How to Build the Best Raised Garden Bed: A DIY Guide
Raised garden beds have become hugely popular, this innovative gardening technique, offer a range of benefits for both beginner and experienced gardeners. In this user-friendly guide, we share tips and tricks to create the perfect raised garden bed, helping you achieve optimal growth and productivity. Whether you have limited space or poor soil quality, a raised garden bed can transform your backyard (big or small) into a bountiful harvest haven!
Benefits of Raised Garden Beds
Raised garden beds offer several advantages that make them an excellent choice for all gardeners.
One of the biggest benefits is the control you have over the soil quality. With a raised bed, you can fill it with high-quality soil mix, and depending on what you want to plant you can alter the soil’s pH level in different garden beds to have the primal soil conditions for an abundant harvest. You can learn more about soil pH here. This ensures your plants grow in the optimal environment and get all the essential nutrients they need to thrive.
Raised beds also provide better drainage, preventing waterlogged roots and root rot.
Plus, their elevated nature makes them easier to access, reducing strain on your back and knees – mid handled garden tools are perfect to use to care for your raised garden beds, such as the Burgon & Ball mid-handled claw cultivator, trowel, fork, shrub rake, perennial spade, and mighty pick all have a handle length more than 40cm long making it easier on your back, especially for mature gardeners and those with physical limitations.
Versatility is another perk of raised garden beds. You can build them in various shapes and sizes, maximizing your available space. This is especially handy for small gardens or limited yard areas.
Raised beds also allow you to grow plants with specific soil requirements, customising soil composition and catering to the needs of different vegetables or flowers.
Another important point is they also offer excellent pest control. Being elevated, it’s harder for pests to reach your plants. This reduces the risk of infestations and damage to your crops. Plus, the defined boundaries make it easier to protect your plants using barriers or organic pest control methods. All in all, creating a raised garden bed provides a better environment for your plants and minimizes pest-related problems.
Choosing the Right Location for Your Raised Garden Bed
When it comes to the location of your raised garden bed, choosing the right spot is key to its success. Consider factors like sunlight exposure, wind patterns, and proximity to water sources. Aim for a spot that gets at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight daily to ensure your plants get the light they need to thrive.
Also, think about the wind patterns in your area. Strong winds can damage delicate plants and dry out the soil quickly. If your garden is exposed to strong winds, consider creating a windbreak or selecting a more sheltered location.
Having your garden bed near a water source, such as a hose or irrigation system, is essential for easy watering and providing your plants with adequate moisture. If a water source isn’t nearby, you might need to consider alternative watering methods, like a drip irrigation system or using a watering can to water your garden periodically. A great outdoor watering can is the Burgon & Ball Waterfall 9L Watering Can with its ergonomic handle design makes wearing your plants a breeze.
Selecting the Materials for Your Raised Garden Bed
Choosing the right materials is important for building your raised garden bed. There are three common options: wood, metal, and plastic.
Wood is a popular choice due to its natural look and affordability. Cedar and Hardwoods are excellent choices as they are naturally resistant to rot and insects. However, remember that wood can deteriorate over time, especially when exposed to moisture. To make your wooden bed last longer, use a protective sealant or lining.
Metal beds offer a modern aesthetic and great durability. Steel or aluminium are commonly used as they are rust-resistant and long-lasting. Keep in mind that metal can retain heat, so consider adding insulation for hot regions.
Plastic beds are lightweight, cost-effective, and low maintenance. They come in various colours and designs to suit your preferences. Just be aware that plastic may not be as durable as wood or metal and can deteriorate over time with exposure to UV rays. Choosing a UV-resistant material can extend its lifespan.
These are the common options, however, you can recycle or upcycle materials like cinderblocks, stones other rot-resistant materials to build a boundary.
How deep should a raised garden bed be?
The depth of a raised garden bed can vary on the types of pants you want to plant, but in general, a depth of 15cm to 45cm is suitable for a variety of vegetables.
- Shallow rooted plants: 15-20cm (lettuce, spinach, radish, herbs)
- Medium-rooted plants: 25-30cm ( tomatoes, peppers, carrots)
- Deep-rooted plants: 30-45cm (parsnips, beetroot, potatoes)
Keep in mind that deeper beds also provide more soil volume, which can help retain moisture and nutrients, reducing the frequency of watering and fertilisation.
Ultimately, the depth of your raised garden bed will depend on your specific gardening needs and the plants you want to grow. It’s always a good idea to research the specific requirements of the plants you plan to grow and tailor the bed’s depth accordingly.
What do I put on the bottom of a raised garden bed?
In a raised garden bed, it’s essential to create a good foundation that promotes healthy plant growth and proper drainage. While you can directly fill the raised bed with soil, preparing the bottom can enhance the bed’s overall performance.
Cardboard or Newspaper: Placing a layer of cardboard or several sheets of newspaper at the bottom of the raised bed acts as a barrier to suppress weeds and grass from growing up into your raised bed. Cardboard and newspaper will eventually break down over time.
Landscape Fabric/weed mat (Optional): Some gardeners prefer to use landscape fabric on top of cardboard or newspaper. This further helps to prevent weed growth and keeps the soil from washing down through the cracks.
Building and Assembling Your Raised Garden Bed
Building a raised garden bed is a simple process that you can complete in a few steps:
- Measure and mark the area for your raised bed. Use a measuring tape and stakes to ensure its level.
- Prepare the ground by removing any existing weeds, grass or vegetation, rocks, or debris.
- Assemble the sides of your raised garden bed. For wood, cut the boards to size and secure them together with screws or nails. Follow manufacturer instructions for metal or plastic beds.
- Install the bed in its designated location, making sure it’s level and aligned properly. Secure it to the ground with stakes or rebar.
- Now is a perfect opportunity to lay the foundation with newspaper and Landscape Fabric/Weed Mat to create a barrier from outside weeds competing for the soil’s nutrition.
- Fill the bed with a high-quality soil mixture suitable for your plants. Leave about 5cm at the top for watering and mulching. Top up the soil as needed, as it may settle over time.
An organic way to keep pests and critters out of your garden bed is to set up a frame and enclose it with bird netting. A simple method is to use your garden stakes with a bracket kit to join the corners of the ends to create a frame, then it’s just covering the frame with bird netting. This will create an enclosure and help keep insects and pests out. A great solution to get you started is the Ryset Bracket Kit and Ryset Bird Netting.
Soil Preparation for a Thriving Garden
How to layer a raised Garden Bed?
A premium raised garden bed is designed to provide the best environment for your plants to thrive. The layers in a premium raised garden bed may vary slightly depending on your specific needs, but here’s a typical setup:
- Base Layer – Gravel or Rocks: The first layer at the bottom of the raised bed is typically filled with gravel or rocks. This layer serves as a drainage system, allowing excess water to escape and preventing waterlogged soil.
- Landscape Fabric or Weed Barrier: Above the gravel layer, you can add a landscape fabric or weed barrier. This prevents weeds from growing up into the raised bed while still allowing water to drain freely.
- Aeration Layer – Twigs or Small Branches: Some gardeners add a layer of twigs or small branches above the weed barrier. This creates air pockets within the soil, improving aeration and promoting healthy root growth.
- Compost Layer: Next comes a layer of compost, rich in nutrients and organic matter, providing essential elements for plant growth. It also helps improve soil structure and water retention.
- Soil Layer: On top of the compost, add a layer of high-quality garden soil, this provides a good growing medium for your plants and acts as a reservoir for moisture and nutrients.
- Mulch Layer: After planting, you can add a layer of mulch on the soil surface. Mulch helps retain soil moisture, suppress weed growth, and regulate soil temperature. Common mulch materials include straw, wood chips, or shredded leaves.
Keep in mind that these layers are not strictly necessary for all raised garden beds, and the specific needs of your plants and soil may vary. However, a premium raised garden bed often includes these layers to create a healthy and productive growing environment.
It’s also essential to regularly monitor your raised garden bed’s moisture levels, as they can dry out faster than traditional gardens. Watering appropriately and providing adequate nutrients will ensure your plants thrive and yield a bountiful harvest. Soil survey tool such as the 4 in 1 soil tester is a great way to measure.
What is the best soil mix for raised garden beds?
The best soil mix for a raised garden bed in Australia will depend on various factors, including the type of plants you want to grow, the climate in your region, and the specific conditions of your garden. However, a general soil mix that works well for many raised beds in Australia includes the following components:
- A good-quality garden soil
- Compost to improve fertility and nutrient content
- Peat Moss or Coir can enhance water retention
- Perlite or Vermiculite helps with soil aeration and drainage
- Minerals and Trace Elements like Munash Organics Rockdust or natural minerals
It’s important to note that the soil mix can vary depending on the types of plants you want to grow. For example, if you plan to grow vegetables, you might lean towards a mix that provides good drainage and nutrient retention. On the other hand, for native or water-sensitive plants, you may want a mix that focuses more on water retention.
To get the best results, you can consult with local garden centers or horticulturists who are familiar with your region’s soil conditions. They can recommend a soil mix that suits the specific needs of your raised garden bed and the plants you intend to grow.
Once you have the desired mixture in mind its time to pick up the spade and begin preparing the area for soil:
Remove existing vegetation or weeds from the bed to reduce competition for nutrients. A claw cultivator is a handy tool for this task.
Amend the soil with organic matter like compost or well-rotted manure. This boosts fertility, improves moisture retention, and enhances soil aeration.
Test the soil’s pH level to ensure it’s slightly acidic to neutral (around 6.0 to 7.0). We recommend the Manutec pH test kit. Adjust the PH level with lime to raise it higher or Sulphur to lower it if needed.
Ensure the soil is well-draining to your needs. Add coarse sand or perlite to the mix to improve drainage.
Regularly add organic matter and nutrients to maintain soil health. A great nutrient rich additive to soil is Munash Organic Rockdust to vitalise your soil with nutrients. Top-dress the bed with compost or apply organic fertilizers throughout the growing season. Mulch with straw or wood chips to conserve moisture and improve soil structure. To learn more about mulching check out our blog: A Guide to Garden Mulch
Choosing the Right Plants for Your Raised Garden Bed
Selecting the right plants is crucial for a thriving raised garden bed. Consider these factors:
Available space: Determine the dimensions of your bed and plan accordingly. If you need help with this the Burgon & Ball Planting Line is useful. leaving enough space between plants helps to prevent overcrowding and you will have healthier plants.
Sunlight exposure: Most vegetables and flowering plants need at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight daily. Choose plants that suit the available light conditions in your garden.
Soil composition: Different plants have specific soil requirements. Research the preferences of your chosen plants and ensure your soil composition meets their needs.
Personal preferences: Grow plants that you enjoy growing and eating. For beginners, start with easy-to-grow plants for a successful gardening experience. For help to get started check out one of our What to grow this month guides.
Companion planting: Some plants work well together and can enhance growth or repel pests. Research companion planting techniques to maximize your garden’s productivity and health.
Watering and Fertilizing Your Raised Garden Bed
Water consistently, making sure not to overwater. Check the soil moisture regularly and water deeply when needed. Mulch with straw or wood chips to retain moisture.
Use organic fertilisers like compost or well-rotted manure to provide essential nutrients. Avoid over-fertilizing, as it can harm your plants. Conduct a soil test to determine nutrient levels and adjust your fertilisation practices accordingly.
Consider using organic liquid fertilisers or foliar sprays for quick nutrient boosts. Something such as the Seasol range is a great liquid. Follow the instructions on the product packaging for application rates and frequency. To learn more about fertilising, check out our guide: How to Choose the Best Fertiliser
By following these tips and tricks, you can create the perfect raised garden bed and enjoy a flourishing garden that brings joy and fresh produce for many seasons to come! Happy gardening!