A raised garden bed is an easy gardening option ideal for small spaces or for gardeners who prefer a more organized, neat garden. But you don't need to buy an elaborate kit to create a raised bed – with a little effort, you can create a raised garden bed that exactly suits your needs and preferences.
Containers are the easiest raised garden beds of all, perfect for apartments, condominiums or other small spaces without a large yard or other area to create a garden. Use multiple containers for a more diverse garden, or look for hanging planters or trellises to increase the space. Large containers can be added to a more traditional garden to add texture and increase space, making the area even more productive.
Building a Raised Garden Bed
If you want a larger garden bed than containers will provide, it's easy to build your own raised bed in just a few simple steps.
Choose the location.
Opt for a sunny, level area with enough room so the bed can be accessed from all sides for easy maintenance. The bed should be placed away from pet areas or play structures to protect it from accidents, and it should be convenient for watering.
Wooden boards or planks are common materials for building a raised garden bed, but they aren't your only option. Bricks, concrete blocks or paving stones can also be layered to make an elegant garden bed, or you can recycle different materials to create the bed.
Outline the bed.
Use string or spray paint to outline where the bed will be in the yard. Rectangular beds are the most common, but you can also plan a square bed, circular garden or any shape you are interested in. Be sure you have enough materials to accommodate the shape, however.
Remove the sod.
Use a sharp spade to cut away the sod and remove it from the bed's area (sod scraps may be replanted in other parts of the yard if needed). You could till the soil under the sod to help kill weeds, or leave it undisturbed.
Add weed barrier fabric.
Lining the bed with weed barrier fabric or a layer of cardboard or newspapers will minimize weeds and make the garden easier to maintain. For thorough coverage, the barrier should be several inches larger than the bed so the sides are adequately overlapped.
Construct the bed.
If you are making a wooden frame, you can construct the bed before removing the sod and use it as an outline for how much sod to remove, or you can construct the frame to match whichever shape you've created. Be sure the sides of the bed are at least 8-12 inches taller than the surrounding turf, however, to provide adequate space for your garden to grow.
Fill the bed with appropriate soil for the plants you want to grow. The best soil will be blended with compost or other organic matter to provide superior nutrition to young plants, and the bed should be filled to within 1-2 inches of the top of the frame. The soil will settle slightly as it is worked and watered.
Add plants, spacing them according to their growing needs and using markers to identify rows or patches if more than plant will be grown in the bed. Stakes, poles, cages or other supports can be added right away if they are needed, or they can be added as the seedlings grow.
A small raised garden bed can easily be watered by hand, but if you are building several beds or have a larger structure you may prefer automatic irrigation. Existing sprinklers may not need any adjustments, or it is easy to add a drip system or soaker hose to a garden bed for efficient watering.
Finish off with mulch.
Adding a thick layer of mulch will protect young seedlings and discourage weeds in your new raised garden bed. Grass clippings are ideal and will break down gradually to revitalize the soil, or you can use wood chips, bark, straw or similar materials.
Building a raised garden bed is an easy project to increase your garden in a neat, organized way and will provide a great place for growing a wide variety of plants.