How To Plan And Build A Raised Bed Vegetable Garden

How to plan and build a raised bed vegetable garden

A raised bed vegetable garden has so many benefits and makes gardening so much easier!

We grow most of our organic vegetables in raised garden beds of some sort. We have several different versions depending on where on the property they are.  Some of them are really low budget beds built from used pallets.

Others are built with concrete blocks or timber. We even used one-tonne bulk beds as a raised bed…works just fine!

Living in a wet climate like here in Ireland makes a raised bed vegetable garden a no-brainer! We often struggle with good drainage having a combination of heavy soils and high rainfalls. This can all be solved by raising the vegetable beds above the ground.

Benefits Of Raised Beds

  • can be built anywhere even if you have no garden. You can convert a rooftop, yard or patio area into a growing space in no time.
  • makes gardening easier on the back
  • no problems with water-logging
  • easier to manage and weed
  • Fewer problems with slugs and snails
  • can be made wheelchair accessible
  • you are in control of the quality of the soil
  • raised beds are in general easier to manage
  • ideal for no-dig gardening

What Are The Best Materials To Build A Raised Bed Vegetable Garden?

More Tips For Raised Beds

Raised beds can be built from a variety of materials depending on taste, budget and availability.

Timber: you can use all sorts of planks that are available in your area. Cedar wood is particularly durable. The disadvantage of timber is that it won’t last forever and might need treatment. I prefer though not to treat with toxic wood preservatives for growing organic vegetables. Use a non-toxic one like this for treating the timber.
Used scaffolding boards can sometimes be bought for reasonable money. They are thick and durable. Timber looks very natural and blends in well in any garden.
Raised beds made from planks are built easily and quickly. As long as you can handle a saw, hammer and measuring tape you are good to go. There are no special skills needed…

Concrete Blocks Or Bricks: Concrete blocks or bricks have the advantage of being maintenance free. They will also last forever so they don’t need to be replaced. We built beds out of concrete blocks laid on their side without the use of mortar. If you use smaller bricks you will need mortar and building them will be a little bit more difficult.

Pre-Made Raised Bed Kits: If you are not into DIY you can also buy pre-made raised bed kits that just need to be assembled where you want them. You can choose from a variety of materials like cedar wood, recycled plastic boards or fabric. Have a look here for a selection of raised bed kits.

Where To Build A Raised Bed Vegetable Garden

You can  build raised beds anywhere you get enough sun for growing vegetables. The area should also be sheltered from cold or drying winds if possible.
Make the area easily accessible for ease of use. You will find that you will use it much more if you can get there easily and comfortably. The closer your vegetable garden is to your kitchen the better. Nobody likes to go far for a handful of herbs!

Size Of The Beds

Build raised beds to make life easy on yourself! You should be able to reach the middle of the beds with ease. An ideal width is about 120 cm (approx. 4 ft) so you can comfortably reach the center of the bed from both sides. Here are raised bed garden plans to give you some ideas.
The depth depends on several factors. If you want to make life easier on your back you need more height. I would suggest a minimum of 60 cm (2 ft). If you build your beds in an area where there is no soil underneath i.e. on concrete you also need a greater depth.
If you build your raised beds on existing soil about 20-30 cm (1 ft) should be enough height.

The length depends on your available space. Just keep in mind that you have to walk all the way around if your beds are very long. Leave a gap, at least, every five to six meters.
Spacing between the beds: you should be able to comfortably fit a wheelbarrow between your raised beds so I would recommend a minimum of 80 -100 cm between the beds.

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