Raised Bed Gardens

You can buy or build your own raised beds

I built my own out of wood. You don’t want to use pressure treated wood because the chemical they use to treat it will seep into the garden. A lot of hardware and department stores sell kits now that have all the parts you need. To build one on your own like I did,

  • figure out what size you want it to be, for example 4 width x 8 long x 12 high. I chose 4×8 so I can reach to the middle from the sides.
  • You will need three 8 foot long, 12 inch high by 2 inch.
  • I also used 2×4 blocks for corner supports.

You Will Need

  • A saw to cut the corner pieces and the one 8 foot in half for the ends.
  • You will also need nails and screws. I used nails to nail together the ends and screwed in the corner supports to help prevent the wood warping and pulling apart. A drill will help to make the hole for the screws.
  1. First measure out your area and dig out the grass or till the dirt. You can break up the sod and turn it into the dirt it will decompose.
  2. Using 12 inch wood you will want to loosen 6 inches of the dirt in the bed. If you add 12 inches of new dirt to the 6 inches you loosened that gives you 18 inches for your plants roots, which is just right. That is what a “Deep raised bed” is.
  3. You want to mix in compost or manure (make sure if you get it fresh it is properly cured) into the bottom 6 inches. The dirt you fill in with should also have organic matter mixed in.  It could be all compost or garden/topsoil.  The top 6 inches should be good clean topsoil.  The ratios do not have to be perfect.  If you have to use all topsoil just mix in store bought bagged compost or manure according to instructions on the bag.
  4. If the soil is mostly top or garden soil you should mix in a 2″ layer of peat to the top 6″ or so.

I was fortunate enough to have found free horse manure. If you use manure of any kind it has to have dried out for 6 months to a year or it will burn your plants. It should also be completely broke down.  A good way to tell is it should not smell anymore. It should smell and look just like good dirt. Starting with good soil is imperative to growing good plants.

The organic matter if not decomposed enough can also be added in the fall a month or so before planting. If you’re starting with a new bed in the spring add in store bought bags of manure or compost, dried chopped leaves, grass clippings and at least 6 inches of topsoil.  If you have a lot to fill you may want to find soil by the yard at nursery or stone yard.  It is much cheaper that way. Build the bed near to where you want  to store your bulk soil because it is heavy to move.

Walking Rows

If you don’t want to build a bed you can still use the raised bed method. Just add good soil to your in ground garden, building mounds about 6-12 inches high. Make sure you loosen the dirt in the ground and add in compost so you will have about 18 inches of loose good soil for the roots. One thing you never want to do is walk on your garden. Walking on your garden compacts the soil and your roots will have a harder time growing and spreading. So if you’re growing in the ground leave yourself walking rows and walk only in these.

For traditionsl row/in ground gardens, mix in with the soil already there the same, compost or manure, garden or topsoil.  Cover walking areas with straw or chopped leaves to keep weeds down. That is one more advantage to boxed in beds; you can grow in all of it so you get more room for the same amount of space. Now it is time to draw up your Garden Plan.

Happy Growing!