How To Build A Raised Vegetable Garden? - Guide For First Time Gardeners

Last update: Dec 6, 2019

How To Build A Raised Vegetable Garden? - Guide For First Time Gardeners

Is it hard to build a raised vegetable garden?

Nope!

With a good plan and some free time on the weekends, you can make one on your own, giving your backyard a beautiful highlight aside from myriad benefits.

The guide below will prove what I’ve just said and besides, some extra tips and tricks are given to help first-time gardeners less overwhelmed.

Who Should Try Raised Garden Beds?

As mentioned, a raised veggie garden brings lots of benefits. It sits aboveground to require you less kneeling and bending, hence, your back and knees are saved from pain of tending the garden.

  • It’s a good choice for the elderly, people with arthritis or who are suffering certain physical limitations.

How To Build A Raised Vegetable Garden? - Guide For First Time Gardeners

  • By gathering soil and plants in one spot, a raised garden bed also keeps things under control and well-organized.
  • Ideal for small gardens
  • For people who want to get full control over weeds, soil content and quality as well as the plants’ productivity.
  • A raised garden bed also allows people who live in frost-hardened regions to work the soil faster in the spring while easily converting into a cold frame in the autumn.
  • Suit for gardeners who prefer a longer growing season

Why You Should Follow My Guide?

Before writing this down, I’d actually read many step-by-step instructions of other experts. Most of them teach you how to tack a raised garden bed, meaning that you will need to prepare more tools and spend more effort on this job.

But mine is a bit different!

Instead of using driver or drill, complex measuring, making screws, and tacking, you just need some pieces of rebar, a rubber mallet, and locating. That’s it!

What make this instruction stand out is the ease to carry out – suitable for beginners - as well as the less time and effort taken to finish.

How To Build A Raised Vegetable Garden?

The whole process includes 4 steps:

  1. Create your garden plan
  2. Choose the right location
  3. Build the wood frame
  4. Choose the right soil blend & fill it up

Now, let’s just dive into it:

What you will need

As raised garden beds are varied in sizes, the following guide will show how to build a 4’ x 8’ bed as a reference. So, you’ll need:

  • Two 2 x 12 planks, 4’ long/each
  • Two 2 x 12 planks, 8’ long/each
  • 12 pieces of rebar, 2’ long/each
  • Cardboard or newspaper
  • A rubber mallet
  • Soil blend to fill up the bed

How-to

Create Your Garden Plan

Why you should plan it out?

Though building a raised veggie garden is just a small task, planning will help you figure out the number of crops that fit in each space. It results in less space to waste for seeding or conversely, save you from overcrowding.

Besides, if you intend to make companion planting or square-foot gardening, planning can prevent your plants from inhibiting each other.

You can make a plan on paper but with beginners, I highly recommend using the online garden planners as they include all needed tools to support you to draw, make a plan, and consider which plants can go together.

How To Build A Raised Vegetable Garden? - Guide For First Time Gardeners

Choose The Right Location

There are 4 things you should consider when choosing the right location for your raised vegetable garden:

  • Shape
  • Shade/sunlight hour
  • Terrain

The shape of the raised bed

Start with the shape of your raised garden, this feature is quite flexible. Depending on the size of your garden/backyard and how large of the raised bed you want to figure out which shape is the most reasonable.

But try to keep widths to 4’ as maximum so that you can reach the center on either side. Length isn’t important.

If you intend to build more than one raised bed, remember to leave 18” between beds (at least!) for easy access and 2’ for wagons, wheelbarrows, and lawnmowers.

How To Build A Raised Vegetable Garden? - Guide For First Time Gardeners

Hours of shining/shade

This is important and dependent on which kinds of veggies you are going to plants.

From my experience, vegetables mostly love full sun (7 to 8 hours of direct exposure/day). If possible, adjust the raised bed to orient its rows facing east-west and the long side is north-south.

But that doesn’t mean shady area isn’t good at all.

Placing a raised garden bed near a tall tree, fence, or using a light filter will give it a few hours of afternoon shade per day and that’s particularly helpful during hot climates or in hot regions. Your plants will be saved from bolting and wilting.

How To Build A Raised Vegetable Garden? - Guide For First Time Gardeners

Terrain

Isn’t it the best to place your raised garden bed in flat locations?

At least, don’t choose slopes because that causes water drainage to be uneven thorough the raised garden. It means there will be one end waterlogged while the other is cracked and dry.

Build The Wood Frame

After finding a favorite spot for your raised garden bed, pinpoint the wood planks. Lay them down one by one with the inner corners touching.

Now, stand one 8’ long plank on its side, hammer 2 pieces of rebar 1’ from each corner for temporary support. The same with the other 8’ long plank. To prop up the short ones, you just need 1 piece of rebar in the center.

2 to 3 inches deep is ideal, don’t go these pieces of rebar too deep because you might need to pull them up to adjust the alignment.

After you feel satisfied with the adjustment and the shape, add more support to the raised bed. Hammer 2 pieces of rebar 1 foot from each corner of the short planks and 2 pieces 2 feet from each corner of the long planks, keep them 9” to 10” exposed aboveground.

Remove the initial temporary pieces.

Choose The Right Soil Blend & Fill It Up

What should I line my raised garden bed with? – you might ask.

This is important as it makes or breaks your raised garden than anything else. The best soil blend should be dark, earth-smelling, richly nutrient, and loaded with microorganisms.

How To Build A Raised Vegetable Garden? - Guide For First Time Gardeners

The standard formula to fill a raised bed is mixing 60% topsoil, 30% compost & 10% peat moss. Here is my recipe for an 8’ x 4’ raised bed:

  • 2” layer of grass clippings or shredded leaves
  • 2 bags composted cow manure or standard compost (2 or 3 cu ft./unit)
  • 2 pails peat moss (3 cu ft./unit)
  • 4 bags of topsoil (2 cu ft./unit)

Note:

It’d better buy topsoil from your local garden center than using the ones available from your yard as they might contain pests and weeds.

Besides, ensure the grass clippings are free of fertilizer and herbicide.

Extra Tips

The topsoil is dried out quite quickly. It’s no problem during the spring and autumn but in the summer, you should add mulch or straw to the top of the soil to avoid over-draining.

To ensure the soil is ready for a new growing season, you should buy a kit to test it for nutrient content and pH. This kit is easily founded in any home-improvement stores.

Regular watering is quite essential with raised beds during the early stages of plant growth. Also, adding ½” compost later in the growing season helps to boost soil health and increase organic matter.

“So what are the grass clippings and shredded leaves for?”

Well, you will need them to cover the topsoil in your new raised bed if you want to wait until next year to plant. This mixture will compost during autumn and winter before you’re ready to start in the spring.

Conversely, if you build this raised bed during late spring and early summer, it’s still in-time to plant autumn crops.

FAQs

How deep should a raised vegetable garden be?

Though the depth of a raised bed can be varied, it should be at least 6 inches deep as most plants need 6 to 12 inches for rooting. So, 12 inches would be perfect.

What is the best wood to use for a raised vegetable garden?

There are some options to make sure the wood lasts.

Cedar, in most cases, is considered the best wood for raised garden beds as it contains natural oils to be naturally rot-resistant, making it ultra-durable and last longer.

It might be expensive in the upfront cost but in a long term, this is a reasonable choice. Cedar comes in different kinds with different lifespan.

But I find the Juniper, Port Orford (yellow), Vermont white cedar, and Western red cedar are some notable options for outdoor construction tasks. If your budget is on the table, I highly recommend choosing the red cedar as they can last up to 15 years.

How To Build A Raised Vegetable Garden? - Guide For First Time Gardeners

Besides, thicker planks can help the wood last longer. From my experience, 2” thick wood, without treatment, can last 10 years.

Aside from the wood texture, you should be concerned about the safety of your wood frame. Don’t use railroad ties as they’re commonly treated with creosote, which is toxic for organic growing.

Or the regular pressure-treated lumber sold widely nowadays that are known for high prevention against water, weather, and rotting. But you should know that they are applied to a mixture of chemicals.

Some eco-friendlier choices are bricks and concrete blocks. However, take note that concrete blocks leverage your soil pH level from time to time, implying you should amend it to grow your garden.

Though the depth of a raised bed can be varied, it should be at least 6 inches deep as most plants need 6 to 12 inches for rooting. So, 12 inches would be perfect.

Do raised garden beds have a bottom?

No, they don’t.

And as they are open to the ground, your plants are allowed rooting more deeply for available nutrients.

What vegetables grow well in raised beds? Can you plant vegetables closer together in raised beds?

Now, what vegetables grow well in raised beds?

For beginners, you should start with the easy-to-grow plants and low-maintenance transplants. There are 5 noteworthy veggies to try:

  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Leafy greens, such as kale, spinach, and lettuce
  • Root vegetables, such as parsnips, radishes, beets, and carrots

How To Build A Raised Vegetable Garden? - Guide For First Time Gardeners

While choosing the right plants for your garden, take note that some veggies shouldn’t be planted together.

Tomatoes, for example, can do well with carrots, onions, lettuce, and garlic but will be a bad companion for broccoli, kale, and potatoes.

Spinach, on the other hand, is the friendliest – it can get along with everyone.

No, they don’t.

And as they are open to the ground, your plants are allowed rooting more deeply for available nutrients.

How often should I water my raised vegetable garden?

This feature is varied with weather, climate, and season.

As mentioned, the topsoil is very quick to dry out so your raised bed might need more watering than usual, especially during the dry months.

During cool seasons, like autumn and winter, watering every 2-3 days and should be paused for weeks during the rainy months. Conversely, on dryer seasons, like late spring and summer, keep watering your raised bed once or twice per day.

Time to watering is also important. It’s best in the evenings and mornings.

How To Build A Raised Vegetable Garden? - Guide For First Time Gardeners

Or, there are some effective ways to reduce water requirements if you don’t have much time. They are covering the top of the soil with straw, mulch, rice hulls, or a layer of compost & worm castings.

How do you enrich the soil for a vegetable garden?

There are 4 common ways to enrich the soil for a vegetable garden:

Green manure

Such as clover, hairy vetch, and alfalfa.

After decomposed, it will provide nutrient to the soil. Green manure usually emerges during the spring. All you need to do is break it up and work into the soil.

Wood ash

If you have a fireplace, take advantage of the leftover charcoal. Break them into small pieces and work into the soil. Aside from providing nutrients, wood ash also absorbs toxins accumulated in the soil.

How To Build A Raised Vegetable Garden? - Guide For First Time Gardeners

Compost

Just regular compost is enough to enrich your garden soil.

Fertilizer

Use organic fertilizer only for the best results.

Conclusion

I think that’s enough for this article today. As this is quite an easy weekend project, I suggest letting your kids join with you. This will be one of the most interesting experience of theirs while your family has more time spending together. So why not?

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