How to Build a Raised Bed Step-by-Step

, written by Benedict Vanheems gb flag

Raised bed vegetable garden

Spring has sprung - but there's still time to start a raised bed! In this short video and article, we'll demonstrate how easy it is to build a small 4ft x 4ft (1.2m x 1.2m) raised bed from scratch.

For this project we've used two planks of wood that are 8 feet (2.4m) long. By cutting these in half this makes a square bed that is 4 feet (1.2m) long on each side. The advantage of a bed that size is that you can reach the centre from all sides of the bed, so that you never have to step on the soil inside the bed. That means the soil never gets compacted, which helps plants to thrive.

Preparing the Ground

Choose an area of your garden that receives plenty of sun. Start by laying cardboard over the area the new bed will occupy. This will help to clear all the grass and weeds beneath.

The first thing you need to do with any cardboard is to remove any tape and staples. That way you'll be starting with nice clean cardboard that will rot down into the soil over time. This step may seem a little tedious, but it really shouldn't take you too long.

Spread your cardboard all over the growing area, including the paths. This will help to suppress weeds, stop grass growing up through, and keep it nice and clean, ready for the compost to go on top. Overlap the cardboard generously to prevent weeds from creeping up through any gaps. Aim for an overlap of about 6 inches (15cm).

“Pulling
Remove any non-biodegradable tape and staples from cardboard before using it as a base for your raised bed

Building a Raised Bed

With the ground covered, it's time to make your raised bed. Lay out a measuring tape along each plank and clearly mark the halfway point with a pencil. Saw both planks in half to create four the four walls to your raised bed, all of equal length.

Next, drill some pilot holes. These will make it easier to screw the walls together. Use a drill bit that's slightly thinner than the screws themselves. One end of each plank will overlap the end of the next and screw directly into it, so position your pilot holes correspondingly. Two holes in each plank is sufficient.

The walls of the bed need to be laid out so that each plank overlaps the next, with the pilot holes located at the overlapping end.

Screw the walls together using long screws so that each wall is properly secured to the next with a snug, close fit.

“Building
Overlap the ends of the raised bed walls and screw them together

Raised Bed Finishing Touches

With the walls of the raised bed fixed together, it's time to fill it. Add garden compost to the bed. This will give a nutrient-rich, moisture-retentive layer for roots to grow down into - a sensible move with summer approaching. It also introduces lots of beneficial microorganisms to the soil, which will further enhance plant growth.

The compost may be quite lumpy, so you can mix the compost with enriched topsoil specially formulated for vegetable gardening if you wish. Its fine texture means you can get on with sowing and planting immediately. You could use more of your own garden compost if you prefer, but make sure it's completely decomposed and of fine enough consistency to begin planting.

“Filling
Finally, fill your raised bed with a mixture of compost and enriched topsoil

You can lay bark chippings directly onto the cardboard between beds to give a neat-and-tidy finish to pathways. Alternatively, cut away excess cardboard from around the raised bed to leave a simple grass path.

Next comes the fun part - sowing and planting! If you're going to create a raised bed this spring, please let us know what you plan to grow in it in the comments sections below.

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Comments

 
"Does the cardboard need to be without any writing? Or for instance, laundry detergent might have a photo of the product super-imposed on the cardboard...not a photo that can be scraped off..."
Harry on Tuesday 17 April 2018
"Hi Harry. Ideally the cardboard needs to be plain - with just writing printed directly onto the cardboard. Avoid cardboard with shiny surfaces or coloured pictures on it - this will consist of the cardboard and then another glossy layer which won't easily decompose. Packing boxes are best, as is cardboard that internet deliveries often arrive in."
Ben Vanheems on Tuesday 17 April 2018
"my raised bed isnt from this year but from lasts year. it is around 15ftx30ft. bad thing is that is on a slope. a bit rough for me since my entire yard is on a slope haha. i just did an experiment with planting at that time. i just literally took about 50 packets of different veggie seeds and just threw them everywhere in the garden . well it actually paid off pretty well! it grew like a dang jungle! i have so many diff. veggies out there right now. just tried a turnip with its greens for the first time yesterday and it just might be my new favorite! i found out that guy i heard about just throwing the seeds everywhere and forget about plant spacing was right. there are NO weeds in the garden because all the veggies are overpowering and are growing stronger than when i spaced them like suggested. i found out to sometimes throw that out the window for some plants. my next experiment will be with tomato plants. i will try to remember to give updates on the progress. i have some good ideas that i think might work very well."
kevin on Saturday 16 March 2019
"Wow Kevin. Throwing your seeds about has clearly paid off for you! Glad you're having so much success. Please do keep us updated."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 18 March 2019
"what about plants with deep tap roots or carrots? Is this bed deep enough?"
Linda on Sunday 19 April 2020
"Hi Linda. Yes, if the bed is set on top of soil or lawn like the one in the video, then it would be fine for vegetables with long taproots because very long roots would be able to grow down into the original soil beneath the bed."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 20 April 2020
"Unfortunately, I realized that tree roots were the cause of many of my vegetable gardening problems. I understand that there are certain barriers that one can lay down, as opposed to the cardboard shown in the video, that would prevent tree roots from sucking all the moisture away from the vegetables...any suggestions would be appreciated. "
Harry on Monday 20 April 2020
"I can't recommend a particular product, but if you look for a thick, weed-suppressing membrane of some sort, that should do the trick. You want a barrier that keeps the roots separate from the soil in the raised bed, but that still allows moisture to drain through."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 20 April 2020
"Our ground is primarily clay, and we were originally going to get it tilled up, add good dirt, and just plant a traditional garden. However, I'm heavily leaning toward raised beds instead. Would you recommend us still taking this step if we did? I'd hate for my plants' roots to get through the cardboard to the clay and not do well because they found it a dead end. "
Karen on Tuesday 21 April 2020
"I don't think there's any need to do that Karen. If you are putting good stuff into the raised beds and then continuing to add organic matter periodically over the following years, the soil immediately beneath the raised bed will soften and improve in time. This is because the soil live within it - and particularly worms - will move up and back into the raised bed, essentially mixing up the two layers. This will in time soften and break up the clay beneath the raised bed, enabling plant roots to reach deeper down. "
Ben Vanheems on Tuesday 21 April 2020
"Our land is completely block paved. We have tried removing some setts to make a bed but the hard core is too deep. Can you put a raised bed on to the paving with a membrane of some sort underneath? It would only be for flowers."
Dawn on Friday 24 April 2020
"Hi Dawn. Yes indeed you can. The bed would need lining - some permeable landscape fabric would be fine - and then filled and planted as normal. One caveat is that the water draining out from the bottom may pour out from the sides and potentially stain your paving. The only way around that would be to smash down through the paving and hardcore to allow the water to drain vertically, but that doesn't sound like an option for you. But yes, you can certainly pop the raised bed onto a hard surface."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 27 April 2020
"Having mentioned earlier that tree roots were the "root" of my problems, I laid down some landscape and weed block fabric, then refilled the bed with soil (that's the short version of the story). This got me to thinking. Will earth worms still be able to get into the bed if they can't access it from underneath because of the fabric??"
Harry on Sunday 3 May 2020
"Worms have an uncanny ability of finding their way into garden beds and compost bins, no matter what. However, you could make absolutely sure by digging up an area of soil for worms and adding them in manually. But they'll find their way in there eventually."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 4 May 2020

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