Create deeper growing medium for long root plants
  • People can feel a smaller area is easier to manage
  • Small area is easier to cover and protect
  • Reduced digging
  • Work easier from surrounding path
  • Helps people with mobility difficulties

Problems

  • Will require regular watering
  • Will require a lot of soil and material to fill the space
  • Will require topping up each year
  • Rotation of planting is still beneficial
  • Serious pest infection can be difficult to be rid of
  • Space between beds needs to be maintained to allow access
  • Surround (wood, bricks or other) needs to be maintained, and eventually replaced