Raised beds are an ideal arrangement for growing vegetables and annual or perennial flowers, helping keep the soil loose and well-drained and making it easier to access the garden for weeding and planting. Making those raised beds blend attractively with the landscape, however, can be a bit of a challenge. Time spent assessing your landscape and the diversity of raised-bed construction materials available will pay off in a seamless, aesthetically pleasing raised bed landscape.
Sketch a rough map of the patterns of sun and shade in your yard in pencil on graph paper.
Measure the dimensions and the slope of your yard using tape measure and a level, and roughly sketch both an overhead and a horizontal cutaway view of these onto graph paper with pencil.
Assess whether you have the space and slope to build raised beds terrace-style, or whether the beds must be built on flat ground.
Take a series of digital photographs of your yard from different angles. Examine these photographs with an eye toward the dominant colors, architectural styles, and building materials used in and around your home. Also note the predominant tree and shrub types, as well as whether the surrounding landscape is open to the horizon, intimately surrounded with woodlands, or encased in urban hardscape.
Visit a large home building supply store and assess potential raised-bed construction materials as well as mulching materials that blend with your landscape configuration and design. Consider concrete blocks or paving stones together with a light-colored stone, shavings, or straw mulch for an urban landscape; rough-hewn timbers with pine straw mulch for a woodland cabin; or boards painted to match your house trim, mulched with pine bark, for a neat suburban look.
Select materials that complement your landscape, then evaluate your measurements and graph-paper sketches and determine the desired shape and height of your raised beds. Long, thin beds are likely to be unobtrusive in a farmland landscape, while small beds with undulating edges will better blend with a woodland setting. Tidy rectangular beds around the edge of a yard can complement modern architecture. Calculate your construction and mulching material needs based on your design considerations.
Mark out your planned raised bed shapes on the ground in their desired location, using a garden hose. Make any adjustments in shape and size with the hose, then transfer the final outline to your graph paper. Obtain the construction materials and assemble the beds. Fill with a mixture of two parts topsoil to one part compost and one part sand. Plant as desired and mulch heavily with your selected mulching material.