How to make easy raised beds for your vegetable garden

raised garden for vegetables

After almost 20 years of growing my own food and designing gardens, I passionately believe that growing vegetables in raised garden beds is the best route for most gardeners.

In this style of gardening, you work to establish permanent beds and paths in your garden. This is in contrast to the flat or farm style of gardening, in which you till up a large square or rectangle in your yard and start planting.

When you design your garden to include raised garden beds and established paths, you’ll find that the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. Let’s explore the pros and cons a bit more.

Benefits & Drawbacks of Raised Garden Beds

Less work in spring. When you have a permanent garden design, you don’t have to start over from scratch every year. In contrast, when you grow food in the flat style, every spring you have to wait until the soil dries out, get out your tiller, and then lay out your planting beds again.

With a raised garden bed there’s not much prep you need to do to start planting in spring. If you cleared out and mulched your garden in fall, all you have to do is wait for the soil to warm up, and then walk out and start planting.

There’s no wrestling with machinery, digging or flipping over soil, or really any backbreaking work at all!

Better for your soil health. Having a permanent garden design means it’s very clear where your beds and paths are located. That encourages you to stay on the paths when walking and working, and you’ll be less likely to step into the garden beds.

Walking and stepping on the soil you’re growing food in will compact it over the long term. Keeping yourself in permanent aisles will help maintain loose soil, which will make it easier to plant seeds and plants, remove weeds, and provide space and air for your plants’ roots to grow.

You can also concentrate fertility on those garden beds by consistently adding mulch, compost, cover crop, organic fertilizer, and manure to increase the nutrients available to your plants.

In almost 20 years of gardening, I’ve never tilled my soil and you shouldn’t either. Read more about why I discourage it here.

how to build a simple raised bed

Less maintenance over the long term. One of the great things about having permanent beds and paths is you can easily keep the beds and paths mulched all year round, which will go a long way towards reducing the amount of weeds that grow.

And that means many less hours you need to spend weeding in your garden. We’ll talk more about mulch later in the post, and you can read my passionate plea to keep your soil covered in this post.

Creates a more attractive garden. Permanent raised garden beds create organization and structure in your garden. These are not bad things to have in a vegetable garden because they lend to the overall attractiveness of your garden.

I like to think of the raised garden beds as the canvas. Once they’re constructed, you can take that blank canvas and use the vegetable plants and flowers to “paint” on it to create beautiful and interesting combinations of colors, textures, and heights.

Two common complaints about vegetable gardens are that they’re ugly and it takes a lot of work to grow your own food.

I can guarantee that taking the time to build several easy raised garden beds this season will drastically reduce your labor each year, and create a healthier and more beautiful garden.

In this blog post I’m going to walk you through the process I used to build my current garden from scratch the year  we purchased the house and moved in.

I’ll show you three different options for creating easy raised garden beds, discuss the pros and cons of each style, and share the supplies you’ll need.

Let’s get started!

how to build raised beds for your vegetable garden

Things to Think About Before You Begin

Before you start building your raised beds, there are some site assessments that should be taken to make sure you’re planning to put your garden in the right place.

Sun
You should be putting your garden in the sunniest possible place on your property. Although you can grow vegetables in partial sun, all vegetables do best in full sun.

Ideally, your garden will get at least 8 hours of sun in the height of summer. And more is better unless you live in an extremely hot or southern climate where vegetables can struggle in the full summer sun. Only then you would benefit from some shade.

Soil
Sun exposure and soil health are the two most important factors in the success of your garden. There is a complex web of life that lives under the soil surface, along with the nutrients your plants need to grow and flourish.

A soil test is an easy way to get a fuller picture of what exactly lies beneath your grass. For most soil tests you’ll collect samples from various locations in your yard and send them away to a local lab to be analyzed.

Within a few weeks, they’ll mail or email you the results.

Most soil tests measure the levels of nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, organic matter and soil pH. They’ll also give you recommendations on what to add to your soil based on the results of your test.

The best place to get a soil test done is through your local Cooperative Extension office. They’ll have a printable form to fill out with an explanation of how to collect your soil sample.

If you live in Wisconsin you can find information about soil testing at this website.

If you live in an older house where lead paint was used on the exterior or have concerns that you may have heavy metals in your soil (you live near a manufacturing plant, or on an old site of a gas station, auto repair shop, landfill or dry cleaners) it is imperative that you get your soil tested.

You should be able to add on a test for lead and heavy metals to the regular nutrient soil test.  

raised beds for vegetables

Size
Keep in mind that gardening requires an investment of time and work. It’s joyful and fun work, but it’s still a commitment all the same. Think about how much time you really want to spend in your garden each week.

The smaller the garden, the less time you’ll have to spend in it.

Start small! That’s my advice to most new gardeners. It is better to have a small garden that’s manageable than one that gets out of control during the season.

If you have fun and feel successful you are much more likely to continue gardening year after year. Once you build your skills and get a handle on your smaller garden you can always add on to create a larger garden in the years to come.

If you’re new to gardening, I’d suggest starting with two or three raised garden beds.  This should be enough space to give you a real taste of gardening and what things you enjoy growing, but not too big that you’ll become overwhelmed.

Keep in mind while you’re reading this post that I’ve been gardening for almost 20 years. And it’s been my job for many of those years.

As you’ll see, the garden I built at my house is about 1600 square feet with 19 different raised beds.

This is a size I’d only recommend if you have many years of gardening under your belt.

Even if you think you might want a garden this big in the future, I still suggest starting small and expanding your garden over the years as you start to master all of the details and techniques involved growing your own food.

building raised beds for your garden harvests

Location
When you’re deciding where on your property to locate your new garden, putting it as close to your house as possible is the best option. Sticking your garden in the back corner of your yard is not advisable.

If you’re not walking by your garden every day you’ll have the tendency to forget about it. That’s not good!

Plus, if you focus on creating a beautiful garden, having it close to your house is going to bring an added layer of joy to your life because you’ll be able to see if from your deck, patio, or windows in your house.

You’ll be interacting with it a lot more, which makes the work all the more worth it.

Another location consideration, besides choosing the sunniest spot closest to your house, installing your garden on the most level spot in your yard. This will make installation much more simple and straightforward.

how to build a raised bed garden for vegetables

3 Options for Building Easy Raised Garden Beds

I’m a minimalist when it comes to gardening, so I don’t like anything that’s too complicated or feels like a lot of unnecessary work. That’s why I’m sharing three simple designs for easy raised garden beds for your home vegetable garden.

As you’ll see in this post, I built all three styles in my own garden the year I purchased my house.

Easy Raised Garden Bed Option #1: Wood Raised Beds

Wood raised beds are most commonly built out of dimensional lumber you find at your local home improvement store. They’re not necessarily the easiest beds to build, but they are straightforward.

The pros of wood raised beds are:

Height: You can build the bed as high as you’d like, so if you have physical limitations they might be easier on your body.

Longevity: As long as you buy rot-resistant wood they should last a long time and won’t require much maintenance.

Shape: I think the limited shape options can be a benefit. A garden filled with rectangular beds all the same size can be a beautifully organized garden.

The cons of wood raised beds are:

Cost: The upfront cost involved in purchasing supplies can be a hardship if you don’t have a big budget.

Shape: If you’re not skilled at carpentry, you’ll probably need to stick to creating rectangular or square beds in your garden. Fancy shapes will be too advanced!

If you prefer more organic shapes in your garden, the linear nature of these beds probably aren’t for you. But, stay tuned for more options!

how to build garden beds

Design & Supplies Needed

Size options: The most common sizes of wood raised beds are 4 feet wide and then various lengths between 4 feet long and 10 feet long. You don’t have to stick all to one size if you don’t want to. The raised beds in my garden vary in size.

Sometimes I wish all of my beds were the same size for ease of rotation and calculating how much I can plant in each bed, but I also like the variety and options different sized beds provide me.

Height: Remember that the taller your beds the more soil you’ll need to purchase to fill them. I suggest building them between 6 inches and 1 foot tall unless you have physical limitations that would benefit from taller beds.

I gathered several suggestions from reputable companies in my Amazon storefront here. You can read more about organic fertilizer and what you should look for when selecting one to purchase in this article.

Wood: If you have the budget, you’ll want to purchase the most rot-resistant wood possible so your garden beds last a long time. In my garden, some of my beds are made from black locust (difficult to find) and the rest are constructed of cedar, which is much more common.

Soil: Once you settle on bed size and length, you can use this soil calculator to figure out how much soil you’ll need to order to create your beds. Make sure you’re ordering a mix that’s appropriate for growing food. I like mixes that are 1/2 compost and 1/2 topsoil.

Organic fertilizer: I recommend adding a balanced organic fertilizer to all of your new garden beds before planting. I’ve had mixed experiences with soil I’ve ordered for my garden. Often it’s lacking the nutrients vegetable plants need to grow.

I gathered several suggestions from reputable companies in my Amazon storefront here. You can read more about organic fertilizer and what you should look for when selecting one to purchase in this article.

easy raised garden bed

Mulch for garden paths: I use a thick layer of woodchips for all of my garden paths because they last a long time. I usually add a new layer once a year in spring. You can really use whatever material you want for your paths, stones, gravel, pavers, bricks, and more.

Again, being married to an arborist has its advantages, including an unlimited supply of woodchips. If you have a tree pruning or removal scheduled for your property, ask the tree care company to leave behind the woodchips.

There’s also a website called Chip Drop where you can sign up to receive free woodchips from local tree care companies.

Woodchips can be expensive to buy when you need large quantities and this will be an expense you’ll need to expect every spring.

Mulch for garden beds: You don’t want to use woodchips on your garden beds as mulch. They’re very carbonaceous, so often when they get mixed into the soil they steal nitrogen from the surrounding plants to aid them in breaking down. Vegetable plants need a lot of nitrogen, so this could affect their health.

Instead, opt for straw, hay, leaves, grass clippings or other organic matter. You can read more about mulching your garden in this post.

Construction: There are so many complicated plans online for creating wooden raised beds. It doesn’t have to be that difficult!

Depending on how high I want my beds, I use one or two 2″ x 6″ boards on the sides and ends, and then a small 2″ x 2″ piece in each corner.

If it’s a long bed, like 10 ft., I might tack another 2″ x 2″ piece (or 2″ x 4″) in the middle of the long sides to pin the boards together.

You can see the design I use in the photo below.

how to build a raised garden bed for vegetables

I also built the bed below for a client one season. It’s only one 2″ x 6″ board high. She didn’t need the extra height.

raised garden bed

Now for some pictures of me and my husband installing the first raised beds of our current garden.

Design Vegetable Garden
The overgrown shrub filled front yard before clearing it out. You can’t even see the house.
There were overgrown shrubs taking over the sunniest part of the lot. You couldn’t even see the house from the street. We cut most of them down and turned them into woodchips with my husband’s chipper.

He’s been an arborist for over 15 years and this is the first time I got to learn how to use the chipper and be the ground gal.

Install Vegetable Garden
Me feeding the chipper.
 

Front Yard Vegetable Garden
Same shot at the first one above. You can see the house now that all the shrubs are gone!
I had a bunch of random raised beds leftover from selling them one year through my business. Once we sorted out the sizes and put them together we laid them out into a design.

My goal was to design the garden on paper first, but we didn’t have time. So this first phase was a design on the fly!

If you’re more of a planner, you can plot out your design on graph paper or right in the garden with stakes and twine using this method.

Here’s an example of how I used stakes and twine to lay out a garden design for a client.

Vegetable Garden Design
Laying out the design.
The next step was to level and fill the beds. I don’t recommend installing your beds right on the grass.

It will be an absolute pain to mow and the grass sometimes moves into the space between the bed and the soil in the bed. Then you’ll never get rid of it.

Our installation area was mostly bare soil left after the shrubs were removed, so we were able to install right onto a clean slate. Where there was a bit of grass we dug it out only at the spot where the beds touch the ground.

The areas in and around the beds got a layer of cardboard to smother the grass. It breaks down throughout the season.

raised bed vegetable garden

We leveled, filled and then mulched each bed with marsh hay. Then we covered the areas around the beds with cardboard and eventually woodchips.

how to build a raised bed

We also installed a bermed perennial garden between the street and the vegetable garden for a visual buffer and a way to add some additional texture and color to our front yard.

We simply layered cardboard over the grass, made a berm with the soil we ordered, and planted perennials we brought over from our old house.

raised garden beds for vegetables

I planted the vegetables right after the installation of the beds since it was already early June. We continued to lay down cardboard and woodchips over all the grass areas we wanted to kill.

The grass will be smothered under all that mass. Much easier than sod stripping!

Later that summer I ended up adding three more raised beds to expand the garden on the right of the above photo for a total of seven wood raised beds. Two beds are 4 ft. x 6 ft., four beds are 4 ft. x 8 ft. and one bed is 4 ft. x 10 ft.

Six years later all of the beds are still looking great and I haven’t had to repair or replace any of them.

Removing the Grass for Installation

It’s likely you won’t be installing your garden on a flat site with bare soil like I did. Most of the time there’s grass where you’ll want to create a garden.

If you don’t have a flat site, the presence of grass can make it difficult to level your beds. But, it’s not necessary to remove all of the grass, just some small portions to give you more wiggle room in leveling.

If you have the ability to plan ahead, you can cover the entire footprint of your future garden with something that doesn’t let light through to kill the grass – tarp, black plastic, old billboard, etc.

If you’re installing over grass, one trick I’ve learned is to simply remove the grass where the bed is going to lay on the ground. I do this using a manual sod stripper I rent from a local hardware store.

In my post about raspberries, I talk more about how to use it and link to a video about it.

build a raised bed garden

In the below photo you can see that I’ve only removed the grass in the footprint of the bed so I can dig in the soil to help me level it.

This may not be necessary if you’re not picky about how level your beds are. After I installed my current raised beds a neighbor who works as an engineer stopped by and complimented me on my precision!

After I removed the sod I threw it in the center of the bed and later covered it with about a foot of soil.

how to build a simple raised bed

Okay, I think that’s all you need to know for easy raised bed option numero uno. Leave a comment below this post if you have additional questions.

Easy Raised Garden Bed Option #2: Mounded Beds

Mounded beds are garden beds that are formed using your existing or imported soil so the bed rises above the surrounding paths, but there’s no wood frame. It’s like a wooden raised bed without the wood!

The pros of mounded raised beds are:

Quick: These beds don’t require lumber, tools, or building skills. You can easily construct several in an afternoon work session.

Inexpensive: There is an option of not buying any additional soil, although you’ll have to plan ahead. If you end up building them over the existing grass, you’ll only have to purchase soil and organic fertilizer.

Longevity: Because you’re not using any wood in their construction, these beds will last indefinitely. There’s nothing to rot or replace over the years.

Shape: You can create mounded beds in lots of different shapes and sizes and even add curves to make them more interesting. These would be a good choice if you’re turned off by the linear nature of wooden raised beds.

The drawback of mounded beds are:

Form: Because they don’t have wood reinforcements keeping the soil in place, mounded beds tend to slump and spread out a bit over time, losing their initial form. They may need to be reshaped periodically to get them back into their original footprint.

Design & Supplies Needed

Size options: Similar to the wooden raised bed, you want your mounded beds to be 4 ft. wide or less. Anything wider starts to make it difficult to reach into the middle of the bed. You’re less restricted by length with these beds, so you can make them as long as you want.

Height: The taller your beds the more soil you’ll need to purchase to fill them. I suggest building them between 4-8 inches tall.

Soil: Once you settle on bed size and length, you can use this soil calculator to figure out how much soil you’ll need to order to create your beds. Make sure you’re ordering a soil mix that’s appropriate for growing food. I like garden mixes that are 1/2 compost and 1/2 topsoil.

Organic fertilizer: I recommend adding a balanced organic fertilizer to all of your new garden beds before planting. I’ve had mixed experiences with soil I’ve ordered for my garden. Often it’s lacking the nutrients vegetable plants need to grow.

I gathered several suggestions from reputable companies in my Amazon storefront here. You can read more about organic fertilizer and what you should look for when selecting one to purchase in this article.

how to build raised bed

Mulch for garden paths: I use a thick layer of woodchips for all of my garden paths because they last a long time. I usually add a new layer once a year in spring. You can really use whatever material you want for your paths, stones, gravel, pavers, bricks, and more.

Again, being married to an arborist has its advantages, including an unlimited supply of woodchips. If you have a tree pruning or removal scheduled for your property, ask the tree care company to leave behind the woodchips.

There’s also a website called Chip Drop where you can sign up to receive free woodchips from local tree care companies.

Woodchips can be expensive to buy when you need large quantities and this will be an expense you’ll need to expect every spring.

Mulch for garden beds: You don’t want to use woodchips on your garden beds as mulch. They’re very carbonaceous, so often when they get mixed into the soil they steal nitrogen from the surrounding plants to aid them in breaking down. Vegetable plants need a lot of nitrogen, so this could affect their health.

Instead, opt for straw, hay, leaves, grass clippings or other organic matter. You can read more about mulching your garden in this post.

Cardboard: If you’re going with installation option one below, you’ll need to source a big pile of cardboard. This is your excuse to go dumpster diving if you’ve never done so!

Where I live most businesses have a cardboard recycling dumpster behind their stores that are clean and dry and only contain cardboard.

If you need large pieces go to a bike or appliance store, smaller pieces can be found at restaurants, craft stores, and liquor stores. I like to pick a strip mall nearby and cruise in my car behind the stores and peek in the dumpsters until I find cardboard.

Construction Options: 

Option 1: Cardboard over grass with imported soil.

If you didn’t plan ahead you can simply install mounded beds over your grass. I like to completely cover the grass with cardboard to make extra sure it’s going to die a quick death and not grow into my new garden bed. 

I don’t recommend having grass in your garden aisles, so you should cover the entire area – beds and paths.

If you opt for this method, you’ll need to order soil to construct the beds. This is the method I used in my garden.

how to build raised vegetable beds

Option 2: Kill the grass ahead of time and use your own soil

If you’re planning ahead, you could try to get away with building the beds out of your own soil. But, in order to get to the soil, you’ll need to kill the grass first.

If you’d like to try this option, you’ll need to smother and kill the grass over the course of several months before you can get started. You can use tarps, cardboard, black plastic or anything that doesn’t let any light through.

Ideally, you’d cover your future garden area in late summer or fall and let the grass die over the winter and early spring.

I don’t have any photos of gardens with smothered soil, but the installation method after the grass is dead is the same as the next option.

Option 3: Remove the grass and use your own soil

When I was installing gardens for other people, I used this method during the first few years. I would rent a manual sod stripper from a local hardware store and remove all of the grass in the garden area. Then I would use a shovel to loosen the soil and form the beds.

I’ve moved away from this method because stripping the sod can be a lot of work and you need somewhere to put it once you remove it. If you have a big compost bin you can cart it there and then add it back to your garden again once it’s broken down.

But, sod is heavy and takes a lot of work to move, so I don’t necessarily recommend this method. You also end up removing a lot of your topsoil.

It would be a good choice if you have a limited budget and don’t want to order soil, and you weren’t able to kill the grass ahead of time.

First, I’ll show you how I used installation option #1 to create my garden, then I’ll share photos from previous clients’ gardens demonstrating installation options #2 and #3.

Mounded Raised Bed Installation Option #1

how to make an raised vegetable garden

After installing the seven wooden raised beds in my front garden, which you saw above, that fall I expanded the garden back towards my house by creating six mounded raised beds and an herb spiral.

The first thing I did was use a long measuring tape to figure out my design. You can do this right in the garden or on a piece of paper or graph paper depending on how your mind works.

I wanted to break up the linear design of this garden by creating a focal point and I chose to build an herb spiral out of reclaimed bricks. You can learn how to build your own in this blog post.

make an easy raised bed

This is the finished herb spiral. The next step was using my favorite trick of stakes and twine to lay out the design in real-time to see what it looked like and make any final tweaks.

I’m a visual person, so I like to see how it’s all going to look before I start.

Next, I laid cardboard over the grass in the footprint of the garden bed. Then I used a wheelbarrow to transport soil to form my mounded beds.

I made them about 6-8 inches high. They’ll settle over time, so you should make them higher than you want if possible.

You can see I added a slight curve to the bed design to add a little more interest and contrast with the wood raised beds.

how to build an easy raised bed

building a raised bed for vegetables

After I filled and shaped the beds, I covered the aisles in cardboard and woodchips, took a few photos, and then mulched the beds with hay.

I was constructing this garden at the end of October and wasn’t planning on using the beds until the next spring. I didn’t want the soil to erode, get compacted by wind and rain, or be inoculated with weed seeds, so I mulched them thickly for the winter.

how to build raised beds for your garden

diy easy raised beds for vegetables

easy raised beds for vegetable garden

These six mounded beds are all slightly curved, 3.5 ft. wide, and of varying lengths between 6.5 – 13.5 ft. long.

Below is an illustration of my final garden design for my front yard vegetable garden. The next spring I extended the fence around the entire garden.

I installed this garden in October 2014 and it’s still the same layout six years later as I’m writing this article.

raised garden bed design

Mounded Raised Bed Installation Options #2 & #3

If you don’t want to order soil, you can follow this installation method. I used it for many years when I designed and installed vegetable gardens for clients. Although this was the last time I used it because removing the sod is way too much work.

After this job, I switched to the cardboard over grass method above.

To remove the grass you’ll either need to smother and kill it, like we discussed above in installation option #2, or remove it with a sod stripper.

During this job we used a gas sod stripper since it was such a huge installation. We had to load the sod into a trailer and haul it to the city compost site since the client didn’t have a large enough space to compost it.

Our first step was to remove the grass. You wouldn’t have to do this if you completely killed it.

how to build a simple raised bed garden

Then, I laid out the design with stakes and twine. We created the beds by digging the existing soil to loosen and fluff the soil in the bed. Sometimes you can also dig out some of the soil in the aisles and flip it into the beds to create more loft.

Although I don’t recommend tilling long term, you could also till within the bed just this once to loosen the soil.

how to build a raised bed garden 

I did order a load of compost to add to the top of the beds. If you’re going to plant immediately you should also add a balanced organic fertilizer, which we’ll talk about later in the post.

As with every installation in this article, we mulched all the beds and paths once we formed all of the garden beds.

building raised garden beds

This was a huge installation job and it was a ton of work. But, when the season progressed it really blossomed into a magnificent front yard vegetable garden!

building a raised bed garden

front yard raised bed garden

You can read more about this project and lots of photos in this article.

Easy Raised Garden Bed Option #3: Timber & Stone Beds

I have to admit, even after adding six additional beds to my front yard garden, I still had another spot on my property that had full sun and was just begging for a garden.

So, the following month I recruited my husband to help me install the third phase of my vegetable garden in my side yard – five more raised garden beds.

For this expansion, I chose another style of easy raised garden bed to construct. This was the style of beds we used at our previous house and in our long-time community garden plot. We call it our signature style! And it’s all about logs and rocks.

It’s like a more organic style of the wooden raised beds in option one.

The benefits of this style of raised beds are:

Quick: These beds don’t require tools or building skills. They’re more assembled than constructed. You can easily make several in an afternoon work session.

Inexpensive: My husband is an arborist, so he was able to source the logs for free. In fact, he had been saving cedar logs from various jobs throughout the season for just this purpose.

If you don’t have access to logs, you can purchase inexpensive landscape timbers from your local home improvement store. Although try to find something that’s untreated.

Shape: The shape of these beds are between the linear style of the wooden raised bed and the organic style of mounded beds. You can arrange the logs and stones into curving shapes and if you use rocks for the ends you’ll have a more organic feel.

The drawback of these garden beds are:

Cost: If you don’t have access to free wood and stones, you might have to source some locally and get them delivered. You’ll also need soil to fill the beds.

how to build raised bed

Design & Supplies Needed

Size options: Similar to the other two styles of raised beds, your log beds should be 4 ft. wide or less. Anything wider starts to make it difficult to reach into the middle of the bed. And as with mounded beds, you’re less restricted by length, you can make them as long as you want.

Height: The taller your beds the more soil you’ll need to purchase to fill them. I suggest building them between 4-8 inches tall.

Wood: We primarily used cedar logs for our beds. They were of various diameters, which we didn’t really mind. We tried to arrange similar wood in the same beds. They all ended up slightly different, which I like!

If you aren’t married to an arborist like me, you could try to source free logs from a tree being removed on your property or a friend or neighbor’s house. You could also contact some tree care companies to see if they have extra logs laying around their shop they’d want to sell.

If not, you can purchase non-treated timbers from your local home improvement store.

Stone: We scavenged a lot of stone over the years for our community garden plot. We took some stone from there to construct these beds and also got some from friends and neighbors.

I’d suggest looking on Craigslist in your area. People often give away and sell leftover stones from various projects.

If you can’t find any through those sources, you can order stone to be delivered from a local landscape supply store in your area.

how to build a raised bed garden

Soil: Once you settle on bed size and length, you can use this soil calculator to figure out how much soil you’ll need to order to create your beds. Make sure you’re ordering a mix that’s appropriate for growing food. I like mixes that are 1/2 compost and 1/2 topsoil.

Organic fertilizer: I recommend adding a balanced organic fertilizer to all of your new garden beds before planting. I’ve had mixed experiences with soil I’ve ordered for my garden. Often it’s lacking the nutrients vegetable plants need to grow.

I gathered several suggestions from reputable companies in my Amazon storefront here. You can read more about organic fertilizer and what you should look for when selecting one to purchase in this article.

Mulch for garden paths: I use a thick layer of woodchips for all of my garden paths because they last a long time. I usually add a new layer once a year in spring. You can really use whatever material you want for your paths, stones, gravel, pavers, bricks, and more.

Again, being married to an arborist has its advantages, including an unlimited supply of woodchips. If you have a tree pruning or removal scheduled for your property, ask the tree care company to leave behind the woodchips.

There’s also a website called Chip Drop where you can sign up to receive free woodchips from local tree care companies.

Woochips can be expensive to buy when you need large quantities and this will be an expense you’ll need to expect every spring.

Mulch for garden beds: You don’t want to use woodchips on your garden beds as mulch. They’re very carbonaceous, so often when they get mixed into the soil they steal nitrogen from the surrounding plants to aid them in breaking down. Vegetable plants need a lot of nitrogen, so this could affect their health.

Instead, opt for straw, hay, leaves, grass clippings or other organic matter. You can read more about mulching your garden in this post.

Cardboard: If you’re installing over grass, you’ll need to source a big pile of cardboard. This is your excuse to go dumpster diving if you’ve never done so! Where I live most businesses have a cardboard recycling dumpster behind their stores that are clean and dry and just contain cardboard.

If you need large pieces go to a bike or appliance store, smaller pieces can be found at restaurants, craft stores, and liquor stores. I like to pick a strip mall nearby and cruise my car behind the stores and peek in the dumpsters until I find cardboard.

Now that you have all of your supplies, let’s walk through the installation process.

raised garden beds for vegetables

Similar to option two, I used a measuring tape and stakes to figure out how we wanted to lay out the beds. Our property slopes down towards the garage in this part of the yard, so we decided to build the beds perpendicular to the house going down the slope.

As you can see above, we were also able to place the logs approximately where we wanted them to help us visualize how it would look.

We built each bed with logs running down the two sides, then we picked through our pile of landscape rocks to create the ends of the garden beds.

Sometimes we used a curved piece of log and a few stones to form the edge of the bed, as you can see in the photo above, and sometimes we used all rocks as in the photo below.

simple garden beds for vegetables

constructing easy raised beds

After we got all of the beds built, we laid down cardboard in each bed and filled it with soil. Then we covered the rest of the garden with cardboard and woodchips to kill the grass in the aisles.

simple raised garden bed

We were so tired at the end of this project that I forgot to take the final photos! But, similar to the other two raised bed options our final step was to mulch the beds with hay for the winter.

raised bed for vegetable garden

In this final garden expansion, I added five additional raised garden beds to my yard, for a total of 18 and an herb spiral. That’s a big garden! The sizes of the beds in this phase were between 3.5 – 4 ft. wide and between 11 – 14 ft. long.

Additional Notes & Resources for Easy Raised Garden Beds

If you don’t want to build your own raised beds, there are lots of ready-made options to choose from online. While I haven’t tried any of them yet, I gathered some designs in my Amazon storefront here.

Make sure you read the reviews and the descriptions carefully. Oftentimes the wood isn’t as thick and the beds aren’t a big as you’d get with a DIY garden bed.

Pinterest is a great source of ideas for garden design and layout and raised bed construction. I have a board devoted to Easy Raised Bed Design and one for Vegetable Garden Design.

When you’re trying to get your creative juices flowing, purchasing or borrowing a few garden books can really kickstart your enthusiasm. Here are some of my favorites for design inspiration.

    

Before & After Garden Photos

Before and after photos are so much fun to see! And they inspire excitement about the possibilities in your own yard.

So, let’s end this post with some photos from my home vegetable garden installation!

building a raised garden bed for vegetables

how to build raised garden bed

raised garden beds for veggies

raised gardens for vegetables

raised vegetable garden

how to build a raised garden for vegetables

building raised beds for your garden

raised bed garden

raised bed vegetable garden

raised garden for vegetables

building raised beds for vegetables

raised beds in vegetable garden

I hope I’ve given you all the resources you need to design and build your own attractive and easy raised garden bed this season! If there’s anything you’re still wondering about, leave a question in the comments!

And if you want to see my garden in a more three dimensional way, come on over to my Youtube channel where I have several video tours of my gardens throughout the season.

Read more about designing and planning your garden:

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Comments

  • Avatar

    Wow! We’re neighbors! I’ve been admiring the home renovations and garden on my walks and when I saw your sign I visited the website. And now I see you actually live in that home. The house looks great, the yard is so beautiful and I hope to meet you soon! Signed your neighbor at the other end of Lake Edge (201, with the huge metal flower tree).

    • Avatar
      Megan Cain - The Creative Vegetable Gardener

      Hi Bonnie- I love your garden, too! I admire it when I walk by. Hopefully we’ll meet soon. We are excited to be in the neighborhood!

  • […] left off in last week’s post at 5 yards of soil being dumped in our yard. The next step was to level and fill the beds. I […]

  • Avatar

    7 Tips for a High-Yield Vegetable Garden

    Reference: https://leafdbox.com/

    1. Plant in raised beds with rich soil

    2. Round out the soil in your beds.

    3. Plant crops in triangles instead of rows.

    4. Grow climbing plants to capitalize on space.

    5. Pick compatible pairings.

    6. Time your crops carefully.

    7. Stretch your season by covering the beds.

    Let me know if you have any other ideas?

    I’m hoping to start my garden in the next few days.

  • Avatar

    I just signed up to get wood chips. I have left over metal roofing (dark forest green) that I am going to use for the sides of my raised beds. I have pallots that we are going to break apart and use for constructing frames. We can get fresh straw from local farmers. Also, we can get horse manure, cow manure, and poultry feathers to augment. I have tried hard to just till this large area for my vegetables and it was a disaster. The run off that channels a lot of spring thaw has just rushed through and taken my good soil with it. The raised beds will act as a water barrier while at the same time making new dirt for use later. I am thinking I should get a truck load of pulverized dirt to replace what the runoff removed. I love the idea of cardboard with chips on top. I do chips on my walkways now and have used newspaper at times, but we always have cardboard. I have even used rubber sheets like those used for making ponds, but it is extremely slippery. The good news is the dirt that landed on top was easy to recapture. I am a Master Gardener with more focus on flowers, shrubs and permanent beds during my training. I thought I would be okay with my previous experience with vegetable gardening. But we are in a new area and the land has its own agenda. Really enjoyed you at Joys of Gardening in February in Freeport. Virtual Hugs, Dr. Wah

    • Avatar

      Thanks for stopping by, Dr. Wah! It sounds like you have a good plan for your garden this year. I think this is the time to be as creative and resourceful as we can. You’re doing that for sure. Keep me posted!

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