How to Make and Fill Raised Garden Beds

How to Make and Fill Raised Garden Beds

Raised garden beds have always been a smart, easy way to seed and plant almost anywhere. They are invaluable in vegetable gardens, but are also great for fragrant flowers or succulents.

If the conditions in your yard are less than ideal - hard rocky clay; uneven terrain - a raised bed is the ultimate solution. Often contained by rectangular frames, these tall mounds offer complete flexibility: you can draw them anywhere, fill them with the ideal soil mix, and plant them more densely than regular gardens, which means fewer weeds .

size it

Scout your yard and decide what you want to grow, then paint a bed in the right light; for example, food needs at least six hours of sunlight. The length of the box depends on your space, but the width is important: you want to be able to weed and touch the plants without stepping on and crushing them or compacting the soil. Keep it under two and a half feet if it's against a wall or fence, and five feet wide if you can reach in from the sides. Plan for each bed to be at least one foot deep.

frame it

You can build a raised bed out of corten steel, stone, or brick, but planks are the most common material and easiest for beginners. Choose untreated wood such as rot-resistant cedar, cypress, or locust. Avoid pressure-treated boards, as these hold chemicals that can seep into the soil—especially important if you plan to grow food.

line it

If your ground soil is healthy, leave it out. If you live in a city where you're concerned about soil contamination with lead or other chemicals, or want to plant on patios or other concrete surfaces, pin heavy-duty landscaping or weed-blocking fabric to the bottom of your bed before placing. This permeable cloth can block Hazardous substances that prevent the soil from being washed away. You can also choose a bed with legs that is off the ground.


Pour the topsoil and compost mixture into your box (check with an expert or your county cooperative exchange for advice on the correct proportions), leaving about an inch of space below the top of the frame. For example, a bed that is 6 feet by 4 feet and 13 inches deep requires about one cubic yard of soil. Remember, you'll need more soil and compost to make your bed each year. Now for the fun part: start planting!

Prefab in the shade

If you don't want to go the DIY route, there are plenty of garden beds on the market that you can order and assemble. Read on to discover a few of our favorite options.

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