Are you ready to get started on raised bed gardening and discover all it has to offer? This comprehensive guide will help you start your own DIY raised garden bed.
If you’ve been vegetable gardening the old-fashioned way, get ready to take your efforts to the next level with raised beds.
Grow Your Own Food In a DIY Raised Bed Garden
This style of gardening has several advantages that make it an ideal option for gardeners who want to grow their own food. The first one might surprise you.
Accessibility with a Raised Garden Bed
One of the remarkable advantages here is accessibility. It makes gardening easier for people of all ages and abilities.
Whether you have a young child who wants to help, o you’re a senior citizen or someone with mobility challenges, raised beds offer a convenient solution.
Raised beds can be installed at various heights – including right down on the ground. But if you install elevated beds at roughly waist height, it’s a game changer.
No more backbreaking bending or kneeling. You can sit in a chair at your garden beds and work in comfort.
Raised garden beds are just easier to get at. It’s hard or impossible for some people to kneel on the ground and garden. And containers can be heavy to move.
Superior Soil Quality for Healthy Plant Growth
Another big advantage of raised bed gardening is the ability to control the quality of your soil. In traditional gardens, you have limited control over the existing soil composition.
But raised beds let you to build your own perfect growing environment. Get just the right blend of compost, hummus, topsoil, and other organic amendments for the plants you want to grow.
Better Drainage for a Hassle-Free Garden
Raised vegetable gardens also have superior drainage. Excess water is efficiently drained away. This prevents waterlogged roots, which can lead to plant diseases and stunted growth.
With raised beds, you have full control over the moisture levels, and that lets you tailor the watering according to specific plant needs. As a result, your plants get a better environment, and will grow healthier.
Improved Weed Control
Raised beds also make weed control easier. The raised bed itself provides a barrier against unwanted invaders, because weeds can’t just wander into a vegetable bed that’s a few feet off the ground.
By using quality weed blocking fabric or adding mulch between plants, you can significantly reduce weed growth in your raised beds. This not only minimizes competition for nutrients and sunlight but also saves you precious time and effort spent on backbreaking weeding sessions.
Extended Growing Season: The Gift That Keeps on Giving
Raised beds can also extend your growing season. While traditional gardens are limited by the climate and seasonal changes, raised beds keep your garden thriving for longer.
By elevating the soil level, these beds absorb and retain heat more effectively, allowing you to start planting earlier in the spring and continue growing well into the fall.
This means that you can enjoy fresh produce for longer portion of the year than with planting in the ground. With a little planning, you can plant cold-tolerant crops in early spring and switch to heat-loving plants as the season progresses.
Protective covers such as row covers or mini greenhouses can extend your garden’s lifespan even further.
Cost to Build a Raised Bed Garden
We’ve talked about the benefits. Now let’s talk about the biggest downside to starting this kind of garden. Namely, the start up costs.
The cost of building raised garden beds can vary depending on the materials used, the size of the bed, and whether it is a DIY project or done by a professional. Here are some estimates from the search results:
- DIY Wooden Bed: building a DIY wooden raised garden bed can cost around $210.11 for a 4’x8′ bed.
- Custom-Built Bed: A custom-built raised bed can cost $20 to $65 per square foot of ground space, depending on the material used. A 5’x12′ custom-built raised bed costs $1,200 to $4,000 installed. Having a wooden raised bed constructed and installed by a professional can cost at least $100 per square foot.
- Raised Bed Kits: Raised garden bed kits cost $5 to $15 per square foot on average for materials. The pre-made kits require minimal installation and come in wood, plastic, and metal types.
All of this cost comes before you even get to soil preparation and plants. It’s a lot of work and expense to go to only to find out you can’t afford to keep it up.
Some questions to help you decide if it’s likely to pay for itself:
- What am I spending on produce every month at the store (and would we love to have more produce, only we can’t afford it?)
- Do we enjoy gardening enough that this would bring us a lot of happiness?
- Do we have time to take care of this garden?
Getting Started with Raised Bed Gardening
The first step to making a raised garden bed is to choose the best possible location for your garden.
Look for a spot that gets 6-8 hours of sunlight throughout the day. This will give your plants the energy they need to thrive and produce.
Most vegetables and herbs require at least six hours of direct sunlight for optimal growth. Look for an area in your yard that without any tall trees or structures that could cast shadows on your plants.
Access to water
The garden bed should be near a water source or within reach of your hose or watering system. You don’t want to have to haul watering cans to it over and over for daily watering when it doesn’t rain.
Choose a spot you can easily access for regular maintenance like watering, weeding, pruning and harvesting. You probably want it close to the house – just not so close that it ends up being shadowed by the house.
Protection from Wind and Pests
If your area is windy or prone to certain pests, you might want to position your raised beds in a less exposed area or use protective covers when necessary.
Leave Room Around Your Garden Beds
You also need space around the bed for people to sit and stand while they garden.
You can also use vertical gardening to make your raised beds produce even more crop yield than they could do with ordinary horizontal planting. Learn more about vertical gardening in raised beds.
A level spot is ideal for this type of gardening. If you don’t have a level area, that will affect how you go about building your raised garden beds.
Planning and Designing Your Raised Bed Garden
It’s worth taking the time to create a well-thought-out plan for your garden. Start by considering the size and shape you want it to have.
Rectangular shaped beds are popular due to their efficiency, but don’t be afraid to get creative with circular or tiered designs that add visual interest to your garden space.
Take into account the available sunlight in your chosen location when deciding on the orientation of your beds.
When constructing raised garden beds, it’s important to choose materials that are durable, safe for plants, and ideally weather-resistant.
- Untreated Wood: Cedar and redwood are naturally rot-resistant insect-resistant, making them great choices for raised garden beds. Cedar is most popular because it’s durable and affordable.
- Stone or Bricks: These are more permanent and can add an aesthetic appeal to your garden but require more effort to build.
- Cement Blocks: These are affordable and durable, although not as attractive as other options.
- Galvanized Metal: It’s sturdy and has a modern look but can heat up in the sun which might affect root temperatures.
- Recycled Plastic: Durable, weatherproof, and easy to assemble but may not have the natural look some gardeners prefer. There are concerns about plastic leaching chemicals into produce.
Remember not to use treated lumber as it could contain chemicals that could leach into the soil and be absorbed by your plants.
Will your beds sit out in the yard, or will you put down gravel, paver stones or dirt around them to make a path?
A path of some sort is a nice option, because it makes it easier to get to the beds. And to mow around them. Consider putting your beds in a small area covered in gravel for water drainage.
Layout and Design
Once you’ve decided on the size and shape of your beds and chosen your materials, it’s time to think about layout and spacing.
Consider companion planting techniques (more on this below), which promote beneficial relationships between certain plants, such as marigolds repelling pests from vegetables.
Thinking about which plants should go into which boxes will help you zero in on the design you want.
Building a Raised Bed: Step-by-Step Guide
The next task is to choose the dimensions of your raised bed, keeping in mind a width of 3 to 4 feet for easy reach from all sides. Next, get the necessary materials to build them.
You can buy untreated lumber and saw it to the correct measurements yourself, or you can buy a prefabricated kit. Whether you love to DIY from scratch or just want “some assembly required”, there’s an option for you out there.
Once you’ve got all the pieces, you just need to assemble the frames. You’ll do this by connecting the corners with screws or brackets, making sure it stands sturdy and level on your chosen garden spot.
To prevent weeds and unwanted critters from entering your beds, line the bottoms with landscape fabric or cardboard before filling them with soil. This protective layer will also aid in moisture retention while allowing proper drainage.
Filling Your Raised Bed with the Right Soil Mix
This is your chance to get that perfect soil we all wish we had in the backyard. The right soil mix will provide the necessary nutrients and structure for your plants to thrive.
Start by creating a base layer using a blend of compost and organic matter. This will promote healthy root development and enhance moisture retention, ensuring your plants have access to vital nutrients.
Next, add a high-quality garden soil or topsoil into the mix. Look for soil that’s well-draining yet retains moisture effectively. You can also add in some vermiculite or perlite.
These lightweight additives help with aeration and water retention, creating an optimal growing environment.
Remember that different plants have specific soil requirements, so consider this when selecting your soil mix components. For example, if you plan on growing vegetables, be sure to add additional organic matter and compost to provide essential nutrients for robust growth.
By carefully crafting the perfect soil mix for your raised beds, you are setting yourself up for gardening success. With nutrient-rich soil beneath their roots, your plants will flourish and reward you with bountiful harvests throughout the seasons.
Selecting the Ideal Plants
The key is to choose crops that not only thrive in your specific climate and growing conditions, but also complement each other in terms of growth habits and nutrient requirements. Farmers have known forever that certain plants do better planted close to or far apart from one another.
Start by considering your personal preferences and culinary tastes – what do you want to grow? Do you love for fresh herbs like basil, rosemary, or mint?
Or how about homegrown lettuce and radishes for salads? Or tomatoes? Whatever your preferences may be, take into account the nutritional needs of different plant types to create a diverse and balanced garden.
Maintaining Your DIY Raised Garden Bed
Once your garden is growing, it’s time to focus on maintaining its health. Regular maintenance will prolong the lifespan of your garden and also be a fun gardening task.
Watering is the most important task. Strike a balance between watering often enough for the plants’ growth while avoiding overwatering, which can lead to root rot.
Regularly check the soil moisture by inserting your finger about an inch deep into the soil; if it feels dry, water thoroughly until moisture reaches the roots. Remember, a well-hydrated garden is a happy garden.
Aim to provide a steady supply of moisture to the soil without saturating it. You generally should water deeply but infrequently, which means allowing the top few inches of soil to dry out between watering sessions.
By watering deeply, you encourage plants to develop deep root systems that can better withstand periods of drought.
Fertilizing Tips for Your Vegetable Garden
Organic fertilizers are highly recommended for their long-term benefits. Start by enriching your soil with compost or well-rotted manure before planting.
As the growing season progresses, add organic fertilizers like fish emulsion or seaweed extract to provide more nutrients.
Remember that each plant has its own specific requirements when it comes to fertilizer application. Read up on the needs of your chosen crops and adjust accordingly.
Always follow label instructions and avoid over-fertilizing, as this can harm your plants rather than help them thrive.
Pest Control through Companion Planting
Companion planting is a gardening method in which different species of plants are grown together for mutual benefit. The main idea is that certain plants may help each other take up nutrients, improve pest management or attract pollinators.
- Tomatoes and Basil: Basil can help repel pests harmful to tomatoes and can also enhance their growth.
- Beans and Corn: Beans fix nitrogen from the air into the soil, improving its fertility, which benefits corn. In turn, corn stalks provide support for the beans to climb.
- Cabbage and Dill: Dill attracts beneficial insects that protect cabbage from pests.
- Carrots and Onions: The strong aroma of onions helps deter carrot fly, protecting the carrots.
- Lettuce and Tall Flowers: Tall flowers provide shade for lettuce, helping it stay cool and preventing it from bolting too quickly in hot weather.
- Radishes and Cucumbers: Radishes can deter cucumber beetles and other pests.
- Marigolds: Planting marigold flowers alongside your vegetables deters harmful nematodes while attracting pollinators like bees and butterflies.
Additionally, consider installing physical barriers such as mesh netting or row covers to shield your precious crops from birds, rabbits, or other critters who may be tempted by their delectable foliage.