Planters and flower pots are good introductions to gardening, but a great way to grow fresh edibles with limited space is with a DIY raised garden bed. Elevated garden beds are excellent for yards with poor or compacted soil.
This guide outlines different types of raised garden beds. It teaches the basics of how to build a raised garden bed and how to plant and maintain your vegetables and flowers.
Types of Raised Garden Beds
Raised garden bed plans and kits come in different styles and sizes. These are great for growing herbs and your own vegetable ingredients for salsa or salad. Once you’ve mastered the gardening technique, you can build a DIY raised garden bed for seasonal flowers to add color to your landscape.
Raised garden bed kits offer a simple and fast way to begin gardening with a small amount of effort. Using a kit to make a raised garden bed requires no special tools or advanced skills to assemble the container. They are easy to install following the manufacturer’s instructions.
Kits are available in a range of sizes and materials. Most types of garden beds are the open-bottom variety that are placed directly on the ground. Some elevated raised garden beds are assembled on legs. These are great for small patios or decks and require even less bending or squatting to tend to the plants.
- Cedar raised garden beds from a kit can be used to create a thriving garden using untreated wood that naturally resists rot and insects. Left organic, the wood will weather nicely to a silver-gray color over time.
- Vinyl, plastic and composite raised garden beds are strong and durable containers that are built to last. These types of raised garden beds are designed to resist warping and can help ensure a long and maintenance-free life in outdoor conditions.
While wooden beds are available in kits, learning how to build a raised garden bed is a straightforward project suitable for those with some experience using common tools. For a simple DIY raised garden bed:
- Create a four-sided structure using 2- x 10-inch lumber that has been cut to length.
- The dimensions of your DIY raised garden bed can vary depending on your needs and available space. Most vegetables need about 10 inches of soil to thrive.
- The garden bed should be four-feet-wide or less. Anything wider than that can make it difficult to reach the center of the bed.
- Place the shorter walls flush to the longer walls to create a rectangle.
- Drill pilot holes and use 2-1/2-inch deck screws to fasten the short walls to the ends of the long walls.
Safety Tip: Using pressure-treated lumber is an option. Today’s pressure-treated wood is designated safe to use around people, pets, plants and vegetables. If you are concerned about using treated wood, line the interior walls of the garden bed with sheet plastic before adding soil.
Raised Garden Bed Tips and Considerations
It is crucial that the location you select for the garden has enough sun exposure. Without the proper amount of sunlight, your plants will not thrive.
- Choose a flat, sunny spot to build your raised garden bed.
- Use a shovel to remove ground that prevents the frame from resting in a level position.
- Don't worry about the condition of the soil in your chosen location since you will be adding your own quality soil.
- Some raised garden bed kits are stackable, so you can grow plants with long root stems. If building your own raised garden bed, add height to the walls by adding a second level of lumber when making the frame.
Line with Landscape Fabric
Protect against pests by lining the bottom of the bed with weed block, hardware cloth, builder's paper or landscape fabric.
This barrier between the soil in the bed and the soil in your yard helps keep weeds and grass from growing in the bed from below. At the same time, it is porous and allows water to pass through for proper drainage.
Keep the weed barrier in place with landscape fabric pegs fastened around the interior edge of the raised garden bed.
Add Soil to the Raised Garden Bed
One of the best advantages of using raised garden beds for your edibles is that the container rests on top of the ground. This allows you to control the soil and amendments to help sustain the plants you are growing.
- You want a mix of organic soil and compost for optimal nutrition and growth.
- For most vegetable gardens, a good basic mix is made from 60 percent topsoil, 30 percent compost and 10 percent potting mix.
- Adjust the proportions for your garden plan. Some vegetables, like tomatoes, prefer a richer soil mix.
- Add enough soil mix to fill the bed. Some settling will occur.
- Use the formula Length x Width x Depth to determine the amount of soil needed to fill the container. A raised garden bed that measures 8-feet by 4-feet by 10-inches will need about 27-cubic feet of soil.
Add Seeds and Plants
Add plants or seeds to the soil mixture in the garden bed.
- Be sure they are planted far enough apart and at a proper depth to allow them to have room to grow.
- Arrange the items so that taller plants will not block sunlight to their shorter neighbors.
- As they grow, support them as needed with plant stakes, props or tomato cages.
- Consider using bird netting to help keep unwanted critters from your garden.
- Water regularly if rainfall is scarce.
- Plants need about one inch of water a week once they are established and actively growing.
What to Grow in Your Raised Garden Bed
What you grow in your garden depends on your appetite. Choose to grow a themed edible garden – one that has all the ingredients you need for a delicious meal, right in your backyard.
- In the front of your raised bed, plant one oregano plant, two cilantro and nine red onions.
- In the middle of your raised bed, plant one serrano, fresno chili or chile de arbol pepper (staked), and one Roma tomato (caged).
- In the back, plant two tomatillos. Tomatillos must be planted in pairs to cross pollinate.
- In the front of your raised bed, plant carrots, radishes and onions.
- In the middle of your raised bed, plant lettuce and baby spinach.
- In the back of your raised bed, plant peppers (staked) and tomatoes (caged).
Kitchen herb garden:
- In the front of your raised bed, plant oregano, cilantro and parsley.
- In the middle of your raised bed, thyme and sage and rosemary.
- In the back of your raised bed, plant chives and basil.
- Once your herbs are mature, be sure to harvest a little every few days to keep the plants producing.
Mint makes a great herb for a kitchen garden, but it is a “runner” plant and can take over a bed. It is best to plant mint in separate planters outside of the raised herb bed.
Tip: A raised garden bed also provides a place to hold flowers or bulbs. Try planting alternating rows of seasonal flowers so that you have something blooming all year round. Flowers attract pollinating insects that will increase yields in your vegetable garden.
Once you have learned how to build a raised garden bed, keep your green thumb working by digging into other garden projects. Add another composite or wood raised garden bed, explore creative flower pot ideas, find the best planter for your garden or learn to build a hexagonal planter.
Shop online when you're ready to start building a raised garden bed. The Home Depot delivers online orders when and where you need them.
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