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How to Build a Raised Bed for Planting

Apr 26, 2019

Why have a raised garden bed?

One of the great reasons for gardening in a raised bed is so the soil is elevated above ground level. This creates a great environment so that the soil warms up easier and helps establish plants and prolongs their growing time

Before you start looking at creating a raised bed there is a certain amount of planning that needs be done.

Access your raised beds easily

When designing your raised beds its key to remember that you’ll need full access to all sides of the bed without having to stand on them once you’ve planted up. For instance, if your raised beds are going to be 20ft wide, then you’ll need to be able to access the area towards the back to weed etc. This is especially important if you have mobility issues.

It’s also worth noting that you shouldn’t walk on raised beds as this can compact the soil, creating a less favourable growing environment. This is one of the reasons that you shouldn’t build a raised bed that is too big to access.

The ideal size is 8x4ft at 8″ high which is the size of a railway sleeper !!.   Use three sleepers cut one in half which can easily be done with a hand saw, but if you have several beds to construct use a decent chop saw or get a professional in, this gives you a 8×4 raised bed at 8″ high.

An 8x4ft 8″ high sleeper bed requires 1 tonne of compost or top soil.  You may have home made compost that can be added but normally an average house would struggle to produce anything like a tonne of compost so bought in top soil or manure would probably be required.

Raised garden bed

What material will your raised beds be made of?

Raised beds can be made from many different types of materials, a lot will depend on your budget and gardening style. Two of the most common types are wooden structures such as railway sleepers or stone.

Our personal favourite is wooden railway sleepers as they not only weather and look natural in your garden, but they are more environmentally friendly. Cared for in the right way they will last you years.

Timber is also the cheapest way of getting a raised bed constructed. If you do opt to use railway sleepers ensure that they are untreated or treaded with non toxic preservative.

Stone raised beds are also great, they will last you a life time and need very little maintenance. One point to mention however, is that once you build your beds out of stone, they are much harder to change, so planning really does pay off.

If you’re unsure which is best for you, call your local gardening experts, we’ll be able to help you decide on the best course of action.

Building your beds

There are a few simple steps that you should take when constructing a raised bed, it’s not a quick job and will take you a while to get right, however the results will be impressive, so stick with it!

We’ll assume that you’re going down the timber route which is the easiest option for the novice gardener. Building raised beds with stone is much more of a skilled job and isn’t something that everyone should attempt.

  • Now you have decided on where your timber raised bed is to be located, it’s time to clear away any existing vegetation. Once done level the ground
  • Use stakes and string to mark out the area for your new bed. Ensure you use a spirit level to make sure everything is straight and not sloped.
  • At the corners of your bed it’s time to add the posts, make sure these are strong enough to support the weight of the soil and boards. Your corner posts should be dug into the ground fairly deep. The larger the bed, the deeper the posts need to be sunk.
  • Once your posts are securely in place use non rusting screws to attach your panels to the posts.

Alternative and stronger method of fixing a sleeper bed together (instead of pegging) is to use 100mm flanged timber screws two screws in each corner of the raised bed. You’ll need a good electric drill with a hex type adapter, which makes a stronger and neater looking raised bed.

Filling your beds

Once your beds are complete its now time to add your soil. Mix in well-rotted compost and organic matter. Dig the soil well and remove any existing roots.

As you build up the layers firm the soil lightly. Fill the remaining part of the raised bed with a good quality top soil.

Before planting your beds, wait a week or so for the soil to settle.

It’s now time to plant your beds and enjoy your garden!

A great tip is in Autumn is to collect fresh fallen leaves and mix into the now empty raised bed or add garden compost cover with a black tarpauline sheet or horticultural membrane weighed down and just leave.  The leaves / compost will rot down and release nutrients in time for spring, the black sheet helps to keep weeds from growing and helps to heat the soil quicker.

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