As the name implies, a garden bed is a raised box that has no top or bottom — just 4 sides. In addition to the beautifying effect, garden beds are valued by many amateur and professional gardeners for being strikingly useful for the plants. Thanks to the larger volume of soil, the roots can grow bigger and stronger with more effective drainage. Going for a raised bed should be your go-to option if your garden’s soil isn’t ideal. You’ll have control over nutrients, weed content, consistency, etc.
How To Make a Raised Garden Bed
Step 1: Pick the Location
Since most plants need plenty of sunlight, you should put the raised bed in an area that the sun reaches for 6-8 hours a day. And of course, make sure to place the garden bed away from large leafy trees. Not only will they block the sun, but the leaf litter will also make your gardening chores much harder. If you’ll be building more than one bed, bear in mind that their long sides should be facing north or south. This way, they won’t shade each other at any time during the day.
Step 2: Plan the Space
Technically speaking, you can build your garden bed in any shape and size as you see fit. However, there are some measurements you should consider to ensure a convenient setup. If nothing would be blocking any of the bed’s sides, you can increase the width up to 4 feet. On the other hand, if you’ll place the bed up against the fence, cap its width at 2 feet. Otherwise, you might have to bend your back or step inside the bed to reach distant plants. Are you building more than one bed? Try to reserve at least 18 inches between them to allow for a hassle-free movement. As for the height, the sides will have to be 6 inches high, to say the least. Beds shorter than this might limit roots growth to some extent. Most gardeners opt for 1-2 feet, but you can go taller if you don’t want to squat or bend your back that much. However, remember that the taller the bed, the pricier.
Step 3: Choose the Wood Type
You can build your garden bed with a wide array of materials. Some people use bricks and concrete, others use aluminum, and many DIYers creatively up-cycle plastic containers and sheets. Between all of these materials, wood excels in terms of convenience and ease-of-use. However, not all wood types can stand up against environmental elements. Pick from naturally fierce, hefty wood like cedar, redwood, or cypress. Although they’ll cost you about double the average, you won’t need to worry about flaking or cracking before, say, 20 years!
Beware of Chemicals
If you can’t afford natural wood, you’ll be left with chemically treated alternatives. Choose ACQ-treated timber to make sure the used chemicals won’t affect your plants. Steer clear from wood treated with arsenic, chromium, or any other toxic substances. Despite their relative fame, railroad ties should never come in contact with the soil or live plants since they contain creosote, a highly toxic material.
Step 4: Cut the Wood
Whichever timber you choose, start cutting to match the design you have in mind. To keep the instructions clear, let’s assume that you’re making a bed that’s 4 feet long, 2 feet wide, and 1 foot high. First of all, try to find timber boards that are wide enough to cover the planned height. Otherwise, you’ll have to stack several boards above each other, which can be a bit complicated for some people. If you found the optimal width, you’ll need to cut four planks: the first two should be 4 feet long, while the second two should be capped at 2 feet.
Step 5: Remove the Turf
If you already have bare soil, consider yourself lucky! You can proceed to the next step right away. To remove the turf and prepare the soil, start by marking the planned area with a garden hose or any other flexible structure. Then, grab a straight-blade shovel and start punching into the turf along the peripheries you marked. Now, you’ll have to make lengthwise cuts inside the marked area. Keep your cuts positioned not further than 12 feet away from each other, or else the turf would be too heavy. All you have to do now is roll the turf off the soil with your hand. This process will need lots of elbow grease, so think about asking one of your friends for help.
Step 6: Position the Corners
To properly hold out the soil weight, you’ll have to support the timber boards with 60-inch wood stakes. Push about 60% of their length into the soil to provide sufficient support. A sledgehammer would provide the necessary force without tiring you out.
Step 7: Attach the Sides
Start by attaching the smaller boards first. They’ll take less time to attach, yet they’ll prepare the stakes to receive the heftier boards. You can attach the boards with nothing but a hammer and screws. However, I recommend investing in a drill/driver kit. Not only will it do the job faster, but it’ll also be much more precise.
Step 8: Fill With Soil
It sure goes without saying that you should fill the planter with high-quality nutrient-rich soil. Regularly support it with compost and manure to enjoy healthy, vigorous growth. And that’s it! Now you have a raised garden bed to grow whatever you like!
The decoration is probably the most enjoyable step in making a raised garden bed. Don’t hesitate to paint the wood with whichever colors you like. Also, some people like to arrange their plants in a sightly manner. For instance, you can place vining vegetables, like tomatoes, around the middle. After placing a trellis for them to climb upon, you’ll have what will seem like a sailboat with a large, colorful sail!