SM and I are already taking about expanding the gardens again this fall.
When we expanded this year, I wanted a few more raised beds but I mostly wanted to "double dig" a patch of ground, amend it with compost and see what would happen.
Since I wanted to compare how things grew using the two different methods, I made sure I planted the same thing in both areas. (Exception corn, winter squashes, melons and pumpkins. Those are just too aggressive for a raised bed. As a matter fact the area they're currently in isn't large enough to contain them. Hence the expansion discussion.)
Since our summer temperatures run a pretty consistent mid 90's, I've noticed that the heat loving plants are adapting very well to the raised beds AND the "double dig"areas. But the "cooler" plants aren't liking the raised beds as much.
Take the green beans for example. The beans in the ground are a deep healthy green and are blooming nicely.
The beans in the raised bed are more "pale" in color (same compost used) and have been attacked by bugs and fungus more.
There's maybe 10-12 feet separating the two patches but I can already tell that the beans in the ground will produce. I'm not so sure the beans in the raised bed will. SM thinks the roots are getting too hot.
I have cucumbers growing in the same raised bed as the beans. They are a rich healthy green and are going bananas!
I wasn't planning on pickling this year but now SM is encouraging me to give it a shot. So they are loving the hotter soil where the beans don't.
The tomatoes and peppers in the raised beds set fruit at least two weeks ago.
The tomatoes and the peppers that are in the ground are also doing well but are just now blooming and setting fruit.
Last year the zucchini and yellow summer squashes did fabulously in the raised beds. This year its only OK production. Lots of male flowers. So I went and planted some extra in another raised bed and also in the ground.
The NC extension said I could "stagger" planting my beans (lima and green) until July. I planted two packets in raised beds 2 weeks ago but only 20% came up. Too hot? Probably.
The long and the short of this post is that I don't think I want anymore raised beds. I think we have enough. I'll take one (maybe two) of my 5 raised beds and plant them with strawberries next year. I keep my lettuces in a raised bed too. And since I got stung last year with too much rain, I'll always have a raised bed or two for tomatoes and peppers (and now cucumbers).
But moving forward, I think I'll stick with the double dig method when we expand again this fall. It still utilizes some of the advantages of a raised bed, (as we add more and more compost and elevate the growing bed) but still allows the roots to get deeper down into the ground than the raised beds allow. For a summer garden, cooler is better around here.
For a fall/winter/spring garden, I'll stick to the raised beds of course.