Raised beds are a great way to grow vegetables at home. Aside from a bit of common sense, there are no real strict rules about what materials you can use to make the beds – from old water tanks, to bricks, wood, stone, old crates, boxes, etc. Whatever will give you an ideal framework for a raised bed is good enough. Below is a rough guide I have put together (very quickly!) to try and explain the simplest way to make a raised bed in your own space. Ideally, the breadth of a raised bed should never be more than 1 meter, as the wider it is, the harder it is to work in the middle of the bed and thus, defeats the object of trying to be resourceful! The height of the bed totally depends on your own wishes – some raised beds are only several inches above ground and perhaps serve more as an allocation of space for growing; others can be a metre (+) above the ground for people who would rather be doing less bending. Either is fine, just remember: the bigger the bed, the heavier the weight/force of the soil inside and you’ll need to factor this in when securing your materials together. Below is a guide to building your own wooden bed:
1. Measure up – Length x Breadth x Height
Decide on where you want your raised bed and measure up according to the above 3 dimensions. It is important to be as exact as possible and mark out spacing in the garden.
2. Materials ready
- You’ll need 4 square pieces of wood (to act as your supporting pillars) at whatever height you would like the bed. These pillars should be even in height and will become the 4 corners of the bed.
- Then X amount of wooden planks (according to the length/height of your bed). Whilst it is up to you how many planks to use, try and ensure all planks are even in size. If you’re using recycled wood (yay!) then don’t worry too much about this, it’ll just require some creative engineering.
- Hammer & nails/screwdriver & screws
3. Build – step by step
- Building one side of the bed at a time, to start, have 2 pillars laid flat at the length distance you would like your bed. Take one of the planks, lay it across the pillars and hammer in place. Continue to stack the planks on top of each other (going up the pillar) until you have the desired height for the side of your bed. Repeat using the other 2 pillars until you have your two lengths of the bed.
- Stand the pillars up vertically ensuring that the planks are on the ‘outside’. Position the structure at the correct width you would like your bed and then, with another plank, secure the structure together.
- Continue to stack the planks up the pillars and then repeat on the opposite side to close the structure. Once the framework is built, add in any extra nails/support on the joints, to take the weight of the soil that will go inside.
Image Credit: Diagrams from New Skills Academy
4. Dig the ground where the bed will sit
On your allocated plot, use a fork (or machine, depending on size) to aerate the soil. Ensure that the space is free from any big roots, stones, weeds or obstructions that may hinder crop growth.
5. Position the bed
Finally, carry your structure over to the space where it will reside. Obviously, the bed has been left open bottom – this is to help drainage and stop root/crop rot, but in shallower beds you will need to prepare the ground soil much more as you will be planting directly into this. Once the framework is in place, fill the raised bed with your desired substrate (according to specific growing instructions).
Obviously this is only a very quick, basic guide & if you feel you need any further assistance then there are numerous ‘how to’ guides you could follow online. For a wooden raised bed that lasts, it’s always best to ensure the wood you’re using has been treated with an outdoor coating. Naturally, wood will rot over time so it is entirely subjective as to when you feel it is time to replace the panels!
I hope this helps anybody who needs it, happy growing!