Homegrown: Building Simple Raised Beds, Part 2

So you’ve decided you’re going to build some deep raised beds as a semi-permanent structure in your garden. There are tons of plans available online, so spend an hour or two doing some searching and figure out what type of raised bed and configuration make the most sense for your property. 

You’ll also want to make sure you have all the appropriate tools and materials before you get started; nothing is worse than having to stop halfway through a project because you don’t have the right drill bit or you ran out of screws. You’ll likely need most if not all of the following, plus other items specific to your project.

Boards, rocks, or stone edging
Decking screws
Power drill and suitable bit
Rubber mallet
Tape measure
Bow rake

Many lumberyards and home improvement stores will cut boards to specific lengths, so if you don’t have a circular saw, or you just don’t want the hassle, see if your local store will do this for you. Make sure to measure your boards and mark where you need to drill holes for screws; if your screws aren’t centered in your boards, the boards can crack.

Some people will screen the bottoms of their raised beds to keep out moles (which are carnivorous and feed on grubs in the soil, among other things) and voles (rodents that can damage root vegetables and flower bulbs). If these critters are problematic, consider taking preventive measures before you fill your beds with plants, lest you see your hard work ruined.

Many landscaping supply stores will have a planting mix for garden beds if you don’t have a source for your own. Do check with the landscape supply store and find out how long their planting mix has aged. Really fresh planting mix may be too high in nitrogen, causing plants to be deformed. Alternatively, you can also get straight topsoil and amend it with compost from your personal pile. Many home improvement and garden centers sell bagged organic planting mixes, so that’s another option. Home Depot offers a mulch and soil calculator; definitely run the numbers so you know how much dirt you’ll need for the size of your bed, and add in a little extra to account for settling over time. If you’re getting a planting mix delivered by the truckload or cubic yard, definitely add in an extra half yard or so. You can always use it in containers or pots if you end up with more than you need.

Photos by Amy Bissinger.

In the final post in this series, we’ll talk about what to plant where, what support structures you’ll need, and how to keep your beds in good shape.


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