How to Build a Raised Garden Bed

Raised garden beds are exactly what their name promises – they are beds in which you can plant vegetables where the planting medium has been raised higher than the surrounding land. Raised beds have many benefits for the permaculture gardener. They prevent the soil becoming compacted, which in turn helps with water drainage and soil aeration. The containment of the soil by the raised bed also helps to prevent erosion by wind and rain, while the improved structure of the soil means that it is typically slightly warmer than the surrounding earth, meaning you can usually plant in raised beds earlier in the season. Having such well-structured and healthy soil also means that raised beds can typically support more individual plants that ground-level beds, so making them amenable to the permaculture principle of maximizing yield wherever possible. And it must not be forgotten that raising your garden beds makes tended, maintaining and harvesting from them, easier on the gardener, involving less bending. Thus, they are particularly valuable for older gardeners or those with restricted mobility.

You can purchase pre-fabricated raised garden beds, but they are fairly easy to construct yourself, and they can easily be made from recycled materials.

Position
You can place your raised garden bed on any surface. If placing on soil, you will need to do less work, as you will leave the bottom open for the plant roots to penetrate the soil. However, you can also install it on grass or even concrete, as you can add layers of mulch material at the bottom to contain the growing medium. As with your normal garden beds used for cultivating food crops, you will want to position your raised beds so that they get several hours of full sun each day – to help the plants set fruit – and protected from string winds that could damage the plants or erode the soil.

Size
The size of your raised bed is likely to depend upon the materials you are able to salvage to construct it. However, it is worth remembering that, given that the garden bed will predominantly, if not entirely, be given over to plants that produce an edible yield, you want to make sure that you can reach all parts of the bed for harvesting your crops. A width of four feet is a good general rule to enable you to reach all parts of the bed, and the length can be as long as you need for your planting design. In terms of height, just remember that the higher you build your beds, the more growing medium will be needed to fill them, and tall beds can experience a lot of pressure from the material contained within, so you may need to reinforce the walls of your raised bed if building it over around two feet.

Materials
Recycled lumber is ideal for making a raised garden bed. You can buy timber, but it is a lot more expensive and much less ‘green’. Cedar is a good choice if you can source it, as it is naturally rot resistant. Whichever lumber you source, make sure that it is untreated and not painted so you are not introducing chemicals or heavy metals into your permaculture plot. You will need boards for each of the four sides of your bed, extra ones if you want to add more height, and some stakes for each of the four corners to attach the side boards to.

Construct
Construct your bed in the location where it will sit; this is a lot easier than building it elsewhere and having to move it. Screw or nail the wall boards to the four corner stakes. It is also a good idea, if you have the extra lumber, to add stakes at the middle point of the outside walls, to strengthen them. If you have long beds, add a stake every four feet or so, to help the bed contain the material within.

Fill
If your bed is over grass or concrete, add a thick layer of newspaper or cardboard, with the edges of the sheets overlapping so no gaps are left. Water this layer well before proceeding. This layer will keep weeds suppressed if on grass, and provide a base level of nutrients for the raised bed. If siting over earth, make sure the area is clear of weeds before filling (you can also add the cardboard layer, but leaving the bar earth available will encourage deep root growth). Fill the bed with good quality topsoil. Augment the soil with lots of organic matter, such as compost, composted manure, grass cuttings and leaf litter. You might also want to round your growing medium, piling it higher in the middle so it slopes to the edges, rather than having a flat bed. Rounding the soil increases the surface area, allowing you to grow more plants in the space.

Plant
Once your raised garden bed is filled, it is a good idea to plant it as soon as possible. Nature hates bare earth, and weed species will quickly raised garden bedcolonize any. And at the very least bare earth is prone to erosion by wind and rain. Plant seedlings rather than seeds for the same reason. Use planting guilds and interplanting to maximize the specimens that can be fitted into the bed, and so to maximize yield. You can also use planting to ameliorate conditions that you bed may experience due to its location. So, for instance, you can plant taller crops on the side that receives the most wind or, if in a very hot location, in a position that affords shade to smaller, more fragile plants. Water the seedlings well when they are first planted in the bed. If your plants require it, feel free to mulch the raised bed, although you are unlikely to need mulch for moisture retention, as the soil in the bed is adapted to do so. However, as with normal beds keep an eye on the dampness of the soil, and if it becomes too dry, water well.

244 comments

Gary Gervais

I don’t appreciate that last sentence…..lol!

I have to disagree slightly with the last bit, I live in North Qld Aus, and there is absolutely no way raised garden bed or not would survive the summer without mulch!

wonderful bed ,that what i need 🙂

you really do not have to build boxes, you can use most anything as a container, one year, i used garbage bags and put potting soil in them and sat them on the southside of my house, and i had one of my best yeilds ever.

barrels, tires and lge buckets, even old lined laundry baskets…work too..look around and recycle..

Start by finding fallen wood. Then build a furnace. You will also need iron to build make a saw. Find some magnetite sands and use a loadstone to separate the high iron content material from the sand. Use clay to create a form for the saw blade, and melt the iron sands into a crucible. Then sharpen the saw and cut down a tree. You will need it to be a big tree if you want to build a sizable box. Once you have cut down the tree, saw it into 2×8 sections. Use your clay to build forms for nails. You will need no less than 6 nails per length of wood. Stack the 2×8 boards to desired height in a square. Fill it with dirt, compost and wormcastings. An ounce of seawater per 5 gallon bucket is a wonderful addition.

Justine Bennett and Joseph August Luisi, would you agree?

I was very disabled for a very long time, and the raised beds were the only way I could garden. I spaced bricks out along the wood sides (they were 16′ beds & the support was needed anyhow) and used the bricks as a seat.
My wood beds got a weathered look very quickly. I didn’t want to use harsh chemicals to protect the wood, so I lined them with pond liner, and used a combo of teak oil and water sealer. Even in the Las Vegas heat, they kept their color & shape very well.

Wood beds are great for summer; the wood doesn’t absorb heat. Brick beds are excellent for winter, since they absorb heat and keep the dirt warmer. I liked covering the front of my brick beds (I had some 100% brick ones in addition to the 16′ wood ones) in the summer with white cloth, to reflect the heat. I also used zucchini plants smack in the front of the bed, so the big heat-loving leaves would also cover the brick.

I like your way of thinking, keep grow big

I made some from cardboard boxes & put roof tiles around them and they stayed together when the cardboard rotted when I was renting.

…you guys are going to go to Northern Canada in a coordinated effort with people of similar organizations to educate and help start up a secure greenhouse gardening cooperative for the Innuit peoples, right? They are experiencing a government induced food crisis in their isolated communities,and many of them are elders, and little children…hint, hint.

Conserves Water resources..soil does not compact..nourishes Earth worms..Increased Food Production with less Labor due to Intensive Planting

may end up doing this – but think that the garden I am planting is above the swamp and in good loamy soil – thanks for the ideas!

We do this as well as using large barrels for tomato plants…

This is how I am currently gardening for the most part, it is working out great.

What is a permaculture gardener?

You can build raised beds out of anything my current favorite method is using unpainted metal roofing with a frame of wood on the outside. I would then use the lasagna garden technique of filling them. In the Southwest US they have historically used the opposite creating a garden that resembles a waffle by lowering the the planting area and raising the pathway. This protects both soil and plant roots from the intense sun and allows the garden to collect the rain or other water in a place concentrated around the roots to get the most from it.

raised garden beds have been a blessing for me as im in a wheel chair

I like it I like it!

I prefer fixed beds due to slugs; sunken beds can resist drought!

what a waste of time and resource. Pile of dirt will do. Throw seeds in the sunshine, earth does most of the rest. Bit of water sure but structures and arts and crafts is not gardening, it’s construction. Refocus your effort about the things plants notice.

hand made from recycled pallets

Hand made 🙂

hand made, so I can laugh at myself after a year and some more learning 🙂

Hand made – we have 40 of them in a 1/16th acre yard!

I’ve just acquired a 125 square metre allotment! This page is great for some brilliant ideas which I am hoping to adopt. Looking forward to getting started

Handmade. My partner can no longer get down on the ground so he is in the process of building seat high garden beds. They are 40″ wide by 36′ long from untreated recycled pallets. Can’t wait to start planting.

Lauren Monahan Greg Robinson got pallets furr you guiezzzz at mine

Hand made.

Used pallets sitting in alleys are toilets for the homless and then you grow your food in them. Ewww !

Recycled containers whenever possible. Just rescued an old rowboat for my new medicinal herb garden.

Prefab…I am uncoordinated.

Obviously using locally sourced recycled material and doing it yourself would be best for you and the environment…

Why use raised garden beds? What a waste. Just make your garden on the ground.

My raised beds are made of untreated 2×12’s salvaged from an old building. I live right on the water table so drainage is a problem and the soil here sucks, so building these raised beds is simpler than digging up the ground and mixing compost in. I know people who make their beds from tote boxes placed side by side. They live in a rental property, so if they move they can take their garden with them. There are a lot of reasons to use raised beds. It may not be best for everyone.

This is amazing! Do you have a photo? I have a small yard and would love to see how you’ve done it!

Andrew Sharrock

Diane Porter-Simmonds

Stacey Gallagher

hand made from recycled products, or better yet plant out a forty five degree hill with perennials, (plus weeding)> 🙂

From the roof in spring!

Excellent idea! I love that they can be moved too.

Wow, that’s incredible! Something to aspire to 🙂

All about the mound.

This phota was taken four weeks after tje first seed were sown, by the end of the season it was covered in squash, tomato, beans, peas, rutabaga, grape cuttings, blueberry, wildflowers and medicinal wild herbs.

Jason Lewis I want one

Built my own.

Oh Lord…..Lol-yes baby :-*

One day lol, not just now

Check this out SahnHua Zhao.

My diy ones are much better than the kit ones I bought ” to save time “.

Ours are tiered and we made them

I do both! And I love both!

You might want to read “Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway. Remarkable book.

jerry

Permaculture…You mean there is a name for what I have been doing for over 30 years…I prefer to make my own beds…if you want to use hinges use salvaged old door hinges should you want to move the bed it folds into one piece if the hinges are on the inside so they fold …and its cheaper …raised beds are nice as you can sit on the side and weed if you wish…I go with the intensive gardening method…More plants more you reap….If your garden means you work more you are doing it wrong…I believe in the kiss method…Keep It Simple Stupid…works for me

Some of us have to have wire-lined raised beds to keep out gophers and voles, and to get above the hard pan for growing food 🙂

Rather do the “natural” Raised Garden Bed.

the higher the raise the better the drainage he faster he plants die in the drought. I only grow wildflowers in my old raised bed now

As long as both are corpse free…either works for me~~~~
P † lol

have you ever seen how much good wood is thrown in land fills ?

reuse !!!! and upcycle !!!!!!

Those who enjoy gardening but have physical limitations due to disease or failed surgery find this method extremely beneficial ♡

okay, this is what I will make for my deck! 🙂

Or you can use them to build another fence to climb over! JEZZ

“God Almighty first planted a garden.
And indeed, it is the purest of human pleasures.”
-Francis Bacon

Prefer home made

Gabby Rodriguez

Raising my own food.

Prefer homemade for raising own food. Like the prefabs for flowers.

John Arndt

I built six 4’X10′ boxes for gardening in the back yard. The only way to go!

Will Richardson 🙂

Spring fever Annette Candland??? 😀

I have some of those nad thats what Im going to in spring, my daughter did it last year

Just make sure to use non GMO seeds!!

Don’t use pressure treated wood ….. Chemicals will get into your plants and poison your veggies

hand-made… build to suit your area/needs.

I like to use cinder blocks, they don’t rot or leach. Just stack them and fill with dirt or gravel, no cement required.

I’m old fashioned I like to put a fence around her and make a garden

i try to use recycled materials as much as possible…getting creative and making a unique garden all at once…so, i guess: handmade!

Hand made.

the brackets are expensive cheaper to use a an old bed frame.

and old fence boards

Dont know anything about some plants, but I know somethin about the womens. Theres lots of womens in this thread. Hey pretty babies, you need some sweet sugah, sugahs?

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BsnfyBxCAAEJxZc.jpg

another source for information on making a raised garden is at http://squarefootgardening.org/

I believe it’s way better to plant in the ground but for urban areas, raised beds can work if you do it right!

Why does it bother you that people want and like to use raised beds? They are easier to maintain, reduce soil erosion, and look great in the front yard.

Some folks can’t bend, squat and move like they used to. Raised beds provide a good way to garden for those who can’t garden in the traditional way.

They are also really helpful if your have less than optimal soil. We have a lot of land, but our soil has high concentrations of clay and is full of rocks. Raised beds give our plants a strong start in super soil (we mix in worm castings and compost, among other things) which over time leeches nutrients into our crappy soil beneath the beds.

There is research that shows plants react as if “pot-bound” when in any pot, no matter how big it seems to us. Theyir roots do not crow as deep or dense & plants aagrowth is thus thwarted–you may want to consider this before putting food plants in raised closed beds above the earth.

and no voles!

Amanda not like ours lol

I like using old bathtubs. They drain, they don’t rot, they are colourful, and it keeps them out of the land fill. If you let people know that you want them, they will bring them to you for nothing, because it costs to take them to the dumps. I have 15 of them in use roight now.

who wrote this sentence? it prevents article from being readable 😛

because we have pets I would prefer the raised garden..

hand made because I know what it is made of for sure!

Josh, does this look like a good idea?

Winter is just underway in Maine…I look at this picture and I feel impatient…

Prefab may be made of wood that contains arsenic. Pressure treated wood contains arsenic.

had some, were great

A Really good subject to post in the Middle Of Winter! DOH!

Either way that seems so much more manageable….tidy

I believe- if you have pesky visitors (rabbits,squirrels,raccoons)making a a fine mesh lid is also an easy deterrent when planning your project

I love making raised beds… My back yard is full of them, and I’m thiiiiiis close to filling the front yard with them. 🙂

Chuck Anderson we really need to try this…carrots?

Buying the premade ones are too expensive! I like making ours out of reclaimed materials. One year I used bales of hay, that worked well.

I have used milk crates…lined them with landscape cloth then filled with dirt. They work great and are easy to move around if need be.

This is great for small yards

Do you bury them??

I always thought the same till those gophers would pull entire plants underground….now where we are now is clay…

Handmade! I have 3

Vince Ecniv

Handmade. Saves money, and time.

Kathleen, THAT is a brilliant idea!

I use old tractor tires for my raised beds. They work great, I am recycling from farming neighbors and they are comfortable to sit on while weeding!

In some areas raised beds probably serve a purpose, but I prefer “ground level gardens” that I can attack with a hoe without hitting a wooden structure that gets in my way, and must have grass and weeds trimmed around its edges. Raised beds would just be just extra work and obstructions for me.

In my case my subdivision was graded by the developers with crappy fill made of dirt, sand and gravel. Can’t even get a shovel to break ground let alone grow anything in it. Lots of urban gardeners need raised beds so – no – it’s not a waste of time and resources by any means.

My Grandfater never needed a raised garden bed to grow wonderful veggies. Just a 20th century idea.

Bad soil, limited water, or a rooftop garden in a city would make raised beds useful. I’m old though and it’s easier for me not to have to deal with a wooden structure. The hoe and gravity do the work (or a rototiller), and there is no need for extra work of trimming around the structure, you just mow around the edges. In a raised bed you would have to weed by hand.

Lucky grandpa! Must have had good soil and no arthritis. M

This is just easier, at least in my area of the country.

great idea! I have farms all around me! on~it!

all of mine are handmade. rocks and wood.

I have come to learn allowing the earth to grow your food for you leaves many apes bored and restless. They then consume themselves in hobbies they call gardening but do not contribute to the health of the plants. The photo is not on a roof top or whatever. Kristen why does the patch of dirt you needed to bring in because of shotty soil need sides? You could just lay the dirt out in a shape. Every month or so do 5 minutes of raking at the edge of the dirt pile (which even if it’s 6″ thick isn’t so much a pile as a layer) If one raised bed can be built every 15-30 min(if you’re not a carpenter it would likely take longer). then you have 3-5 months of raking time available to tidy the edge of your bed. Plus your plants roots will get down into that shit soil and begin to transform it into a suitable medium. 

I’m pissing in the ocean as far as convincing people that they don’t need structure because if it’s more involved than it needs to be they feel a greater sense of accomplishment they”worked hard for” and it is entirely needless. so they are not great gardeners but awesome at busy work.

Hand made !

Tis the seaons!:)

hand made of course

i did use only recycled material,including old nails and screws ……

The useful features is your ability to grow your own.

Hand made, but w/ a team..

Hand made and customized for your layout/what you wish to grow.

Think i would use good and treated wood so i dont have to make another every couple years . Cheap is good if you want to replace more often

Rocks? Tell me about how please 🙂 TY (p m me)

We built ours from cement blocks and rebar posts.

We used food grade plastic barrels cut in half. it works well!

This is what I want to do.

Little of all, Cinder blocks, safe pallets, lick tubs ( like wine barrels cut in half that cattle feed comes in), straw bales.

Been building my own for years now. I have 11 of these so far. I’ve posted the pattern to make these on Ann Ana White blog.

I am in a wheelchair. I like to garden. Raised bed are awesome!

Wow Jack I have found gardening peaceful apparently you do not have peace. Too bad. Your judgement of others leads me to believe you must have a perfect life. If so great for you. If not, leave others alone in what they enjoy. As adults we no longer have to put up with bullies on the playground.

old water bed s make great boxes

I can’t believe how butthurt you people are that raised beds are not the best thing since sliced bread. YES they CAN be useful. But over half the places I’ve seen them used they were not only unnecessary but a total nuisance. Dirt sun water (maybe compost and mineral[of course organic] fertilizer) START there. If it doesn’t seem to be working then imagine the solution, if it happens to be a raised bed then GOOD on YA. Fucking relax.  

I love the legs! I will look at your plans Lea Fox and check them out.! thanks!

I prefer straw bale gardening. Much easier and much cheaper.

Our efforts to urban garden here last year got stumped by birds, mule deer and squirrels.

Do we really need a tutorial on how to build a raised garden bed?? Build a box and fill it in with dirt. Done!

You said “Grow your own.” lol.

Easier on the back when you’re weeding that sucker.

I don’t have a problem finding cheap building materials. I have a problem finding cheap DIRT. Those things hold a LOT of soil.

Beautiful, beautiful garden!

I love to garden.

Yes I like it

Denise Lucas

I’ve gardened both ways – garden plots tilled up in spring and raised beds. While there is some investment and time at first to make a raised bed with a height of your choosing – I prefer the raised beds. Using the Square Foot gardening method – you can get more yield using a lot less space. I’m venturing into trying Straw Bales this year to see how this goes because I only want to plant and grow a limited amount of vegetables. I say – – – to each his own and what works best for you.

Most vegetable plants have a shallow root system and grow very well in 8 to 10 inches of soil. They will not become root bound.

Thinking about raised beds this year.

Straw sounds interesting too

Just don’t use treated lumber. I know it won’t last forever, but you don’t want poison in the vegetables.

Integrated permaculture (which can’t happen in a box )will outdo square foot any season. Real gardening is not owning plants, but building ecology. As my garden gets bigger and more productive my workload stays pretty much the same because I’ve developed a world that just makes food simply by existing. If you think I am farther from peace than an ass with a saw and hammer instead of rockin’ tomatoes, then you are blind to what gardens even are. You think what you do makes or breaks them but this is not so. Nature gave you EVERY ingredient and provided each of the actors. Putting some boards around it doesn’t change any of that. Good luck fools.

Janie Andreae Mehlan

pre fabricated bc its easy and I’m lazy

We built ours because we live on an old railroad line and the soil isn’t that great.:)

Crystal Behmetuik spring time project for us?

Please try Mobile farming system website for much easier way to grow produce .. Hydroponics!

Nate, we all need to go visit this great permaculture compound just south of Yelapa! I haven’t been there yet but have heard of it and it sounds like a must-see.

i made 40 feet of garden boxes for under 100 dollars last summer. recycled pallets that i got for free. reuse anything you can. the businesses were happy to get rid of them rather than haul them to the dump.

The tutorial gives advice on using recycled lumber, reinforcing sides, how deep to make it, what kind of soil to put in it, and more. All things that a person who has not gardened before might think of.

Jacqueline Brocato Morin Stephanie Morin

We will definitely do this between you and Jackie no problem

Shirley Helen Williams

Lisa

Use heat treated pallets specifically marked with “HT”. Beware of using wooden pallets that are treated with arsenic or other harmful chemicals.

Working on mine….

i took the sides off some big wire reals for wheels and built a frame to hold 2 plastic 55 gal barols cut in half to make cart raised bed gardin

I like my own!

takes too much watering to maintain.. ???

I’ve always wanted one of those

I prefer a hand-made one that someone else makes for me.

Yes will you help me make my first one please

Daniel Andrew Noall

Either one, but I need a roof over mine to keep out the rabbits, squirrels and chipmunks.

Yayayayayayayayayyayaayaya can’t wait for summer!

You can use the 3 feet of snow to raise your beds, lol

Raised. I don’t trust the soil.

Gotta do this

Building our own seems to fit our yard and budgetary needs.

My husband made ours And they work beautifully!

Had my first raised garden last summer. It turned out so many vegetables that my husband will extend the raised garden this year to hold more vegetables!

My Uncle did this years ago in Galva Iowa…… It works quite well.

I got good strong high ones – thanks Garet Berg, Mike and crew when you had the mill 🙂

Hand made one

Hand made one. You can choose to use stronger and thicker boards. Pre-made are usually thinner boards.

My street – Hurst Ave – is a PUUURfect public space to have these raised beds as a “Community Garden”. We tend to think of gardens as circles or squares, but this would be very “Linear”….almost the entire block from my place. Its a long strip of grass between the public sidewalk and the gate to the private school. Its 300 ish feet long. I have to research who actually owns IT. Some of it is “hilly” – around 20 TO 30+ degree angle, but good for a Grey Water System! Perfect to demonstrate how that can work. And, use the gate as a way to grow food. It gets sun in the a.m. and sun in the afternoons. I visually measured – we could have 20 BEDS! I could get our neighbors to “Adopt-A-Plot”…..we could share / sell to local businesses, do Grow Food Party Crew events! LETS GO GREEN 2015!!!!!!

Been here… do this !! 😉

I like it when mu brother does it for me ha ha ha . Jk

I make my own, I hate buying something I can make myself for far less than it would cost to purchase.

You can also try straw bale gardening.

But they aren’t very comfortable to sleep on.

what a great way to grow

I make my own, mostly, but got a great deal on a couple of pre-fab from gardeners.com

KevinOsborne Martin Carlton Cynthia Casas-Carlton

Someone else can do the handy work. I’d buy it off them 😀

We have made them for about $4 a planter

Elaine

… does anyone know if you can use stone/moveable boulders for your borders/walls of a raised garden? I live in the southwest and have lots of access to all kinds of rocks/boulders and thought about building a stone wall to line my raised garden. Do you have to worry about anything leaching out of the rocks?

saves your back from bending over…walk & graze

Anonymous

Parents and grandparents gardened similarly, so I grew up gardening both organically, and with raised beds. Only we didn’t know the damage tilling did so my dad tilled the whole thing every year, then we piled up the beds. It was a LOT of work! 🙂 Looking forward to getting my permaculture garden in. Last year, it was all on the deck.

Angela Miller Princess London Albert Miller I haven’t read this or even clicked the link yet but it should be good.

Kate Adams we could do it

Nic Mcdonald

Could make these out of pallet’s. Fraser would LOVE that! Lucky for him, I’m running out of garden space!

Mark Hawkins

Jeremy bedard. Get started

Noah Keogh .. hope feeling better bud. Let me how goes today xx

De Pine

David Kenneth Lamb

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