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Building raised garden beds can be an excellent addition to a yard as they add a bit of personalized style and enable you to grow flowers and / or vegetables in your own back yard. Raised beds also appeal to gardeners because of the control you have over where to put them and the soil you grow in. For instance, if you have a small back yard with limited space to grow due to the orientation of the sun, you could build a raised bed on wheels to track the sun throughout the afternoon. Or maybe the soil in your back yard is hard and unsuitable for growing and you would rather not till it up and condition it. No matter the reason you choose to grow in a raised bed, this offers a quality alternative to in ground gardens.
Building a Raised Garden Bed
There is not one proper way to build a DIY raised garden bed – you can use your imagination to build one to your style, or purchase a pre-fabricated kit that only needs simple assembly. Here are some popular methods to building your raised garden bed.
Landscape Timber or Railroad Ties Make for Great Raised Garden Beds
Landscape/Railroad Ties – Landscape or railroad ties provide a rustic, natural look to your raised garden bed and are relatively easy to procure. Most large hardware stores (Lowes / Home Depot) or any landscape store will carry these. Both landscape and railroad ties generally measure 7” x 9” x 8’ long so you can expect to build a roughly 8’ x 8’ bed if you do not cut them shorter.
How Deep Should a Raised Garden Bed Be
Your raised garden bed needs to be about 8” – 12” deep so depending on the look your going for, you may be able to use one layer of ties. If you’re building it with lumber, you can build the walls higher to act as protection for your plants.
Building a Raised Bed with Lumber
If you are going for more of a refined look, you may want to build a DIY garden box out of stained or painted lumber. This is also a relatively easy way to go, but make sure you put together a game plan before buying your lumber. You should devise a plan to join the lumber at the corners, such as positioning a cut 4”x 4” on the interior for something to join to. If the boxes you are making are small enough, you could build them in your garage or driveway and then relocate them. If they are large, then make sure you build them in the location they will stay. This method affords you lots of freedom to customize the look with trim features or colors and is a fun way to brighten up your backyard.
Raised Garden Bed Kits
As with most projects, you always have the option to buy a raised garden bed pre-fabricated and ready to put together. As a matter of fact, I have raised garden bed kit in my backyard that I purchased from Northern Tools . The kit I purchased was about $70 and consists of two 12” x 72” galvanized metal sides and two 12” x 36” sides. This makes a 6’ x 3’ bed with a depth of 1’. I found these kits to be easy to work with and very convenient – just be careful if installing them when the sun is shining bright, they get very hot!
Portable Raised Garden Beds
Building a raised garden bed on wheels is another great advantage of this style of planting bed. As I mentioned before, if you’re limited on space, there is no reason you cannot build one that you can move around and follow the sun throughout the day. I have never personally built one, but as long as you take into account the weight of the dirt when sizing it, you can pretty easily add a bottom and wheels to a garden box.
What Type of Soil to Use When Building a Raised Garden Bed
Now that you have your raised garden bed built, it’s time to fill it with dirt! This sounds simple, but there are so many options for garden soil out there – there is even a product called “Raised Bed Soil”! It can be tempting to buy the product that literally has the words “Raised Bed” in it, but it’s not always necessary to spend upwards of $10 on a 2 cubic foot bag of soil.
As a quick example, consider you have a 6’ x 3’ x 1’ raised bed (like me). This bed will take roughly 18 cubic feet of soil, or 9 bags at 2 cubic feet each. At $10 per bag, that’s over $90 including tax to fill this bed up with “Raised Bed Soil”.
You may now be thinking, what are my options? Over the years I have found a specific combination of soils that is both effective and somewhat cheap. I like to purchase fifteen 1 cubic foot bags of topsoil for about $2 each to fill the most of the garden and then purchase two 2 cubic foot bags of garden soil for about $8 each to for a nice top layer. This costs a little more than $30 and I’ve found that it works wonderfully.
Obviously I am not taking a scientific approach to conditioning the soil I grow my vegetables in. If you are more serious about your soil’s pH balance, then disregard my money saving advice.
What to Plant in a Raised Garden Bed
The best part of this is that it is entirely up to you what you want to plant in your new raised garden bed. I love having a vegetable garden at home that provides an overabundance of peppers and eggplants all summer long. My parents grew a ton of horseradish in their raised bed last year and prepared horseradish for the family for Christmas. My in-law’s neighbors, they grow potatoes in theirs.
I will leave you with one little piece of advice – put light fencing or chicken wire around your raised bed if it is close to the ground. If you don’t, all of the critters will come in at night and snack on your leafy greens!