How to Prepare Raised Beds


Raised beds present the ideal solution for a host of gardening challenges. Poor soil, inadequate drainage, pest issues and problematic sites are all great reasons to try raised-bed gardening. Raised beds provide access for people with mobility challenges, including those who travel by wheelchair and those with back or joint pain. Vegetables, annuals and perennials alike feel at home in a raised bed. In fact, yields and general quality tend to be better in these elevated growing spaces because people are not walking on the soil, weeds are typically under control, and the soil is easier to amend and maintain. Take the time to prepare your raised beds well before planting, and you will reap the rewards in the same growing season.

Step 1

Choose a site for your raised bed. Site location will depend on the type of crop you intend to grow. Ohio State University Extension experts suggest a southern-facing bed for lower growing crops such as annuals and some perennials. Corn, beans or flowers that will grow upward are best planted in a bed with east to west orientation. Full sun is recommended for all beds to ensure maximum growth.

Step 2

Line the base of the bedding area with poultry wire if rodents that tunnel present a problem. Beds with a surrounding structure and a wire mesh base should deter most pests from coming up through the soil.

Step 3

Prepare the area by tilling up the soil currently at the site. Mound a third of the depth of your final bed, typically 6 to 8 inches for a standard bed, in a rectangular- or square-shaped area. A width of 5 feet will ensure access from both sides, regardless of the length.

Step 4

Add equal parts organic compost, such as well-rotted manure, and peat moss or sand to compose the remaining bed volume. Mix in a slow-release fertilizer at the rate suggested by the manufacturer. Cultivate with the existing soil using a rototiller for an unframed bed, or a shovel.

Step 5

Rake the surface of the bed level and taper the sides at a 45-degree angle to allow for moisture run off.

Step 6

Construction of a frame can be done after the soil is prepared. University of Minnesota Horticulture experts suggest that cedar, redwood, cement block or bricks can be used, although cement may leach into your soil and raise the pH level over time. Join 2-by-6 foot wooden planks at the ends with decking screws. Attach a wooden block inside each corner for extra stability. Add additional length as needed with metal braces. Add height for wheelchair access by bracing the inside walls and corners of 2-by-8 -oot boards with 2-by-4-inch supports.

Step 7

Fill the excess space at the top of the bed with more prepared soil.

Step 8

Rake the top of the bed to a flat surface. Allow up to two weeks for soil to settle before planting your seeds or plants.

Step 9

Add up to 4 inches of additional organic matter in the spring before each growing season and cultivate with a shovel. Rototilling should only be done in a raised bed for the initial season.

Things You'll Need

  • 2-by-6 untreated wood
  • Cement blocks or bricks
  • Wooden corner blocks
  • Metal braces
  • Decking screws
  • Poultry wire
  • Organic compost
  • Peat moss or sand
  • Slow-release fertilizer
  • Shovel
  • Rototiller


  • University of Illinois Extension, the Green Line-Build a Raised Bed
  • Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet, Raised Bed Gardening
  • University of Minnesota Extension, Raised Bed Gardens
Keywords: preparing a raised bed, raised bed preparation, create a raised bed

About this Author

Desirae Roy holds a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education, with a focus on reading and special education. Also an interpreter for the deaf, she facilitates communication for students who learn in an inspiring way. Roy cultivates a life long love of learning and enjoys sharing her journey with others through writing.