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Building Easy Raised Bed Gardens

Updated on March 9, 2016
mgeorge1050 profile image

Alan is a veteran of the US Air Force, a master electrician, and a long-time hobby farmer.

Raised Bed Garden

Yet to be filled raised bed.
Yet to be filled raised bed.

Getting Started on a New Raised Bed

Raised bed gardening doesn't have to cost a fortune. All of my raised bed gardens have been built at minimal cost. Almost always the wood can be salvaged from another location. While there are tons of different ways to build a raised bed garden, this is the method I currently use.

What you will need:

1. Boards

2. Saw

3. Hammer or Drill

4. Nails or Screws

5. Tape Measure

With these few items you can easily construct a raised bed garden that will last for years. Remember if you are purchasing boards from a home improvement center, they will often cut them for you free of charge. Just have your measurements ready when you pick up the lumber. This could save you some work and the need for a saw. If you are like me, maybe you want to try to find some free lumber to use for your new raised bed garden. Whatever your preference, just about any lumber will work for this project.

Size Up Your Materials

Loose Boards
Loose Boards

Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan

You should begin by figuring out what size and shape bed you will build. Sometimes the boards you have available will dictate the measurements. I usually try to keep it simple. Let's say I have three boards that are each ten feet long, I would cut one in half and build a big rectangle. If I had two boards that are each ten feet long, I would cut them both in half and make a big square. This part is usually pretty easy to figure out, and most people kinda have what they want in mind already.

Boards for Raised Bed Garden
Boards for Raised Bed Garden

Cut and Assemble

First, cut all of your boards to the proper length using your saw of choice. You can use a scrap block of wood to rub off any splinters made by the sawing. If you are using an untreated soft wood, you will want to paint all of the lumber at this point. This will protect your raised bed from rot and insects. Even pressure treated and hard wood raised beds will benefit from a coat of exterior paint.

If you are building a large raised bed, you should assemble it in the place where it will sit permanently. A large raised bed can be hard to move around after it is assembled. After choosing the assembly location, simply assemble your raised bed using nails or screws. With thicker boards, I normally just make a box and nail the boards to each other. If the boards are thinner than one inch, you may want to place small blocks of wood in the corners for added strength.

Assembling Raised Bed Garden
Assembling Raised Bed Garden

Time for Dirt

You may want to secure your raised bed to the ground depending on it's location. In a flat garden area, simply place the raised bed where you want it and fill it with dirt. There are too many options on dirt and organic materials to cover here, but I do have a couple of good tips.

You don't necessarily have to fill up the raised bed right away. When I build a new raised bed, it normally takes two or three years to fill it to the top with dirt. For the first season, I will add just enough dirt to plant some seeds. Over time I will add more soil, grass clippings, leaves, and so on, until the raised bed is full.

If you prefer to purchase your soil from a garden center, buy the cheapest bags you can find. You can add in organic material over the next few weeks to amend the cheap soil. Even the cheapest soil can be made good with a little work. Don't go for the over priced, name brand, packed full of chemicals soil in the bright bag.

Many folks, myself included, like to mix a few bags of store bought soil with some free local dirt. I also add in lots of organic material and keep it mixed into the soil during the off season. I have good luck with this method, but you will have to make your own decisions on soil.

Large Raised Bed 4' x 16'

Filling raised bed garden with dirt
Filling raised bed garden with dirt

Paper and Mulch Method

Cover bare soil with newspaper or cardboard.
Cover bare soil with newspaper or cardboard.
Make sure and get right up next to your plants.
Make sure and get right up next to your plants.
Place mulch on top of paper.
Place mulch on top of paper.

Plant Your New Raised Bed Garden

After you get some dirt in your raised bed garden it is time to plant your seeds or plants. I am willing to bet that you already have some waiting. I always plant my raised beds a little closer together than the seed packs recommend. With a raised bed I am able to manage the plants a little better and the closer spacing is normally not a problem.

A little extra work in the beginning of the season will make your raised beds easier to manage throughout the year. Once your plants are established, place some old newspaper or cardboard on the bare ground around the plants. Cover any bare dirt not needed by your plants, and secure the paper by placing rocks all around. Wet the paper slightly, then cover with the mulch of your choice. This is the method I have used for years. It helps retain moisture and all but eliminates weeds. You may have the occasional tear in the paper, and a clump of weeds will come blasting through. Just pull back the mulch, repair the hole with some new paper, and replace the mulch. By using this method, you should only be pulling a few weeds here and there all season long!

Garden Poll

Do you currently use raised bed or container gardens?

See results

Cement Block Raised Bed Garden


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    • mgeorge1050 profile image

      Alan 3 years ago from West Georgia

      Thanks Patsybell, I used to keep a big garden that I had to till and hoe all the time. With raised beds, I feel like I get a lot more produce with less work. I also love raised beds.

    • Patsybell profile image

      Patsy Bell Hobson 3 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

      I love raised beds. Nice Hub. Voted up, U, A, I, tweet.