Raised Beds for Vegetable Production in Urban Agriculture

Elizabeth A. Miernicki, Sarah Taylor Lovell, Sam E. Wortman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Core Ideas: Infiltration rate, but also irrigation demand, was highest in compost raised beds. Compost in raised beds reduced the need for mineral fertilization across two seasons. Weed abundance in raised beds increased when top soil was mixed with compost. Crop yield was usually highest in raised beds, regardless of media composition. Raised beds are commonly used in urban agriculture, but crop production benefits have not been well studied. The objective of this 2-yr field experiment in Illinois was to determine the effects of urban production system (direct soil, raised bed with compost, or raised bed with mixed compost and soil) and fertilizer source on growing media properties, weed abundance, and vegetable crop yield. Due to the presence of compost, raised bed media had higher pH, organic matter, and nutrient concentrations. Water infiltration rate was 20× higher in raised beds with compost only compared to soil. Mixing soil with compost in raised beds reduced nutrient concentrations and water infiltration rate compared to compost-only beds. Compost-only raised beds required more irrigation than direct soil due to lower bulk density and greater porosity, but mixing soil with compost in raised beds reduced irrigation demand by 32% in year two. Compared to direct soil, compost-only raised beds reduced grass and broadleaf weed abundance by as much as 97 and 93%, respectively. Radish (Raphanus sativus L.), kale (Brassica oleracea L.), and cilantro (Coriandrum sativum L.) yields were highest in raised beds, regardless of growing media composition, whereas garlic (Allium sativum L.) and pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) yields were less influenced by production system. We recommend raised beds with a mix of compost and soil for vegetable production in urban agriculture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalUrban Agriculture and Regional Food Systems
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Plant Science
  • Horticulture


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