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How to build a raised garden bed

February 4, 2013

Raised garden beds are an easy way to create interest and add dimension to your garden, no matter what your skill level.

Here's what you need to know about raised beds:

  • If you start with clean, fresh soil, you can avoid the problem of dormant weed seeds and pests from infesting the garden.
  • They warm more quickly in spring, so you can work the soil and plant earlier.
  • With beds planted higher than ground level, a gardener with limited mobility doesn't have to get down on his or her knees.
  • Soil compaction can reduce crop yields up to 50 percent. Soil doesn't get compacted in raised beds because it's fresh and more easily worked.
  • Raised beds create areas of fertile, well-drained soil in locales with poor soil and inadequate drainage.

Raised bed depth

When determining the depth of your raised bed, consider your soil's current condition. If it's fairly workable, you can get away with raised beds up to 8 inches high. However, if the soil is completely unworkable—the kind of soil that can hardly be dented by a spade—make the raised bed 1 to 3 feet high.

Step 1: Build the border

Start with your 4 rot-resistant posts. When selecting your lumber, consider using Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood, which has been responsibly harvested.

Step 2: Dig the bed

Dig a trench 1 to 2 inches deep where you want to position the raised bed. Position the frame in the trench. Level it by either adding soil or digging a deeper trench.

Step 3: Prepare the ground

There's no need to remove turf (except for Bermuda grass) or most small weeds; they'll break down and feed the soil. Fill the wooden frame with high-quality topsoil or other amendments, such as sphagnum moss, and then rake smooth. Trusted brands such as Scotts and Miracle-Gro carry products that retain moisture and provide organic matter to your soil. Vigoro carries a wide variety of top soils, formulated to provide drainage and aeration while feeding the soil.

Step 4: Set up the waterworks

Install a watering system. Soaker hoses, perforated plastic sprinkle hoses and drip-irrigation are perfect for raised beds as they disperse water neatly and evenly throughout a contained area. When you're all set to plant, try Bonnie Plants, which are grown in biodegradable peat pots. Or check out organic seed packets from Burpee or Ferry-Morse for an earth-friendly way to start your garden.

For more eco-friendly ideas you can use in your garden, visit The Home Depot Eco Options site.