Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been obsessed with growing my own vegetables at home. Living with my parents back in the day, we had lots of land, good earth and plenty of sunshine. Our vegetable garden was huge and prolific. Since then I’ve tried to make it happen in smaller spaces and less hardy yards, so I’ve learned how to create a raised garden bed for growing veggies.
We’ve enjoyed vegetables from our raised garden bed for several years, but in the last couple of years things really went downhill. Come to find out, I had depleted the soil of all nutrients with my vegetable plants. The leaves would wither, turn yellow, look stunted and more. The plants would seem sickly and small, despite my fertilizing attempts. The yield of tomatoes and other vegetables was weak.
I learned that in addition to enriching the soil with fertilizers, I should have been rotating my plants. I guess crop rotation is a thing, even in my small backyard planter boxes!
How to Create a Raised Garden Bed
In my circumstances, the best advice I received from multiple sources was to literally throw away my soil and start over. Because tomato plants draw so many nutrients from the soil, planting them in the same places can render the soil barren. Because I kept growing the same plants in the same places, the soil did not have a chance to regenerate all those nutrients. I could not grow healthy plants.
So here’s my advice since I’m starting from scratch!
If you don’t have a ton of space and you want to a farm at home like me, creating a raised garden bed is the ideal solution. You can grow fresh vegetables and flowers and maximize your space. This process will help you get better control over your soil, and make caring for your plants that much easier. A raised garden bed is an excellent introduction to gardening and creating one that is easier than you think.
Plus you don’t have to lean over all the time. Saves your back!
What is a raised vegetable planter box and why should you want it?
Raised garden beds are a simple and convenient way to better utilize the space you have for your garden. They allow for good drainage, protect plants from pests and some weeds, and let you curate the best soil for your vegetables.
If you have limited soil, restricted sunlight or just limited space, you may need to create a raised garden bed. I have found these beds to give me a higher yield from each plant with less effort. Win-win! After you have mastered the technique of making and cultivating raised garden beds, you could add some in your front yard and plant them with colorful flowers to update and beautify your landscape. These beds aren’t just for vegetables, y’know.
3 Kinds of Raised Garden Beds
When planning out your garden plot, there are several ways to go about it. Do you rent? Maybe you might like to purchase a raised garden bed kit that you can uproot and take with you if you move elsewhere. If you own, then a more permanent installation might be a great solution for you. We installed redwood planter boxes in a sunny part of our backyard.
- Cedar raised garden beds kit: These kits typically use untreated wood that is naturally able to resist insects and rot. The wood weathers nicely and can produce a thriving garden.
- Vinyl, plastic and composite raised garden bed kits: These containers are strong and durable. They resist warping and are usually maintenance-free. Plus, they are designed to last.
- DIY wooden beds: Even if you are not super handy, you can learn how to make a raised garden bed in an afternoon. It is a pretty straightforward project, though you should have at least some experience using common tools. Or you can always hire someone to do it (like we did!).
What materials do you need for DIY wooden garden beds?
When building your own raised garden bed from scratch, you can use any size wood you want to create any size garden bed you desire. Many people like to use untreated redwood lumber, which doesn’t resist rot necessarily but is still a good option for any edible plants you are growing. A typical raised garden bed is usually at least 4-feet x 6-feet by 1-foot deep. Some experts say vegetable beds should be at least 18 inches deep, but ours are a good 24 inches deep.
What are the different types of raised garden beds kits?
You can buy raised garden bed kits in all different sizes and styles, from the simple to the stupendous. The kits give you a fast way to get started gardening with minimal effort. Typically they don’t require special tools or any woodworking skills. They are easy as long as you follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Some garden kits are open-bottomed, which are placed directly on the ground. These can allow the plants’ roots to grow more deeply and provide good drainage which plants need. Another option is the elevated raised garden beds, which you can assemble on legs. These beds can sit on a patio, deck or balcony and require less bending over. (Your aching back with thank you!)
And make sure the bed is four-feet-wide or less. It is difficult to reach across a bed wider than that for most people.
Where should you put your raised planters?
The best thing about creating a raised garden bed is that you can put it anywhere. The most important thing is to make sure the space has enough sun exposure throughout the day. Your plants will not grow without enough sun! Also, use a shovel to level out the ground that the bed will rest on so it is stable.
Get your raised bed ready for planting
One of the things many people forget to do with their new garden beds is to line them prior to filling with soil. Lining the raised bed prevents toxins from the wood leaching into the soil, as well as making the planter more durable. You can use landscape fabric or really any kind of cloth. Try not to use a lining that is made of non-porous plastic. It doesn’t promote drainage and resists the helpful worms and insects you actually want in your garden.
What soil should you use?
You can use whatever mix of soil is best for the plants you are growing. However, master gardeners suggest this ratio for raised beds:
- 60% topsoil
- 30% compost.
- 10% Potting soil
You may have to adjust these ratios based on the needs of your plants. Put enough soil mix in the bed to fill it, knowing that some settling of the soil will occur. If you are not sure how much soil to buy to fill your bed you can use the following formula: Length of your planter x width of your planter x depth.
Planting Your Garden
Ok, this is fodder for an entirely different post. What you choose to plant in your vegetable garden and how you plant each thing is the subject of many websites, blogs and forums. I won’t attempt to give out advice on such a weighty topic in just a few sentences. Here’s a blog post from last year about planting a backyard vegetable garden.
My family and I love the fresh vegetables and beautiful flowers that are growing in our backyard. Our raised garden bed is really a focal point of our backyard now.
Are you gardening this year? What will you grow?