How to Build a Raised Garden Bed

How to Build a Raised Garden Bed

Jul 13th 2020

Perhaps you are new to gardening or are redesigning your backyard landscape plan and want a few vegetable or flower garden beds along the edges. No matter whether you are a tyro or a veteran gardener, it’s worth considering building a raised garden bed.

Raised-bed gardening offers a slew of advantages. Among their many benefits, they can reduce ground compaction, offer better control over soil composition and be less physically demanding to care for. Here are some simple guidelines to follow on how to build your own raised garden bed.

Where to Put Your Raised Bed

Most vegetables and flowers benefit from eight to 10 hours of sunshine a day, although there are exceptions. Some do well in the shade. Either way, level ground is the best place for a raised bed. It will make the job of building a bed easier.

Having a water source (a faucet) located near the beds is convenient. But you can also hook your hose up to the faucet and run it out to the garden beds using a battery timer to automate the irrigation that all plants need.

Taking these factors into consideration, you are ready to start building a raised garden bed. You can use one or more beds to grow individual plants like tomatoes, peppers, and squash as well as chard, kale, melons, and basil. You can also raise row crops like garlic, onions, potatoes, carrots, and corn.

How to Build Your Raised Bed

One of the easiest ways to build a long-lasting wooden raised bed is by using corner brackets by Frame It All called Stacking Joints. They are easy to assemble since you simply use a screwdriver and a hammer to install these brackets. If you have level ground, whether on dirt, gravel or a lawn, this job will be very easy.

To add six inches of additional height to the sides of your raised bed, use another Stacking Joint. Just stack it on top of the bottom Stacking Joint to install it.

These patented joint stakes will allow you to shape the bed in many different configurations: square, rectangular, or octagonal. See our Gallery of Plans for example layouts of framed and raised garden beds. Simple to assemble using 2”x 6” lumber, they are perfect for quickly transforming the patio, rooftop, balcony, or backyard into a beautiful, productive area.

Straw Bales

Straw-bale gardens are a breakthrough in the vegetable gardening world. Although the concept of growing plants in straw bales is new to most of us, some gardeners have gardened this way for years.

One way to build your straw-bale garden is to start by lining the bales up in a straight row. You can run them if you want this way. If you are seeking a more aesthetic or interesting look, you can also arrange your bales in a curving pattern.

The next step is to make an 8” x 8” hole in the straw every foot for peppers or every three feet for tomatoes otherwise. Fill the holes you have dug in the straw with compost or bagged soil.

You can also lay the bales on their sides. Put a few inches of soil on top of the bales. Plant anywhere on the bale.

Most plants will thrive when grown in straw bales because their roots will get easy access to grow and plenty of air to sink into. Root crops like carrots or beets also grow easily in the straw.

Straw-bale gardening adapts easily to drip irrigation because you can use pressure-compensating emitter tubing. This type of tubing has emitters factory-inserted in it. Simply run your emitter tubing on top of the bales.

You can also run solid mainline tubing on top of the bales. Then punch holes in the tubing and put in drippers or mini sprayers like the PC Shrubbler where you have planted. When you have lined up the bales in a straight configuration, drip tape is an excellent choice. Not sure how much tape you need? Use our convenient Drip Tape Estimator to calculate it.

Deterring Garden Pests

Before adding soil to the garden bed, remember that gophers and moles love roots, tubers and crops that grow underground, like garlic. To prevent damage to your crops, add a wire barrier called 1/4” hardware mesh to the bottom of your framed bed. When installed carefully, this barrier will be impenetrable for little critters.

Do not skip this step, because once moles, voles or gophers get into your garden soil, they will always come back and ruin your crops. If you use the straw-bale method, there should not be a problem. These animals find straw bales too nasty to burrow through.

Soil and Fertilizers

To maximize your garden’s potential, add a balanced soil mix to your raised bed. Here is a formula you can use: one-quarter local native soil (even if it’s predominately clay or sand) and three-quarters compost made at home, delivered to your home by the yard or bought by the bag at a nursery or big-box store.

It’s a good idea to mix in a 20-pound bag of bone meal for each 15 to 20 cubic feet of soil in the bed. Bone meal aids flowering plants including ornamental annuals and roses as well as tomatoes, peppers, squash and other flowering vegetables.

Blood meal or Bat Guano is another worthwhile addition to your fertilization strategy. It provides nitrogen for rapid, lush green growth. To enhance your plants’ ability to absorb water and nutrients, add a powered mycorrhizal inoculant. These microbes attach to the roots of the plants and enhance growth, health and disease resistance.

Raised-Bed Farming

Farmers typically make raised beds with a tractor when planting long rows of crops. The water is sometimes delivered by flood irrigation in the furrows. The crops grow in the rows that make up the raised portion of the field.

The preferred drip-irrigation product for this is drip tape. It will slowly and evenly emit water over distances as long as 550 feet. This thin-walled product has superb watering efficiency and uniformity as well as very low cost per foot. It is easy to set up and ideal for above-ground, mulched or buried applications. This drip tape works very well even in low water-pressure situations. It will last about seven years if covered or two to five years laid aboveground.

Garden Protection

Deer and other grazers can ravage a garden or farm in no time. Protecting your backyard raised garden beds from deer or other wild grazing animals is worth thinking about if you live in an area where that’s a possibility. A 6’ to 8’ wire deer fence is a must if you live in deer country.

If you like to jump-start your vegetable garden in the early spring, use a protection fabric like GCI Rowcover to lay over your seedlings and young plants to shield them from frost, wind and insects. This row cover will also enable you to prolong your growing season into the fall.

Growing your own veggies is incredibly rewarding. The job of building your garden beds can be a family adventure. Children love watching the process of watching a plant grow into food. This learning experience will lead to many years of enjoying healthy, fresh and tasty food.

Besides saving money on your grocery bill, you will be consuming the freshest and tastiest produce around. You will enjoy the confidence of adding to your food security and knowing you had complete control over the growing process from start to finish.

Ample sunlight, level ground and water will provide the basics. You provide the positive energy to make it all happen.