Back in 2002 when we landscaped our yard and started our garden we decided to create a raised bed garden.
We decided on raised bed gardening for a number of reason. The main reason being the soil in our yard seemed to be composed of mostly sand and clay. It was dry and difficult to dig deeper than 6 inches or so. amending the soil to a suitable consistency would have taken too long.
Other advantages of raised bed gardening that we considered before creating our garden were the fact that the soil would drain quickly in the spring when the snow melts, and the beds would warm up a little faster in the spring as well enabling us to either plant earlier in the season or giving the perennials and shrubs a head start.
So how can you make your own raised beds?
- We used easy wall garden stones (you can read the details of how we landscaped our garden here), but you can create your raised garden bed walls with:
- Concrete blocks, bricks, rocks, natural rot-resistant wood or wood that’s been treated with a safe preservative.
You might also need:
- Sheet plastic and or a wood preservative if you create wood borders.
- Measuring tape
- Spading fork
Since our raised garden beds were meant to be permanent garden structures we also used gravel screening at the base of the easy wall stones to give the stones a good foundation and also to aid in drainage from the garden beds.
Temporary Raised Beds
If you’re still landscaping and trying to decide where you want to place your garden beds you might consider creating temporary raised garden beds. You can easily change your garden design each season using temporary raised garden beds.
All you really need to do to create a temporary raised bed is shovel garden soil into the area that you’ve planned for your raised bed. You might consider using Triple mix soil as it’s been blended with garden soil, topsoil and compost. Otherwise you can amend your garden spoil by adding top soil and compost to the mix yourself.
Permanent and temporary beds can be shaped in any way that you wish. You can create rectangular, curved, or even round beds.
The basics of building a raised garden bed is that it should be about 12 inches deep and usually no more than three to four feet wide.
Our beds are build around the edges of the garden so we only have access to each bed from one side, however you might think of making a round bed in the center of your lawn or placing two raised beds side by side with two to three feet of space between them for easy access. You’ll be able to access the garden beds from both sides so it will be even easier to care for than ours!
Be sure to remove any rocks, sticks or other debris from the garden bed as you create it. Rake the top of the bed smooth and flat when you are finished building up the soil.
Permanent raised garden beds:
When creating permanent raised garden beds you should use rot-resistant wood (cedar for example) or bricks, rocks, stones or cement blocks. As I said above your bed should be at least a foot deep and no more than three to four feet wide.
If you choose to use a rot resistant wood when creating your raised garden bed you might want to use an earth friendly preservative such as linseed oil or a borax based treatment to slow the rotting of the wood.
Raised beds can be build on the soil of your yard, but I’d recommend loosening the soil with a spading fork or shovel first.
Once you’ve completed building the walls of your raised beds fill with triple mix or top soil, garden soil and compost.
Planting Raised Beds
Now that you’ve created your raised beds you’ll be able to visualize how your garden will look when the beds are planted.
Depending upon what kind of garden you’ve planned you can plant vegetables, herbs or flowering plants in your raised beds.
As my regular readers know our raised beds have a mix of roses (over 60); shrubs – boxwood, Rose of Sharon, Rhododendron, and Azaleas; perennials – lavender, bee balm, saliva, Maltese cross, peonies and many more; and spring flowering plants and bulbs. We also grow tomatoes, carrots, peppers, herbs and leafy greens right in our raised beds along side the flowering plants. The mix of plants actually look quite nice together.
Most of your planting should be done during the spring and autumn months.
You might want to add some fertilizer to the soil around your new plants when you first plant them. We use natural fertilizers such as alfalfa pellets or brew some alfalfa tea or compost tea to use as fertilizer.
If you’ve built your raised garden beds along the perimeter of your yard or fence you’ll want to plant taller plants at the back of the raised beds and shorter plants near the front. If your raised bed is in the center of your yard you’ll likely want to plant the taller plants in the center/middle of the raised bed and surround them with shorter plants.
Just be sure not to compact the soil as you work in your raised beds planting your new plants.
Be sure to water your raised beds regularly. One of the cons of raised beds is that they dry out a little faster than other garden beds.
Every year, usually at the end of May or beginning of June we add some mulch to the garden beds.
We don’t do this earlier in the season as we like to turn the soil around the plants a little bit prior to adding mulch. turning the soil tends to keep slugs at bay. Perhaps their eggs die when exposed on top of the soil. Mulch too early and you might find your garden full of slugs.
Adding mulch to your garden beds adds organic material that will break down over time and help fertilize your soil. The seasonal benefit of mulching is of course that it helps conserve water by keeping the soil moist below the mulch and of course a layer of mulch two or three inches deep will keep weeds away too.
Use straw, shredded bark, shredded leaves or other materials for mulch.
As I said earlier we have a number of plants in our raised garden beds. I put some thought into what kind of plants I would grow so that I would pretty much have continuous blooms in my garden from late March to November and sometimes even early December.
A variety of bulbs and spring plants work well for early to late Spring. Choose some plants that bloom early and some that bloom later in the season.
Many of the spring blooming plants die down once the weather starts to warm up so they are planted near perennials and rose shrubs. So once they die down, the perennials appear or the roses begin to bloom and the space that the spring plants took in the garden is quickly filled by the growing perennials.
If you grow vegetables in the garden you can arrange to grow them in succession as well. Lettuce often does best in the spring or at least before the weather begins to get quite hot. Once your lettuce is done you might plant beans or another crop of vegetable that isn’t mature until late summer.
This is what our backyard looked like in July 2003 – just a little more than a year after we’d put in the raised garden beds -
Believe it or not, the garden is even fuller now as the plants have reached maturity. It’s beautiful and even more amazing that we did it ourselves.
You can do – get inspired!