How to build raised garden beds in 5 easy steps

Raised bed gardens are both practical and beautiful. Here's what you need to know to build your own in five easy steps.

How to build raised garden beds in 5 easy steps

What you will need

  • Tape measure
  • Stakes and string
  • Spade
  • Soil fork or cultivator (claw hoe)
  • Compost or other organic matter
  • Untreated wood or old railway ties cut to length
  • Electric drill and rods
  • Galvanized nails and cleats
  • Level
  • Complete fertilizer
  • Soil rake
  • Garden hose

1. Mark out the bed

  • Select a location that gets at least six hours of direct sunlight daily, on a level site if possible.
  • Outline a rectangular bed no more than 1.2 metres (four feet) wide with stakes and string.
  • If possible, orient the bed with the long sides running north–south.
  • To check if the bed is straight, measure the diagonals; they should be equal.

2. Prepare the soil

  • Strip any turf from the bed with a spade and turn over the soil to a depth of 30 centimetres (1 foot), using a garden fork or cultivator.
  • If the soil is poor, dig deeper.
  • Incorporate compost, manure, or other organic matter into the soil.

3. Install a retaining wall

  • Create a 15 to 20 centimetre high (6 to 8 inch high) wall with lengths of wood or lumber set singly or in stacks.
  • If you want your bed to slope, set the wall in a shallow perimeter trench.
  • Butt single ends together, nail them to one another and brace the corner with cleats.
  • If a deeper bed is desired, stack wood so the ends overlap.
  • Drill holes and drive rods 15 centimetres (6 inches) into the soil.

4. Enrich the soil

  • Fill the bed with topsoil liberally enriched with compost to a level 5 centimetres (2 inches) below the top of the wall to keep the soil from being washed away.
  • Work in some fertilizer.
  • Make the soil as rich as possible since raised beds tend to be planted more intensively than traditional vegetable plots.

5. Plant and tend

  • Rake the soil until smooth and level.
  • Water the soil well, then leave it to settle.
  • Add more soil if need be and rake again.
  • Plant with seeds or seedlings.
  • Spread mulch to inhibit moisture loss and water as often as possible.
  • Watch for pests.
  • If squirrels, deer or birds, trouble your beds, protect them with mesh or wire.

Follow these five easy steps and you'll be on your way to having your own beautiful raised bed gardens.

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