Homegrown: Building Simple Raised Beds

This time of year is a great time to consider new garden structures, and raised beds can make your life easier and make your garden tidier. You can make raised beds quite simply, with rocks or edging material you already have, or you can purchase wood planks if you want to make deeper raised beds for root vegetables. Cedar planks are great for raised beds; the wood’s natural oil makes it durable and resistant to rot, and you avoid the chemicals in treated lumber. Unfortunately, cedar boards are also quite expensive compared to regular treated lumber.

Raspberries in a simple raised bed made with stone edging blocks. Photo by Amy Bissinger.

The most important consideration when building a raised bed is location. If you’re wanting to grow most garden vegetables and fruits, you’ll need to put your raised beds in a spot that gets full sun for a solid eight hours a day. Some afternoon shade is fine; in fact, some plants appreciate a break from the sun during the hottest part of the day. Extended morning shade can lead to a greater prevalence of diseases as leaves stay wet for long periods.

You’ll also want to pick a flat spot if you can. If not, you’ll need to get a little creative, and either build your bed into the slope some or use rock and dirt to elevate the low end of your bed. Avoid places that don’t drain well or are in the middle of a natural swale or wash. If you’re building these beds over a lawn, you may need to till if you’re dealing with a bermudagrass, otherwise you’ll be pulling it out of your beds in no time.

Two 4-foot by 8-foot beds joined by a middle 4-foot by 4-foot bed. These raised beds are deep enough for root vegetables and were made with 2×6 boards. Photo by Amy Bissinger.

Also consider what pests you may have to deal with. Deer, rabbits, and birds can wreak havoc on a garden, so you may need to build a fence or get some netting to deter them. Grubs can also be problematic, and they’re very common in many areas. Explore your options for managing these critters; if you want to stay completely organic, your local independent garden center will be able to steer you in the right direction.

The next post in this series will get into construction for you DIY types, so stay tuned!


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