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Raised Bed Vegetable Growing

Updated on August 23, 2017

Planning a raised bed vegetable garden

There are many reasons for using a raised bed to grow your fruit, herbs, vegetables and basically anything your like. For us, the main benefit of constructing a raised bed vegetable garden was that it would give some structure against a slope in the backyard.

Raised beds provide better drainage and a longer growing season as the soil stay warmer for longer. As you add more compost the soil quality improves which in turn leads to better producing crops.

All images are from my own garden unless stated otherwise.

Big Benefit

Raised beds make it much easier to keep weeds under control and therefore you will have more time for fishing, reading and all the other things you enjoy doing.

Materials to use for a raised bed

Temporally raised beds for vegetable growing can be made by just tilling the soil. This will save you spending money on construction material but you will have to maintain it during the season as the soil will drain away with rain and watering.

If you want a permanent raised bed you can build it form stone, bricks, concrete, recycled plastic beams or wood. Keeping in mind that we are making an organic garden, you do not want to use any treated wood which could contaminate the soil. Some woods like redwood and cedar are naturally rot resistant and will make great lasting raised beds. We used untreated sawn pine we got at a huge discount from a local supplier as it was not up to spec for its intended use.

Tip

Line the bottom of your raised bed with old newspaper or cardboard to stop the weeds coming from the bottom.

Plastic drum
Plastic drum

Free or cheap raised bed construction materials

Our raised beds were constructed with pre-swan untreated pine which did not pass the quality control standards for its intended purpose. The beds are in their fourth season now and still in excellent condition.

Here are some places where you can look for affordable construction materials.

Big stones or boulders

Look for road construction sites where blasting were done or earth-moving equipment used. There may be big stones, rock or boulders that need removing.

Phone a swimming pool construction company. Most of what they dug out to put in the swimming pool usually needs to be removed.

If you live in a rocky area, go for a drive in the countryside, you may see farm paddocks with piles of big rocks in the middle or on the side of a paddock. Ask if they would let you have some of it.

You can also try riverbeds or creeks for rocks.

Bricks and building blocks

You can find second hand bricks and building blocks at building sites, in skips where remodeling are being done, salvage yards and your local rubbish transfer station.

Timber

Most manufacturing sites use wooden pallets to move goods with forklifts. Ask if they have broken pallets for removal but only use untreated ones. Check at salvage yards, the rubbish transfer stations and contact logging companies if there are any close by. Another idea is to use old scaffolding planks.

Corrugated iron

Contact roofing companies and salvage yards for second hand corrugated iron.

Plastic Drums

Some of the ingredients used for food production are supplied in 200 litre plastic drums. Check with local businesses if they have any drums or other suitable containers to be taken away.

More ideas

Filled sandbags, old tires and even an unused kids swimming pool can be used for raised bed construction.

You can also check websites like The Freecycle Network and Craigslist to look for cheap or free material for raised beds.

Did you use free or cheap material for your raised beds? Where did you find it? Do you have any ideas for the frugal raised bed gardener? More ideas welcome!

Layout of your raised beds

Before you start constructing your raised beds it is a good idea to consider a few factors first.

  • Look at the shape of the area you want to use for your raised beds and plan accordingly. You want to leave enough space between beds for you to move between the beds. You may want to use a wheelbarrow so you have to keep that in mind too.
  • Think about the size of your beds. You want to reach everything in the bed without having to stand on the soil as that would compact the soil. If you make raised beds for an elderly person you may want to make it a bit higher. Keep in mind that higher beds need more soil. The type of construction material you are using can also play a roll on the size of your beds.

More ideas for affordable raised beds is 40 gallon (200 litres) plastic drums sawn in half (just make sure it is chemical free before use), old bathtubs and washing machine drums.

Same Size Raised Beds

Most of our beds are 2m x 1m.

This was a convenient size for the pre-sawn pine and a good size for planting. We also made a chicken coop the same size which we move around from one bed to another as they become available.

This is how our raised bed vegetable garden started

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Newly laid drainage pipe destroying previous vegetable gardenAfter a few days of hard labour our new raised beds are ready for spring. View from  bottom of slopeWalkway wide enough to maintain the beds. View from top of slopeChicken coop in backgroundGarlic growing nicely in the foreground.Mustard planted to be digged in as green manure.Beginning of spring. Ready for planting.Potatoes looking good.Growing well!Hard work paying off.
Newly laid drainage pipe destroying previous vegetable garden
Newly laid drainage pipe destroying previous vegetable garden
After a few days of hard labour our new raised beds are ready for spring. View from  bottom of slope
After a few days of hard labour our new raised beds are ready for spring. View from bottom of slope
Walkway wide enough to maintain the beds. View from top of slope
Walkway wide enough to maintain the beds. View from top of slope
Chicken coop in background
Chicken coop in background
Garlic growing nicely in the foreground.
Garlic growing nicely in the foreground.
Mustard planted to be digged in as green manure.
Mustard planted to be digged in as green manure.
Beginning of spring. Ready for planting.
Beginning of spring. Ready for planting.
Potatoes looking good.
Potatoes looking good.
Growing well!
Growing well!
Hard work paying off.
Hard work paying off.

Plastic drums can make great raised beds - 40 gallon (200 litres) plastic drum sawn in half

Potatoes growing well in plastic drum.
Potatoes growing well in plastic drum.

Potatoes growing well in plastic drum.

Raised bed allow you to plant on any surface - North facing wall on cement path

Click thumbnail to view full-size
We struggled to grow tomatoes in the south of the South Island of New Zealand until I read about planting tomatoes against a north facing wall.  The wall absorbs the heat of the sun and keep the area close to the wall warm after the sun has gone. TheThe plants grew quickly and was also protected form unseasonal frost as it was under a roof overhang.We also grew a few cucumbers and chillies against the wall which we could not grow before.The tomatoes ripened quickly. We are planning to tomatoes on the same spot again and experiment with different varieties.  We also grew tomatoes in polytunnelsThe result.
We struggled to grow tomatoes in the south of the South Island of New Zealand until I read about planting tomatoes against a north facing wall.  The wall absorbs the heat of the sun and keep the area close to the wall warm after the sun has gone. The
We struggled to grow tomatoes in the south of the South Island of New Zealand until I read about planting tomatoes against a north facing wall. The wall absorbs the heat of the sun and keep the area close to the wall warm after the sun has gone. The
The plants grew quickly and was also protected form unseasonal frost as it was under a roof overhang.
The plants grew quickly and was also protected form unseasonal frost as it was under a roof overhang.
We also grew a few cucumbers and chillies against the wall which we could not grow before.
We also grew a few cucumbers and chillies against the wall which we could not grow before.
The tomatoes ripened quickly. We are planning to tomatoes on the same spot again and experiment with different varieties.  We also grew tomatoes in polytunnels
The tomatoes ripened quickly. We are planning to tomatoes on the same spot again and experiment with different varieties. We also grew tomatoes in polytunnels
The result.
The result.

Organiponico Cuba

Organiponicos provides 90% of Havana's food needs and produce a million tons of food each year. Just look at those neat raised beds!

Thank you for visiting my page. Any thoughts on raised bed gardening and gardening on a slope are welcome.

Your tips for raised beds and slopes

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    • Richard1988 profile image

      Richard 3 years ago from Hampshire - England

      Voted up and usefult etc :) great hub!

    • makemoneyonline5 profile image

      makemoneyonline5 5 years ago

      Love this lens. My favorite way to grow vegies. Bookmarked for easy reference and pinned to my Squidoo board :)

    • bushaex profile image

      Stephen Bush 5 years ago from Ohio

      With the prices of many foods skyrocketing, your ideas will prove even more helpful. SquidAngel Blessings.

    • Allison Whitehead profile image

      Allison Whitehead 5 years ago

      Wonderful lens - your slideshow is very inspiring.

    • organicnutrition profile image

      organicnutrition 6 years ago

      Definitely i will take the time and do it in the near future, thanks

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 6 years ago

      Very nice lens indeed, thorough with my valuable information. I particularly appreciated the part on how to get free and used materials. Angel blessed and pinned on my board "how does your garden grow" - as well as the board "squidoo lenses worth blessing."

    • WoodlandBard profile image

      WoodlandBard 6 years ago

      This lens is stunningly useful and inspiring, many, many thanks

    • jballs6 profile image

      jballs6 6 years ago

      I have 2 raised beds and a vegetable plot in the garden. The rbs are a lot easier to maintain and you can choose the soil to put in especially if you have clay or sandy soil in your garden.

      A very informative lens thanks x

    • Vallygems1 profile image

      Vallygems1 6 years ago

      Thanks Sanet I have saved this to my fav,s as it is a personal mission to start growing vegies this year at home

    • jadehorseshoe profile image

      jadehorseshoe 6 years ago

      RB is definitely the best/easiest way to get started in the "grow your own food" game.

    • profile image

      River_Rose 6 years ago

      Great lens. Love all the info....don't have any tips for you...

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Actually thinking about making a raised garden next year to grow some small pumpkins from seed.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 6 years ago from New Zealand

      Very nice lens, with good ideas, must try some raised beds for growing vegetables. I need some way to keep possums from eating my vegetables and fruit. Thanks for sharing.

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 6 years ago from UK

      Very helpful. So many people want to grow their own produce to save some money, but it can soon get expensive buying all the equipment, so it's especially helpful to see ideas using cheap or free materials for your raised vegetable beds.

    • KiwiSanet profile image
      Author

      KiwiSanet 6 years ago

      @lemonsqueezy lm: Thank you for the blessing.

    • naturegirl7s profile image

      Yvonne L. B. 6 years ago from Covington, LA

      Great ideas and very sustainable. Good job. Sprinkled with dust from the Angel of the farmyard on a Back to School Field Trip.

    • lemonsqueezy lm profile image

      lemonsqueezy lm 6 years ago

      I would love to try raised beds. Less weeding is a huge motivator for me! *blessed*

    • iijuan12 profile image

      iijuan12 6 years ago from Florida

      Nice lens!

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