Starting a small garden bed is a simple task you can do in less than one day, and then you can get growing your own tomatoes, cucumbers, maybe strawberries, lettuce, herbs or pretty flowers. With just a little bit of space---a patch of old, weedy lawn is an excellent place to start---you can transform part of your yard into a productive vegetable garden. After you build your first bed, you might get hooked and go on to create more beds for more plants.
Building a Garden Bed
Select an area for your garden bed and then mark the perimeter with string or a simple dusting of flour. For starters, keep it simple by creating a small bed---4 feet by 8 feet works well because you'll be able to reach into the center of the bed from both sides without having to step on the planting area, which compacts the soil.
Mow or trim any tall weeds from your garden bed area. Leave them on the surface of the soil, where they will add to the organic materials in your garden bed. You can also lay down any other weeds or weedy plants along with the first weeds.
Sprinkle about half a gallon bucket full of bone meal, blood meal or compost, which will give the bottom of your garden bed plenty of nitrogen to give your new plants a good, healthy start.
Cover your garden bed area with flattened cardboard or newspaper, several layers thick. Be sure not to leave any holes where weeds can pop through. The paper will not allow any weed seeds under it to sprout and will kill any lawn or other small plants that it covers.
Spread layers of compost, well-rotted manure, peat moss, leaves, ashes, straw, woodchips and/or sawdust on top of the cardboard or newspaper. If you have any plant materials, such as last year's corn stalks or tomato plants, you can chop them up a bit and use them as well. All of this material will break down and provide your garden bed with lots of nutrition your new plants will need. Your bed can be just a few inches thick or a lot thicker: remember, small plants don't need as much soil as large plants like trees.
Water your bed well and then cover it with shredded bark or sawdust to give it a finished, tidy look. Rake over the top of your bed to even it out and make it flat on top. You can plant some young plants or seeds immediately.