Are you thinking about starting your own garden but aren’t sure where to begin? A raised bed garden is a great option for those looking to get into gardening! Raised bed gardens are easy to build and maintain, and they can provide an abundance of fresh vegetables and herbs. In this blog post, we’ll provide you with an overview of what it takes to plan and build a raised bed garden, from soil preparation and plant selection to watering and harvesting. Get ready to start your own garden journey with a magical and successful raised bed garden!
One of my favorite morning rituals involves preparing a delicious cup of tea and heading out onto the back porch to gaze out over my property. As I sip my hot drink, I admire my raised bed garden.
I have been growing vegetables in them for years now and love how much easier it is to maintain this type of garden compared to traditional gardens.
Raised bed gardens are great for people who want to grow their own food, but don’t have a lot of space for a traditional garden. They are also easy to build yourself if you have some basic carpentry skills (or know someone who does).
The benefit of having raised beds is that they are easy to water and tend, so they require less work than traditional gardens do. This is especially important if you are older or have physical limitations that make tending your own garden difficult or impossible.
Come on a journey with me as I consider the nuts and bolts of raised-bed gardening, and let’s discover together how easy it is.
Why You Should Install a Raised Bed Garden
The benefits of raised-bed gardening are numerous. Not only do they look great and make gardening easier on the body, but they also enable us to choose and customize the soil we use for gardening.
As an added bonus, the soil in a raised garden bed will be warmer than ground soil. This means you can extend the growing season and get your plants into the ground earlier.
Raised-bed gardening is a lot like container gardening, except on a larger scale. With this in mind, we can grow larger plants, have mixed plant beds, and gain larger yields. Best of all, this style of gardening keeps out many common pests.
As with any endeavor, there are numerous pros and cons to consider. Below I have compiled a short list for our consideration. Planning and preparation are our best allies when working in the garden.
- The Initial Cost – To put the cost of this project into perspective, we must look at the cost of materials. It’s always a good idea to write out a materials list before starting any gardening or household project.
- The Construction Input – This variable could be considered a benefit or cost, depending upon your perspective. I personally enjoy working in the garden and building things with my hands. However, for a busy homeowner who has time constraints, DIY projects may not always be feasible or practical.
- Low-Maintenance – The nice thing about raised garden beds is that they seldom need maintenance and tend to have fewer weed problems.
- Resist Pests – Garden intruders like rabbits, moles, gophers, and dogs can be kept at bay by having a sufficiently raised soil area. Of course, deer and birds may still have access, but that can be easily remedied by the installation of flexible cattle panels or reinforced wire mesh.
- Lawn Care – Established garden beds make mowing and weed eating a breeze. You no longer have to worry about your mower guy accidentally chopping down your favorite flowers, herbs, or veggies. Just be sure the path between your garden beds is wide enough for a mower.
Planning Out Your Raised Bed Garden
Here are a few things to think about before starting your raised bed garden.
- Choose a Favorable Location – Placing your raised garden beds in the right spot can mean the difference between success and failure. Make sure to place your garden beds in an open, sunny, and south-facing location. Your plants ideally need at least 6 to 8 hours of natural sunlight daily. Also, orient your garden beds lengthwise toward the southern sun.
- Decide the Height of Your Raised Garden Beds – You want your garden beds to be at a comfortable height where you don’t have to bend down and also tall enough that rabbits and dogs cannot get into them easily.
- Space Your Beds Adequately – For the purpose of easily accessing your garden beds and having the ability to drive a wheelbarrow through them, plan to have them be at least 3 to 5 feet apart.
- Drip Irrigation – It’s always a good idea to think about how you will be watering your plants. Drip irrigation, though it takes a little time to initially set up, is a great way to save time and money throughout the growing season. With this irrigation method, watering can be set to a timer, and moisture will be delivered directly to your plants, right where they need it. More importantly, you won’t have to drag the hose out to your raised garden boxes and spend big chunks of time watering your plants every day.
The Best Materials for Raised-Bed Construction
The style of your home can be a great indicator of what material you should use. Additionally, you’ll want to think about how long you want your garden beds to last. Are they temporary, or do you want them to last from season to season and year to year?
Brick – You can choose classic red brick or a custom color that matches the siding of your house. Brick is always an attractive option for building projects. It can be a little pricey, but it will last. If you have a brick house, brick fencing, or brick walkways, using this material for your raised garden beds will tie everything together for an aesthetically attractive look. Brick garden beds can also increase curb appeal and the value of your home.
Cinder Block – Cinder block or concrete block can be cheaper and easier to lay than brick but may not look as nice. You may want to paint or finish the surface of your blocks, but it’s all really up to your own personal preference. Additionally, cinder block beds supply a wide ledge to sit upon, which will make gardening easier on your back. You can cap off your block walls or use the little openings within them as additional planter spaces.
Stone – If you have a stone house or love the look of natural stone, building a raised garden bed with this material is a great option. It may be more expensive and may require the help of a professional, but stone construction will last a long time and look beautiful.
Wood – Though initially cheaper, this material will not last. Wood planks are best used for temporary beds. It will look great for the first few years, but after a while, it may start to look a bit run down as it decomposes.
Be sure NOT to use treated wood, as toxic chemicals can seep into the soil and contaminate your plants. The best lumber for this project is either heart redwood or cedar, as these woods are more durable and pest resistant. You may also want to line your raised garden box with plastic to extend the life of your wood.
Combination of Wood with Metal Paneling – This may be the cheapest way to construct your very own custom raised beds. Corrugated metal panels are relatively cheap, and wood framing will keep them in place. You can even find metal kits like this one.
Stock Tanks – Using old stock tanks is by far the easiest and quickest way to set up your raised-bed garden. You just place the tanks where you want them and voila! Additionally, you can move the stock tanks around and change up your landscape, if so desired.
Before You Start Building a Raised-Bed Garden
There are a few things you can do to make the build process easier. This involves having all your essentials ready to go and your materials pre-measured.
My raised bed garden was built using wood construction. They measure about 4 feet wide by 8 feet long with a height of 16.5 inches.
Measure Out the Wood for Your Raised-Bed Garden Boxes
Mark out your garden beds. You can do this with spray paint or some large stones. Only make your beds about 4 feet wide, this way when you reach into your box you can easily reach your plants in the center.
Similarly, keep your beds at an easily maneuverable length. Depending upon the size of a yard, most people can manage 6 to 12 feet. This will ensure that you can get to the other side of your garden box without having to traverse long rows.
Gather Your Materials
First and foremost, you’ll want to gather the proper materials. Now that you have an idea of your garden bed dimensions, decide what your main construction material will be and then calculate how much to buy. Next, write a list of all the tools, materials, and gear you’ll need. Here is a brief list of the basics:
- Garden Gloves
- Construction Materials: Brick, Stone, Metal, or Wood Planks
- Hardware: Decking Screws & a Wood Mending Plate for Bracing
- Hand Saw, Electric Skill Saw, or Jig
- Tape Measure
- 3-foot Level
- 4-inch by 4-inch posts
- 2-inch by 6-inch planks that are 8 feet long
- Staple Gun and Staples
- Cordless Drill
- 4-foot Wide Metal Mesh (Hardware Cloth) – A Bottom Liner to Keep Out Moles and Gofers
- Seeds or Live Plants
- Rich Soil and Compost
- Fertilizer (organic only)
- Drip Irrigation Kit – For Regular Water Usage
The Construction Process
On a nice weekend, gather the family or invite some friends over, and have a build party. The work always goes faster when you’ve got help.
Building Your Wood Garden Box
- To start, dig out and remove the top layer of grass and roots where your raised beds will go. Try to make your cut-out area level and uniform, so your garden boxes will sit nicely on top of them.
Some people skip this step and simply lay down cardboard later, before adding soil into their garden boxes. However, for invasive grasses, removing the roots outright is the best solution.
- Lay out your wood planks and corner posts. For a raised bed of 4’x8′ by 16.5 inches tall you’ll need to buy 9 planks. Mark off all your measurements and cut your wood planks to their appropriate sizes.
For this project, I suggest using 2”x6”x8’ wooden planks. Cut the 4”x4” posts to 16 inches tall. I recommend this height because so that the posts will be slightly lower than the edge of the box. However, you can make your post exactly 16.5 inches (the actual height of your box) if you so desire.
Also, keep in mind that a 2”x6”x8’ plank is actually 1.5”x3.5”x7.25’.
- It’s easiest to start with the short-end walls of your wooden garden box. Your end pieces will nestle between the long planks. Cut them to a width of 3-feet 9-inches.
- Find a level working area and place your precut corner posts down first. Then lay your precut planks down on top of them. You can assemble both ends of your box at the same time. Make sure the planks and posts are flush with one another on the sides and bottom ends of your box.
Also, your planks and posts should be square and fit together perfectly at 90 degrees. In other words, when measuring from corner to corner diagonally, you should have the same measurement on both sides.
- Using long screws and predrilled holes, attach the planks to the support posts. Each plank receives two evenly spaced screws.
- Now we can begin constructing the longer walls. For this step, it’s a good idea to have the help of one or two people. You’ll need at least one other person to steady your wood pieces as you drill.
- Stand both of your shorter ends up vertically. They should rise 3’ 9” into the air lengthwise. Gather your 8-foot planks and place them on top of your end sections, one by one.
- At this stage, your wooden garden box will look more like a table. Make sure your wood pieces are flush and squared with one another. Screw your pieces together. Two screws should attach each plank end directly into its support post. Flip your box over and repeat this step with the other long planks.
Finishing Your Raised Bed Garden Box
- Next, you’ll want to attach a metal brace to the center portion of your long plank wall. This will stabilize your 8’ planks and prevent bowing on the long side of your garden box.
- Now that you have your basic wood boxes constructed, it’s time to attach your wire mesh. Turn your boxes over, so that the bottom of the box is facing upward.
- It’s best to use plastic-coated or galvanized mesh, as it will last longer. Measure out your wire mesh or hardware cloth and begin attaching it to the base of your box. You can use a staple gun for this step.
- Once your mesh is attached, you can now turn your box back over and position it into place within your garden.
- To lengthen the life of your wood garden box, feel free to line the inside walls of the box with a thick plastic liner. Cut and staple your plastic liner into place.
Please note, we are only lining the walls and not the base of the box.
Alternatively, you can spray a waterproofing sealer onto the inside walls of your garden boxes.
- If you so desire, finish the top of your wood garden box with a wide wooden ledge. This will make the edge of your garden box easier to sit on. Watch this video to learn more.
- To add a hinged hoop house to your raised-bed planters, check out this video.
Mistakes to Avoid with a Raised Bed Garden
- Poor Soil – Try not to fill your planter with plain garden soil or topsoil from the yard. Instead, you want to use high-quality, densely nutritive soil. At the very least, the top 12 inches of your garden bed should be well-fertilized and specialized to the type of plants you’re growing.
- Additionally, you can fill the very bottom of your garden planter with small logs, branches, and sticks in the Hugelkultur method. When we add wood to the bottom of our garden beds it encourages the growth of mycelium, a beneficial fungus that facilitates nutrient uptake in the life cycle of your plants.
- Insufficient Soil Amendment – Don’t forget about your soil health over time. You’ll want to regularly (at least once a year) amend your soil with compost, organic matter (peat moss), and fertilizer. Amending the soil ensures that the right nutrients, microbes, bacteria, and fungi are present in the soil.
- Forgetting to Label Your Plants – Unless you know all your plants by heart, it’s a good idea to label them, especially new ones you’re not as familiar with.
- Lack of Plant Knowledge – With a little research, you can find out which plants like each other. We call this companion planting. For instance, tomatoes and peppers grow well together, while basil and thyme require different growing conditions.
- Inconsistent Watering – Many of us are eager waterers in the spring but as the season progresses, we forget to water our plants. Be vigilant and keep an eye on your plants daily, especially during the hottest parts of the summer.
- Failure to Mulch – It’s always a good idea to mulch well around your plants. It protects your plants and helps the soil retain moisture. This can easily be accomplished with leaves, wood chippings, or store-bought mulch.
- Slow Drainage – Ensure that your garden beds have adequate drainage. If plants sit in stagnant water, they will drown.
- Poor Safety – Be mindful of children and pets playing in and around your garden beds. Make sure nails and screws are not sticking out, use only non-toxic materials, and cover any sharp edging or pointed corner areas.
Add the Charm of A Raised Bed Garden to Your Outdoor Retreat
Creating a raised bed garden is a great way to be more active and efficient in the garden. The distinct border they create between your lawn and plants will make yard work easier. Not only do they protect your plants and make plants more accessible, but they are also an attractive design element within your landscape.
I hope you’ll join me and build your very own raised bed garden. If you’ve built your own raised-bed garden boxes, feel free to let us know down in the comments below. I’d love to hear about your experience!
Let your green thumb blossom! Come join the journey to a more sustainable lifestyle with us! Read more articles and blog posts about gardening, permaculture, and sustainable gardening practices, and learn how you can make a difference in our environment. It’s never too late to start taking small steps towards a greener future.
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