How to Build Raised Beds for Your Vegetable Garden

, written by Benedict Vanheems gb flag

Swiss chard growing in a raised bed

Raised beds are extremely popular with gardeners, and it isn’t hard to see why. Read on to discover the best location, size and materials for making a bed – and then we’ll show you how to build your own!

Where to Site Your Raised Beds

Position your raised bed in a sunny spot and close to the house if you want easy access for weeding and harvesting. Raised beds can be sited on any surface, including paving or concrete.

Our Garden Planner is a great tool for planning the layout and location of your beds. Use the Rectangle Tool or choose one of the Raised Beds from the selection of Garden Objects to give a realistic look to your plan. Beds can be resized using the corner handles and are easily copied and pasted as required. With the beds laid out you can drop in your crops and even mark the layout of drip irrigation, if required.

Optimum Size for Raised Beds

Raised beds are best kept to a maximum of four feet (1.2m) wide. This makes it easy to reach the middle of the beds without stepping on the soil. Beds against a wall or fence should be about 2-3 feet (60-90cm) wide, as you’ll only have access from one side. Aim for a minimum height of 6 inches (15cm), while up to a foot (30cm) is ideal for root crops.

Make sure to leave enough space for access between beds. About two feet (60cm) wide is ideal.

Raised planters make gardening easier for gardeners who are less able to bend

Raised Bed Materials

Raised beds can be bought as a kit or built from scratch. Kits are simplest to setup, with treated wood or recycled plastic the most common materials used. Raised-up boxes are perfect for wheelchair users or anyone who is less able to bend.

If you want to make a bed from wood you have three options.

Option 1: Treated Wood

Treated wood has been immersed in chemicals to prevent rotting. Many gardeners prefer to choose more environmentally friendly alternatives derived from natural products.

Option 2: Durable Woods

Woods such as cedar and larch are naturally more durable. The flip side is that they cost a lot more, though they will last for many years.

Using thick boards for a long-lasting raised bed

Option 3: Thicker Boards

2-inch (5cm) thick larch should last at least a decade, even without treatment.

How to Build a Raised Bed

To build your raised bed, screw pre-cut planks together using decking screws. You can overlap the planks by screwing through one board into the end of another, or screw the boards into wooden corner posts. Whichever way you do it, it’s easier if you pre-drill the holes in the outer board to one size smaller than the screw diameter.

Fill Your Beds with Rich Soil

Fill your beds with a nutrient-rich mix of compost and soil to ensure optimum growth. With the right mix you shouldn’t have to add fertiliser, just a top-up of compost once or twice a year to recharge nutrients for the next crop. Use commercially-produced compost if you want to make life easy as the production process kills weed seeds.

Rich compost and soil mix for a raised bed

Raised Beds Rock!

It’s worth recapping why raised beds are invaluable for many gardeners. They allow us to grow almost anywhere and because they’re tended from the sides, the soil is never stepped on and should never become compacted. The added depth of a nutrient-rich growing medium often enables crops to be grown a little closer together, which means more food from the same amount of space. And if you have children, raised beds mark the path edges clearly, keeping your crops safer from accidents.

Raised beds packed with vegetables and flowers

While they initially take time and money to set up, raised beds improve drainage, which means they’ll also warm up quicker in the spring – just make sure you stay on top of watering in hot weather. And you have to admit: raised beds can look stunning!

< All Guides

Garden Planning Apps

If you need help designing your vegetable garden, try our Vegetable Garden Planner (for PC & Mac) or if you'd prefer an app for your mobile or tablet device, our iPad & iPhone app Garden Plan Pro is available on the App Store here.
Garden Planning Apps and Software

Vegetable Garden Pest Warnings

Want to Receive Alerts When Pests are Heading Your Way?

If you've seen any pests or beneficial insects in your garden in the past few days please report them to The Big Bug Hunt and help create a warning system to alert you when bugs are heading your way.

Show Comments



Comments

 
"My potatoes and carrots never grow in compost why the carrots always curl up and the potatoes have green age but no toobersgrow "
Eileen Miller on Thursday 11 August 2016
"Root crops like carrots need deep soil, so they may curl if the compost is too shallow. Roots can also split or take on odd shapes if the soil is overly rich - for example if lots of manure has been added before sowing. Potatoes need to be earthed up by drawing up the soil around the stems to create more 'space' for the tubers to grow in. Keep potatoes well watered in dry weather too."
Ben Vanheems on Saturday 13 August 2016
"my bed is built on decking planks with no gaps . Soil will be good 16inches deep. Do I need any sort of lining, or drainage like broken crocks?"
Charlie T on Sunday 16 April 2017
"Hi Charlie. It might be a good idea to line the bed before filling it with your soil. This is so that the decking planks underneath don't rot, but also so that any preservative/treatment used on the decking doesn't leach into the soil and then into the vegetables you grow in it. You will need to puncture the lining at the bottom to allow for drainage (unless it is naturally draining)."
Ben Vanheems on Tuesday 18 April 2017
"I am looking to make a raised veg bed in my garden, is it advisable to place a layer of broken stones to help drainage? Also is it advisable to use a weed protector membrane across the whole base or just at the edges? Thanks"
Mark on Thursday 5 October 2017
"Hi Mark. There's no real need to put broken stones to help with drainage. Just having the soil level within the beds raised above the surrounding ground level will help it to drain. With regards, weed protector membrane, you can use this to hold in the soil if you are placing your raised beds onto a hard surface such as paving. Otherwise I wouldn't say it is necessary - though some people like to lay membrane between beds to help stop weeds sprouting up along the paths."
Ben Vanheems on Friday 6 October 2017

Add a Comment

Add your own thoughts on the subject of this article:
(If you have difficulty using this form, please use our Contact Form to send us your comment, along with the title of this article.)

 
   
(We won't display this on the website or use it for marketing)



Captcha


(Please enter the code above to help prevent spam on this article)



By clicking 'Add Comment' you agree to our Terms and Conditions