Gardening

How To Make A Raised Garden Bed

large vegetable garden with raised beds
Written by Chris Lee

Raised garden beds have become increasingly more popular over the last decade, and while you can buy them ready-made for your garden, it is super easy and inexpensive to build them yourself.

Making your own raised garden bed means it will fit it to your garden and be fit for purpose.

You can make a bed of any size and any shape, and they can be used even in the most modest-sized gardens.

A timber raised vegetable garden with borage, tomatoes, lettuce and pansies
Beautiful raised garden beds brimming with plants.

Raised garden beds are brilliant for growing fruit and vegetables, as well as many other plants; they provide much better drainage and allow you to grow things in different types of soil.

Raised beds are also highly helpful if you have mobility issues as they bring the plants closer to you, meaning you don’t have to bend down as far to tend to them, making them far more accessible than flower beds and vegetable patches.

Things to consider before making a raised garden bed

Before you get started it’s a good idea to think about what you want to achieve and how, so we’ve put together a list of a few things you should consider before you start building your raised garden bed.

Where should I put it?

Choosing the right location for your raised garden bed is vital, but the great thing is they give you quite a lot of flexibility. Your raised bed could go in your garden, on your patio or decking or even on your driveway, so you have plenty of options.

The main thing is picking a spot that enjoys a decent amount of sunshine, preferably six to eight hours a day.

You will also want your chosen area to drain well and, if it’s sloped, you will need to factor this into your building plans.

What size and shape should you raised garden bed be?

Obviously, you can make your raised garden as big or as small as you wish, and any shape of your choosing, providing you have the space for it.

However, we recommend not making it so big that you have to stand on it to do your gardening, as treading over your raised garden bed will compact the soil, and this will lead to poor drainage.

You also need to consider the height of your raised garden bed; you need to make sure it is deep enough for the plants you plan to grow in it. We recommend that you make sure it is a minimum of 10 inches in height and this will, of course, vary depending on what you have decided to grow.

What kind of soil will you need?

The type of soil is dependent on what sort of plants you are buying, but once you have established that, we highly recommend sourcing the best quality soil you can. Raised garden beds allow you to create the best possible environments for your plants, so make sure you spoil them with the very best.

We also advise that you ensure you have a good supply of organic compost which you can add to your beds throughout the season.

Dealing with grass

If you’re putting your raised garden bed on the lawn, then you will need to deal with the grass beforehand. You could physically cut and lift out a sod of lawn, but that can be really challenging. Instead, we recommend mowing the section you will be using first and making sure all weeds have been removed. Soak newspaper overnight and then place it on the area until it’s about 3 inches thick. Over time, the grass and the newspaper will break down, and this will add nutrients to the soil for your beds.

Installing irrigation

Installing irrigation is optional, but if you wish to do so, you must consider this before building the bed. If you are opting to install a proper drip irrigation system, then you will ideally want to do so before the bed is completed as you may well need to adapt the design in some manner to accommodate the system.

Choosing materials for making a raised garden bed

The next thing you need to decide on is what material you wish to use to construct your raised garden bed. We have put together a list of the most popular choices, along with their pros and cons.

Timber

Arguably the most popular material used for making raised garden beds, timber is versatile and pretty easy to work with. Although treated wood will last longer, some hardwood will still last for years. We do recommend treated wood, or you also have the option to paint the structure with wood preservative. Just be sure to use plastic sheeting to prevent the preservative contaminating the soil.

Stone

Stone is generally the most expensive material to use and, though it is long-lasting, constructing a raised garden with it requires skilled labour. That in mind, this isn’t an option we’d generally recommend unless this is something you have experience with.

A natural stone retaining wall with plants growing from the top and lawn in the background
Stone raised garden beds can be pretty but usually require some expertise.

Paving slabs

Paving slabs are durable and weather resistant and, depending on which material they’re made from, they don’t have to be expensive. That said they are seriously heavy to lift, which makes them quite challenging to work with.

Brick

Bricks are strong and durable, but, like stone, they require a decent level of skill to work with. If you do opt for bricks, we recommend using proper engineering types as these are far more weather resistant. Domestic bricks can certainly used but, as they are more porous, they are not as durable.

How to make a raised garden bed

Once you have finished all of the appropriate planning and decided on which material you are going to use, it’s time to start building.

For the purpose of this article, we are going to guide you through how to make a standard, rectangular, raised garden bed from wood. Wood is by far the easiest to work with and also the least expensive, making it the best option for building your first raised bed.

This particular raised garden bed requires no special skills, no sawing, no drilling, and because of its design, it is easy to replace parts without having to take the entire structure apart.

What you will need:

  • Two 8ft, 2-by-12 planks of wood
  • Two 4ft, 2-by-12 planks of wood
  • Rubber mallet
  • Twelve 2ft pieces of rebar
  • Soil
  • Organic matter

Step 1

Choose an area of level ground and lay the planks down so that their inner corners are touching each other.

Stand one plank on its side and then hammer two pieces of rebar a few inches into the ground, about a foot from each corner, so the rebars are keeping the wood upright.

Step 2

Prop up each plank with a piece of rebar hammered in at the centre for temporary support. Make sure the planks are aligned and then hammer in rebars one foot from each corner to help support the planks and keep the rectangle shape.

Step 3

Remove the rebars that were hammered in at the centre as temporary support.

Next, hammer in two pieces of rebar a foot apart on each of the short planks, and two pieces of rebar two feet apart on each of the long planks.

Then, hammer all the rebars in so they are below the top of the planks and about 6 inches above the ground.

Step 4

Fill your homemade, raised garden bed with soil and top with organic matter, and you are ready to start planting!

A wooden raised garden bed with young seedlings
You are ready to start planting!

Raise your hands if you’re ready to raise a garden bed!

Hopefully, this article has provided you with all the information you need to build your very own raised garden bed. There are so many options and materials you can use and, if you are feeling creative, there are few limits to what you can achieve.

Raised garden beds don’t just add to the aesthetic of your garden; they also give you the opportunity to grow a much more diverse range of plants. What’s more, if you are trying to be more self-sufficient these days, raised beds allow you to produce lots of healthy fruits and veggies. Now you’ve seen how easy it is to make them, it’s time to get out there and make your very own raised garden bed!

About the author

Chris Lee

Chris is interested in nature and the good things that happen when people are in it. He is a freelance writer, with writing published about cycling, green living, and ways to make a difference without fundamentally restructuring your lifestyle.

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