Raised Garden Plans and More: How to Prepare a Garden Bed

A raised bed garden with flowers and vegetables.

Raised garden plans offer gardeners flexibility, accessibility and a whole host of other benefits. Learn how to prepare a garden bed that's raised so you can create a dedicated space for growing what you love.

Determine If a Raised Bed Is Right for You

Raised gardens offer an ideal solution for gardeners looking for an easy, effective way to control their planting environment. Here are a few benefits of raised garden beds:

Improved Soil

If you have sandy, clay or otherwise undesirable soil, a raised bed allows you to create a growing environment filled with nutrient-rich, well-draining soil.

Protection From Pests

Depending on the wall height, a raised bed can offer protection against low-to-the-ground interlopers such as rabbits, moles and even wayward toddlers.

Improved Accessibility

A raised bed makes it easier to tend to plants while seated and without bending over.

More Room to Grow

Since you can maneuver around the entire garden bed and don't need to worry about walking between rows, raised garden plans allow you to fill your entire plot with plants.

Less Maintenance

Raised beds tend to sprout fewer weeds and don't compete for space with nearby turfgrass. The soil doesn't compact from foot traffic the way it does in traditional beds, so you don't need to till as often or intensely.

Extended Growing Season

Raised bed soil warms up faster than in-ground soil in the spring, so you can often jumpstart planting.

Scout Out the Perfect Spot

While building a raised garden plan is a relatively straightforward process, taking a few steps will allow for a smoother process, so you can enjoy a stress-free growing season.

  1. Select a sunny spot. Most vegetables and flowers need full sun (six or more hours per day).
  2. Find flat ground. Look for the most level ground possible. It'll make construction easier and avoid gaps in the bottom of your bed from which soil can escape.
  3. Consider your water source. Wherever you decide to place your raised bed, make sure you can find a hose long enough to reach if needed.
  4. Make sure you can reach the entire plot. To make the most of your space and fill the whole plot with plants, you'll need to be able to do a full lap around the bed or keep it small enough so you can reach across the entire width.

Make a Raised Garden Plan

You have a variety of options when it comes to putting your plot together. Decide whether you want to purchase a pre-made kit, find a detailed plan online or craft your own blueprint.

If you go the DIY route, you'll need to purchase building materials yourself. Opt for durable woods like cedar or cypress, composite, galvanized steel or stone. Avoid pressure-treated lumber, rubber (such as old tires) or other upcycled materials that could potentially leach chemicals in the soil.

Regardless of your raised garden plan, note that there's no bottom necessary. Your raised bed is essentially a framed container for soil and plants. An open base allows roots to grow deeper while allowing beneficial worms to make their way upward. Several weeks before construction, snuff out existing grass or weeds by placing a tarp or wet newspaper over the area. Or, simply line the bottom of your bed with newspaper or grass clippings before filling it with soil to help tamper grass or weeds.

Select Soil Smartly

Traditional garden soil is too dense and compact for raised beds and can cause plants to become waterlogged. On the other hand, potting mix will drain too quickly and leave plants high and dry. Burpee recommends a mix of 50% good garden soil and 50% compost. You can also seek out an organic raised bed soil mix at your local garden store.

To calculate how much soil you need, simply measure your bed's length, width and height (in feet), and multiply the three figures together to arrive at the number of cubic feet. Divide the total by the number of cubic feet in each bag you intend to purchase to calculate the total number of bags you'll need.

Grow Your Favorite Plants

The majority of plants will thrive in a raised bed, including flowers and vegetables. Squeeze more plants into your space by growing compact varieties.

Avoid large plants like trees and perennial shrubs, which have deep root systems and would take up an average-sized plot's entire footprint.

Once you've come up with a list of what you want to grow, draw out your plot on graph paper, and purchase seeds or seedlings based on their growing seasons. Extend your growing season with succession planning, or the practice of swapping out spring plants such as peas and broccoli for warm-season produce such as tomatoes and squash.

When it comes to planting, the process is similar to in-ground gardening. Follow the directions on your seed packet or plant tag. Transplant seedlings with care, giving them time to adjust to their outdoor environment slowly, a practice referred to as hardening off.

Water Regularly

Your raised bed is likely to dry out faster than the ground because there's simply less soil to store moisture. If you're growing vegetables, aim for 1 to 2 inches of water a week.

Clean Up at the End of the Season

Raised beds offer the possibility of extending the growing season with a frost-protecting cover. But when Mother Nature has officially called it quits for the year, remove any existing plant material to prevent harmful pests and pathogens from overwintering. Top soil with a layer of mulch to stop erosion.

Now you have the exact steps and the know-how to build and grow a successful raised bed garden. By planning your garden in advance and following best practices for raised beds, you can grow your favorite fruits, vegetables, flowers and more in an optimal environment.

Check out Burpee's selection of raised beds and containers to set up the perfect home for your garden.

Written by Kelly Reilly, www.kelly-reilly.com

Kelly's passion is empowering new gardeners to achieve their goals through accessible, easy-to-understand digital content.

October 11, 2021
©2020 W.Atlee Burpee & Co