Raised garden beds are a great way of growing a wide range of fruit and vegetables which makes them a popular choice for those who wish to start a survival garden. With raised beds you don’t have to worry about your current soil conditions as they may also be used to introduce a different soil type to your garden.
Some of the best benefits of raised garden beds include:
- Better drainage – soil is raised above ground level.
- Increased soil temperature – due to them having better drainage, they warm up faster
- Easy to manage – they have a bigger soil volume than your usual containers so they are easier to manage with watering
- Ease of access – they are easier to manage for those with mobility problems
Getting Started with Raised Beds: What to Consider
Before building raised garden beds you will need to consider the following:
- You need to think about how big you want your raised garden beds and where they will be located. This should be fairly easy if you already know what you want to plant
- Choose the widths of the beds carefully as you don’t want to have to keep stepping on them. A width of no more than 1.5m will allow access from the sides
- If you have mobility problems and are planning on having multiple raised garden beds, make sure that you leave adequate space between them for barrows, wheelchairs, etc.
- You will also need to think about what you will be building the raised beds out of. Timber is cheap but won’t be as long-lasting as other options, even when treated. Sleepers are long-lasting but costly, bulky and difficult to cut. Brick and stone is costly but permanent. You could also save money by using recycled items.
- In some areas, depending on size and property type, you may need local planning permission. If in any doubt regarding these regulations contact your local planning authority.
We will start off by giving you instructions for building your own raised garden beds and then will share some videos of other styles that may better suit your needs.
Raised Garden Beds Construction
- Clear the area that you have chosen for the beds of any existing vegetation and level the ground as required
- Use stakes and string to mark out the beds
- For all but masonry walls, insert retaining stakes (5 x 5cm or 2 x 2in timber is suitable) at the corners and then at every 1.5m (5ft), sunk 30-45cm (12-18in) into the soil to support the sides
- Attach the sides to the retaining stakes with screws
- For masonry walls, any wall higher than 20cm (8in) should be laid on concrete footings on 15cm (6in) deep hardcore foundations, and should be bonded with mortar. Footings should be approximately 15cm (6in) deep and 30cm (1ft) wide
- If building a masonry bed on a hard surface, make sure that you leave gaps at 45cm intervals between the joints in the first two courses to act as drainage holes. Cover these holes inside the wall with fine wire mesh, and heap gravel against the mesh when filling to help prevent any clogging
- Sleepers and logs can be laid directly on level, firm soil and fixed into place by hammering metal rods into the ground through holes drilled vertically in each corner.
- Sink sawn logs or log rolls partially into the soil, and then ram them hard to keep the logs upright
Filling Your Raised Garden Beds
- Begin by cultivating and enriching the underlying soil with organic matter
- If the raised beds have been constructed on poorly-drained soils, or on a solid base such as concrete, they should have drainage material laid in the base. This should consist of at least 8cm (3in) of coarse gravel, stones or hardcore, which should be covered with a geotextile membrane before filling with soil
- For beds deeper than 50cm (20in), remove the underlying topsoil and replace with subsoil, rubble or old inverted turves. Then replace the topsoil, enriched with organic matter and fertiliser
- Once the beds have been filled, allow them to settle for two weeks before planting