Raised beds are a great way to plant vegetables, especially if your local soil is less than ideal. The thick layer of soil and organic material is a fertile base for many plants because it has good drainage. If you have clay dirt, for example, a raised bed will drain well and keep the soil looser and drier. In addition, you have the opportunity to edge the raised garden in a few ways, including railroad ties or grass, so you can create the landscaped appearance you desire.
Add organic matter to the planting area. Lay down 2 to 3 inches of compost, such as manure, straw or leaves.
Add nitrogen as the compost breaks down. For a 1,000 square foot area, use 9 lb. of urea, 20 lb. of ammonium sulfate or 12 lb. of ammonium nitrate. The fertilizer will replenish the nutrients that are lost by the compost.
Till the soil to a depth of at least 6 inches. You can also use a fork or spade to combine the local soil with the organic matter.
Dig a walkway or trench that is 6 inches deep. Put the soil onto the bed to raise it more. Create another walkway 4 feet from the first one.
Rake the raised bed until it's level. It should be about 3 feet wide because of the natural slope on the sides. Add soil if necessary to make the raised bed 8 inches high.
Spread some of the organic matter on the walkways to keep them from getting muddy. You can also plant grass in those trenches to create more definition.
Make the raised bed garden wider if you plan to put in large plants like tomatoes. Vine crops like cucumbers and melons can be planted in one row down the middle so there is space to spread. Spread seeds of small plants like beans and carrots across the entire bed to create wide-row plantings.