How to Make Raised Beds for Plants

Raised garden bed image by gd1cker_flicker

Overview

There are several ways to raise a garden bed for planting. The average raised bed is made by making wooden frames and filling them in, although some gardens incorporate landscape timbers, railroad ties and even old tractor tires. Raised beds help to bring warmth to the soil earlier in colder regions and are easier to maintain than flat gardens--less bending to tend to them and they promote better plant growth by keeping the soil from getting compacted when being walked on.

Building the Beds

Step 1

Build a frame for your garden using wood planks, landscape timbers or railroad ties. Depending on which material you choose, bolt, screw or nail them together to hold the corners in place. Make your bed at least six to eight inches tall. Keep the bed no wider than four feet wide. This allows you to reach everything, including plants that are in the middle, from either side. The garden can be as long as you like.

Step 2

Secure the frame to the area that you want your garden to be. Drive 1-by-2-inch boards or rebar pieces into the ground vertically and place them around the frame to secure it in place. Dirt is heavy and will tend to spread out over time. If your boards are not secured, the bed will start to slide or collapse. For larger beds, use retaining wires inside of the bed to secure from one side to the other by screwing eye hooks into the boards and stringing wires across.

Step 3

Spread out the newspapers inside the garden bed and lay a very thick layer across the entire bottom. This will act as a weed retardant barrier so the weeds cannot get into your garden while still allowing moisture to drain through. These newspapers will break down over time the same way that mulch would and will eventually turn to compost.

Step 4

Spray down the newspapers with a garden hose, misting them until they are saturated to keep them from moving around while you try to work on top of them.

Step 5

Pour in top soil and composted materials. Form layers a few inches thick of alternating top soil and compost. Continue filling the garden to within a few inches of the top. If you have built a tall garden--one that is over 12 inches high--stop half way through and mix the materials up with a garden rake or shovel, then proceed with the rest.

Step 6

Using a garden rake or shovel, mix up the dirt and compost in the garden, being careful not to disturb the newspaper at the bottom. Spread the dirt evenly with a rake.

Step 7

Water the garden by spraying it with a gentle spray of water from a garden hose. Water it until it is completely saturated and check the drainage on your garden. Ideally, a garden should puddle slightly and begin drain off within a few seconds with all of the standing water drained off within 30 to 60 seconds. If your garden doesn't drain well, add some coarse sand or perlite to the mixture.

Things You'll Need

  • Landscape timbers, wood planks or railroad ties
  • One-by-Two boards, rebar or other supporting spikes
  • Shovel
  • Garden rake
  • Newspapers
  • Top soil
  • Organic materials or compost

References

  • Types of Raised Garden Beds
  • Raised Garden Beds: Purdue University Horticultural Department
  • Raised Garden Beds: Penn State Agricultural Information Services

Who Can Help

  • Constructing a Raised Bed Using Timbers: Univ. of Minnesota
  • Unique Raised Garden Beds
Keywords: building raise garden beds, making raised gardens, make raised beds for plants

About this Author

Robin Lewis is a freelance artist, designer and writer. Her articles have appeared in newspapers, national magazines and on several self-help areas of the Web. Lewis specializes in gardening articles, publishing frequently on a variety of websites.

Photo by: gd1cker_flicker