how to build raised vegetable garden beds

how to build raised vegetable garden beds

What Is a Raised Backyard Mattress?

A raised backyard mattress (or just “raised mattress”) is a freestanding field or body—historically with no backside or prime—that sits aboveground in a sunny spot and is full of good-quality soil. Raised beds are normally open on the underside in order that the plant roots can entry soil vitamins under floor degree.

At its easiest, you can even construct a raised mattress and not using a body, and easily mound the soil 6 to eight inches excessive and flatten the highest. This requires no further supplies (past soil).

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Advantages of Raised Backyard Beds

Grouping collectively a number of raised beds makes for a considerable vegetable backyard that’s straightforward to keep up, with no weeding and crops that mature quick.

In raised beds, you’ll be planting seeds and transplants nearer as a result of the beds are smaller and the soil is richer. Nevertheless, crops grown shut collectively in raised beds mature quicker, since they compete for vitamins and daylight. Every plant senses the gap of others and adjusts its metabolism to compete. A number of college research have confirmed this “competitors syndrome” by figuring out how crops understand others close by utilizing the inexperienced gentle spectrum.

Listed here are extra advantages to raised backyard beds:

  • Backyard chores are made simpler and extra snug due to much less bending and kneeling. Save your knees and again from the pressure and ache of tending the backyard!
  • Productiveness of crops is improved because of higher drainage and deeper rooting.
  • Raised beds are perfect for small areas the place a traditional row backyard is perhaps too wild and unwieldy. Raised beds assist to maintain issues organized and in examine.
  • Planting in a raised mattress provides you full management over soil high quality and content material, which is very vital in areas the place the present floor soil is rocky, nutrient-poor, or riddled with weeds.
  • Raised beds enable for an extended rising season, because the soil raised above the bottom warms up extra rapidly.
  • Fewer weeds are seen in raised beds as a result of the beds are elevated away from surrounding weeds and full of disease- and weed-free soil.
  • Raised beds enable for simpler square-foot gardening and companion planting.

Be taught extra about the advantages of raised backyard beds.

Image: Raised bed gardening. Credit: CJP/Getty Images.
Picture: Raised mattress gardening. Credit score: CJP/Getty Photos.

Selecting the Proper Wooden for Raised Beds

Raised beds could be made out of fairly a couple of completely different supplies, however the commonest one is wooden. Nevertheless, many individuals are involved in regards to the security of their wooden body. Relaxation assured that CCA pressure-treated wooden is now banned, because it was identified to leach arsenic, and also you gained’t discover it in shops. In the present day, safely handled and untreated woods can be found.

  • Untreated wooden will begin to rot comparatively rapidly, relying on the kind. There are exceptions, although: Cedar is the best choice for raised beds as a result of this sturdy wooden is of course rot-resistant and might final 10 to fifteen years. It’s also insect-resistant due to oils within the wooden. The draw back is that it’s costly.
  • Fashionable handled wooden has chemical substances to forestall rotting. Research have proven that any compounds that leach out are properly inside secure ranges established by the EPA, nonetheless some gardeners really feel uncomfortable with handled wooden. If you’re involved about utilizing handled timbers, line the within of the mattress partitions with polyethylene.
  • An alternative choice is to easily select a lot thicker boards of untreated wooden. For instance, a 2-inch-thick board of larch wooden ought to final a decade with out remedy.

Options to conventional wooden planks embody:

  • Railroad ties (handled) are straightforward as a result of you possibly can merely lay them on the bottom and drive in iron spikes. Railroad ties handled with creosote don’t seem to pose any well being issues as a result of many of the creosote has leached away.
  • Pallets generally is a low cost supply for backyard mattress supplies, so long as you recognize the place they got here from. Pallets are developed for delivery supplies. Keep away from pallets which might be additionally handled with a chemical referred to as methyl bromide, a identified endocrine disruptive chemical which may impression your reproductive well being. Most pallet producers stopped utilizing the chemical in 2005, however many elderly pallets are nonetheless on the market. Search for a stamp on the pallet that claims “HT” or warmth handled. If there isn’t a stamp or you possibly can’t confirm an HT on the floor, don’t use the pallet in your backyard.
  • Stone or concrete blocks and bricks can be utilized. Nevertheless, understand that concrete will improve the soil pH over time, and you might have to amend the soil.
  • Stone partitions make attention-grabbing beds and have a country really feel; if stone is definitely accessible in your land, this may very well be an ideal choice; in any other case, stone could be dear.
  • Composite wooden is a more recent product constituted of each recycled plastic and wooden fibers. It’s rot-resitant and long-lasting, but additionally very costly.

One other quick, low cost methodology of constructing raised beds is to make use of concrete development (cinder) blocks. Their holes could be full of soil combine and planted with herbs or strawberries. The additional gathered warmth from concrete is ideal for Mediterranean-type herbs equivalent to rosemary and lavender. Strawberry crops develop enormous and fruit quick within the holes. Every block is 16 inches lengthy by 8 inches excessive; the worth at huge field shops is most affordable. Beds of 13 ft or longer by 4 ft huge are cheaper to construct utilizing blocks than with cedar boards.

How Huge Ought to Your Raised Mattress Be?

  • We advocate a most of 4-feet throughout. (Lumber is commonly reduce in 4-foot increments.)
  • Don’t go wider than 4-feet width so to entry the backyard with out moving into the mattress (which compacts the soil, making it tougher for plant roots to get the oxygen they want). Making the mattress too huge will make it troublesome to succeed in the center, which makes weeding and harvesting troublesome, too.
  • In case your raised mattress is being constructed in opposition to a wall or fence, we advocate making it 2 to three ft huge, because you’ll solely have the ability to entry the backyard from one facet.
  • Size isn’t as vital. So, your raised mattress could be 4 x 4 ft or 4 x 8 ft or 4 x 12 ft. Make your mattress so long as you want or construct a number of raised beds for various crops!


How Deep Ought to a Raised Mattress Be?

Essentially the most primary peak for raised beds is 6 inches. That is in regards to the width of 1 normal 2 inch x 6 inch board. (Word that boards purchased at a lumber yard are literally 1.5″ thick x 5.5” excessive.)


The most well-liked peak for raised beds is about 1 foot. (If shopping for boards at a lumber yard, that’s 11 inches excessive. That is the peak of two stacked “2 x 6″ boards.)


You may definitely go taller (18 inches, 24 inches, 36 inches), however word that the load of the added soil will add stress to the edges. You’ll want so as to add cross-supports to any mattress over 12 inches excessive.

The depth of the soil itself is essential and will depend on which crops you want to develop, in addition to how a lot soil is above the bottom versus under the bottom.

  • Shallow-rooted crops (equivalent to lettuce, greens, and onions) want a minimal soil depth of 6 inches.

  • Deep-rooted crops equivalent to carrots, parsnips, potatoes, tomatoes, and squash want a minimal soil depth of 12 to 18 inches. If crops don’t have free soil to this depth, the roots will be unable to go down deep sufficient to entry vitamins.

No matter peak you select to your body, you’ll must loosen the soil under the bottom accordingly. For instance, when you have a mattress that’s 6 inches excessive, we advocate loosening the soil under the bottom about 6 to 9 extra inches should you want to develop root greens. If you’re solely rising shallow-rooted crops, there’s no want.

You may definitely construct beds of various depths in your backyard! For those who’re rising shallow-rooted crops, it might be a waste of soil to construct a mattress that’s 11 inches in peak.

The place to Put a Raised Mattress

Earlier than you even get began, see when you have a very good location for a raised backyard mattress.

  • Most greens want 6 to eight hours of direct daylight a day (“full solar”), particularly from lunchtime onwards.
  • Stage, even floor.
  • Near the home for straightforward entry for weeding and harvesting
  • Don’t web site your mattress in a windy location nor in a frost pocket.
  • Soil wants to empty properly, so keep away from any moist or marshy areas.

Making ready the Website: “No-Dig” Aboveground Methodology

In spring, prepare to organize your choosen web site for raised backyard mattress(s).

Some gardeners will reduce and roll up the turf. Many gardeners don’t discover it’s essential to clear the bottom because the soil will block out the grass and weeds beneath. Gardener Charles Dowding, who based the “no-dig” methodology, has had nice success with simply including 4 to six inches of natural matter onto cardboard over pasture/grass, producing lots of crops in his first 12 months of a brand new mattress. His philosophy is that diggingbrings weed seeds to the soil floor, creating extra weeding. It hastens nutrient loss, so that you’ll must feed crops extra usually. And it rips aside the advanced life and really material of your soil, lowering its means to each drain correctly and retain moisture.

  1. Find out: how to use cardboard in vegetable garden

    Merely mow off the grass or weeds as near the bottom.

  2. Then cowl the realm with cardboard which is able to rot down into the soil. (Be sure to decide off any tape and staples, which gained’t decompose.)

  3. Be sure you overlap the cardboard/newspaper (by about 6 inches) to make sure no weeds slip by cracks.

  4. You’ll be including your rising medium equivalent to compost on prime. (See easy methods to fill your raised mattress decrease on this web page.)

It’s nice to get on and plant instantly after organising. By the point the roots attain the cardboard, it is going to have began to interrupt down and the roots will have the ability to search deeper past that cardboard layer.

The compost that you just add on prime ought to progressively grow to be included with the soil beneath, by the actions of worms and many others. Beds will want topping up with recent natural matter (an inch or two) every fall/winter, which is able to assist to progressively enhance the fertility and well being of the soil, together with that under the extent of the raised mattress. This implies you need to be nice rising deeper-rooted veggies like root crops.


Making ready the Website: Digging Belowground Possibility

In soils which might be broken by compaction or produce other issues, digging under the bottom could also be mandatory to assist construct up the soil. It’s laborious work in case your soil is compacted but it surely solely must be accomplished as soon as. That is most vital for deep-rooted crops equivalent to carrots which do higher in soil that has been loosened and amended all the way down to 10 to 12 inches to permit the air and water to get to the crops’ roots.

  1. Mark the realm with a hose or string. If doable, use a leveler to ensure the bottom is flat or a really slight slope (with water working away from space).
  2. Take away the highest layer (a couple of shovel’s depth or 10 inches); it might be best to work in rows.
  3. Take away all rocks, outdated roots, and plant particles.
  4. Dig down somewhat additional with the shovel (a couple of extra inches) to only loosen up the soil.
  5. Combine the soil with natural matter equivalent to compost. We advocate that the compost make up about 25% of your soil.
  6. Then return the highest layer and blend the soil layers collectively.

Be taught extra about soil preparation and easy methods to construct up your backyard soil.

Constructing a Easy Raised 4×4 Backyard Mattress

It’s nice to purchase a business raised backyard package, however they’ll have cringe-worthy costs. You don’t must spend that sort of cash to construct your personal four-by-four-foot mattress (or perhaps a 20-foot-long one).

We’ll show you easy methods to construct a 4×4-foot raised mattress, which is an efficient newbie template as a result of you possibly can stroll across the complete backyard simply.

This 4x4-foot bed is crowded with productive peppers, cucumbers, a tomato plant and insect-repelling flowers that are edible.
This 4×4-foot mattress is crowded with productive peppers, cucumbers, a tomato plant and insect-repelling flowers which might be edible.


  • Two 2×6-inch cedar boards, which don’t rot with age. They arrive in 8-foot lengths, which is ideal for 4×4-foot beds. You’ll want to chop every plank in half, in order that it’s 4-feet lengthy. Or, you possibly can have a house enchancment/lumber retailer make the cuts. Many locations will do it without cost.

  • 3-foot size of a 1×1-inch pine stake; you’ll want to chop it into 4 items, which you’ll add to the corners of the body for bracing.

  • Deck/exterior screws


  • If slicing the planks your self: Hand noticed, tape measure
  • Drill/driver and bits, screwdriver

Make the Mattress Sides

  1. In case your two 8-foot lengthy boards weren’t pre-cut on the lumber retailer, mark off the half means level and reduce every plank in half for a 4 ft x 4 foot mattress. You then’ll have 4 planks. planks-4_full_width.png
  2. You’ll screw the planks collectively utilizing decking screws. Two holes on the finish of every plank is ample. Drill pilot holes utilizing a drill bit barely thinner than the screws themselves. One finish of every plank will overlap the tip of the following and screw straight into it, so place your pilot holes correspondingly.drill_full_width.png
  3. For those who’d like additional bracing and a sturdier body, reduce your pine stake into 4 items and use them to nail the boards on the corners for bracing. how to build raised garden beds

Assemble the Raised Mattress

With all of the wooden reduce to measurement and the holes drilled, we’re prepared to start placing collectively the mattress.

  1. Lay down the beds. The partitions must be laid out so that every plank overlaps the following with the pilot holes positioned on the overlapping finish.framing_full_width.png
  2. Screw the partitions along with lengthy screws so that every wall might be secured to the following.screwdriver_full_width.png We would like a comfortable, shut match. screw-external_full_width.png

Fill the Mattress

  1. Fill your mattress with a nutrient-rich compost combine (do-it-yourself or commercially-produced). compost_full_width.png
  2. Then, prime the compost with enriched prime soil particularly formulated for vegetable gardening. It has a nice texture to permit for instant sowing and planting. topsoil_full_width.png
  3. Fill your beds all the best way up! The soil will settle, particularly with watering. Because it settles, you possibly can all the time prime off with compost.bed-finished_full_width.png

That’s it! Your mattress is prepared for seeds and crops.

Watch our pal Ben share extra ideas and exhibit easy methods to construct this raised mattress on this video:

Filling a Raised Mattress

An important a part of any backyard is the soil, and the extra natural matter it accommodates, the higher. Soil microbes are fed, oxygen and water readily attain roots, and crops thrive in consequence. Right here is the steadiness to goal for:

  • 40% compost: Compost is full of vitamins for crops. Whilst you can compost at residence, it will also be bought in luggage out of your native backyard middle. Aged manure will also be used, however you possibly can NOT put recent manure straight in your backyard. Be taught extra about manure.
  • 40% topsoil: By way of topsoil, we’re not speaking about “potting soil,” because it’s too fluffy for raised beds. You’ll additionally discover bagged topsoil at a backyard middle or native farm provide or lumber retailer.
  • 20% aeration: By way of aeration, loads of bagged soil mixes already include some perlite, pumice, or rice hulls. If not, it’s good to add one thing for drainage. Lava rock can also be a very good aerator for drainage.

If you’re filling loads of raised beds, we’d advocate that you just look into a neighborhood panorama firm for construct soil and compost mixes which must be cheaper. However should you’re simply filling up a small mattress, bagged is the best way to go.

Read: how do you build a raised garden

There are two approaches to filling your mattress:

  1. Some people pour within the compost (or composted manure) first after which add the topsoil (as proven within the video above).
  2. People add the substances in layers like lasagna, mixing as they go.

Do no matter is less complicated for you!

On the finish of the rising season, in fall or winter, prime off your raised beds with extra compost. Because it get labored into the soil, it is going to enhance the fertility and shall be all set for planting by spring.

Raised Backyard Mattress Soil Combine

Right here’s the recipe we’ve developed within the final decade that works greatest for our backyard beds.

For one 4 x 4-foot raised mattress. (Multiply quantities to fill bigger beds.)

  • 4-cubic-feet of prime soil
  • 3-cubic-feet of coconut coir (Word: Historically, peat moss has been used as a part of backyard soil, however provided that it isn’t a sustainable materials, we advocate utilizing coconut coir as a substitute.)
  • 2 to 3-cubic ft of compost or composted manure
  • 2-inch layer of shredded leaves or grass clippings.

For those who use grass clippings, make sure that they aren’t from a garden that has been sprayed with herbicides or been fertilized with a meals that accommodates granular herbicides to kill weeds. Each persist and can kill crops as much as three years after the preliminary software.

Combine all supplies with a hoe or cultivator and water properly. Be sure you mulch properly with natural matter equivalent to extra leaves or clippings or straw.

Within the first 12 months, you most likely gained’t want a lot added plant fertilizer or go gentle on the fertilizer. However in following years, as your meals crops suck up all of the vitamins, your soil will want some amending with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer (or extra compost). See How and When to Fertilize Your Backyard.

When you plant, you’ll need to prime off your mattress with some mulch (leaves, straw, pine needles, or extra compost) to retain moisture and suppress weeds. Learn all about mulching right here.


What to Plant in Raised Beds

For those who’re a newbie gardener, we’d advise that you just begin with one raised mattress and take a look at your hand at rising a few of your favourite greens. Utlimately, 4 or 5 raised beds grouped collectively makes a good-sized backyard.

What you develop is just restricted by the depth of your soil—which is the depth of your raised mattress plus the depth of the soil you dug and loosened under floor.

What grows properly in 6” soil depth: Lettuce, salad greens, spinach, onions, leeks, radishes, strawberries, basil, chives, cilantro, dill, mint, oregano, parsley, thyme, marigolds, and different annual flowers

What grows properly in 12” soil depth: Beans, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cantaloupe, carrots, cauliflower, collards, cucumbers, garlic, kale, summer time squash, Swiss chard, turnips, lavender, rosemary, sage, borage, calendula, cosmos, lantana, nasturtiums, snapdragons, candy alyssum (plus every thing within the 6” listing)

What grows properly in 18” soil depth: Eggplant, okra, peppers, pumpkins candy potatoes, tomatoes, watermelon, and winter squash (plus every thing within the 6” and 12” lists)

For concepts, we’ve got some pattern raised mattress vegetable backyard plans—with plant lists!

Additionally, word that many greens develop greatest from seed, however some crops do higher as younger starter crops (particularly tomatoes and peppers). See easy methods to begin seeds or crops.

Planning a Raised Mattress Backyard

To plan out the right backyard to your house, attempt the Almanac Backyard Planner! In minutes, you possibly can create a backyard plan proper in your laptop.

The Backyard Planner even has a “Raised Backyard Mattress” characteristic. It additionally has a selected square-foot gardening (SFG) characteristic, which entails dividing the mattress into squares to make the group of your backyard loads less complicated.

Raised garden bed. Photo by Oregon State University/Wikimedia Commons.Sq.-foot gardening in a raised mattress. Photograph by Oregon State College/Wikimedia Commons.

Whichever backyard you choose, the Backyard Planner will show you the variety of crops that slot in every house so that you don’t waste seed or overcrowd. There’s additionally a companion planting selector so that you pair or group crops that thrive collectively.

Take a look at out our Backyard Planner with a free 7-day trial—loads of time to mess around and plan your first backyard!


Be taught Extra

  • Try our Plant Rising Guides for recommendation on rising all the hottest greens, fruit, herbs, and flowers.
  • See the Planting Calendar to search out out the perfect days to plant all of your widespread greens, herbs, and fruit.

Have you ever ever thought of constructing your personal raised backyard mattress? Or do you’ve gotten one already? Inform us about it under!

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