Raised Bed Garden
Raised bed gardens are among the easiest styles for starting a garden. At its most basic, a raised bed garden in a box full of good garden soil, and in our climate, outfitted with a hail cover. Google raised bed gardens for hundreds of different gardening ideas. For our demonstration garden, we created a simple box.
There are few requirements for this type of design. Find a sunny spot to place the bed. Level areas are easier to work with, so if working on a slope you may need to level the ground some before you install the bed. The bed needs to be narrow enough to reach into or across. This bed is accessible on both sides, so we made it 4 feet wide. Much wider than that, and the middle of the bed may be difficult to reach. If the bed is only accessible from one side, such as up against a fence, make it no more than 2 or 3 feet wide.
For this raised bed we bought 3 pieces of 2 in x 10 in by 8 ft pine. One of the 8 ft pieces was cut in half to create a box 8 feet long and 4 feet wide. We also used some scrap 2 in x 2 in balusters that were leftover from a deck repair project. We cut 4 pieces of baluster to be the same height as the raised bed and used them to reinforce the corners of the bed.
Soil is heavy, so we reinforced the corners of the box we built. The arrows on the image show the locations of the screws used to construct the box.
Blue Arrow: We used two 3 1/2 inch deck screws to attach the 4 ft piece of lumber to the 8 ft lumber at each corner. Total: 8 – 3 1/2 inch deck screws.
Red Arrows: We used a total of four 2 1/4 inch screws to secure each corner reinforcement. Total: 16 – 2 1/4 screws.
Gophers and voles can destroy a garden by tunneling underneath it and eating bulbs and roots from below. Hardware cloth is a very effective way to keep them out of your raised beds. Simply staple hardware cloth to the bottom of the raised bed and then turn the bed over as shown in next picture.
(This picture shows one of the raised beds from the cattle panel hoop house.)
When building a new raised bed it is a good idea to install some sort of weed barrier under the bed. You don’t want grass and weeds growing up through the bed. For our garden, we laid about 10 layers of paper on the ground and then placed the bed on the paper. The paper creates a weed barrier and eventually decomposes. Cardboard also works, as do commercial weed barrier products.
The cover for this garden was build with 4 pieces of 10 foot long 1/2 inch pvc pipe. Each piece of pvc was attached to the lumber with pipe straps, two on each side of the bed. Use deck screws to attach a pipe strap at the top and the bottom of the raised bed boards. Two pipe straps on each end make the arch more stable. With only one pipe strap the arches are very loose.
We installed 4 pvc hoops, one at each end of the bed and then two spaced evenly in the middle.
After installing the arches, we filled the bed with Flower and Garden mix from Don’s Garden Shop. A big thank you to Don’s for donating the mix for our raised beds! We then covered our planting mix with a layer of pine mulch from the Black Forest Slash Mulch site. As of summer 2021, mulch is free if you shovel it yourself. On Saturdays, there is a loader that costs $5 per load. One scoop from the loader is approximately enough to fill the bed of a pickup truck.
The hail cloth (anti-hail netting) was draped over the arches and loosely attached with zip ties. Do NOT pull the zip ties tight. They need to be a bit loose so that you can slide your hail cover up the pvc pipe and out of the way as seen in the previous picture.
This pictures shows a thick layer of mulch around the bed. That will help suppress weeds.
Winterizing this bed.
When your harvest is done in the fall, simply cut the zip ties, take the hail cloth off of the bed, and store it for the winter. You can also slide the cloth over to one side of the bed and leave it on the ground. Do NOT leave the hail cover up because this structure will not support 18 inches of heavy wet spring snow.
Raised Bed Supply List
- 3 2×10 by 8 foot pieces of lumber
- 4 1/2 inch diameter by 10 foot PVC pipe
- 16 pipe hanger straps for 1/2 inch pipe
- 1 2×2 by at least 40 inch lumber for corner braces
- assorted screws
- hail cloth
- zip ties
- hardware cloth (optional) for gopher prevention, plus stapler to fasten to bed
- paper, cardboard, or weed cloth for weed suppression
- dirt and/or mulch to fill the bed