Are you ready to build a garden box and add a new dimension to your food growing plan. Often, a raised garden bed is just what is needed to change your not so great garden harvest into a bountiful return.
Raised bed gardens are beneficial on many levels. Not only are they compact and convenient, they look nice too. It’s easier on your back since you don’t have to bend over as far. You can even build a garden box up higher to accommodate any physical requirements you may have. Keep in mind that the higher you raise the garden, the more lumber you will need. Some folks build a garden bed at table height on sturdy legs. The bed is a deep tray filled with soil for the plants. Or, you can build a simple 12 inch deep box like we did.
Why Build a Garden Box?
- You can build a garden box that fits your needs and size requirement.
- Garden boxes have less problems with weeds.
- Slugs and grub damage is less in a raised garden bed.
- If you build a garden box, the drainage will be better than an in ground garden.
- Nutrients don’t wash away as readily when you build a garden box.
- The warmer soil in a raised garden means you can plant earlier.
- Raised gardens are easier to physically manage as you age or develop any special physical requirements.
- Depending on height, a raised garden bed might offer the plants some protection from dogs.
- A raised garden bed can be an aesthetically beautiful part of your landscape.
Before You Build a Garden Box
Our plan is simple. We constructed four boxes that were 12 inches deep. Two were 8 foot long by 4 foot wide. The smaller boxes were 4 foot long by 2 foot wide. I will get to the specific instructions in just a bit. First, I want to tell you that our raised bed gardens gave us the best harvest that we have had in years. This point alone leads me to recommend that you build a garden box this year.
We started with clearing the area of sticks and debris. Leaves were left as additional organic matter. After the boxes were put in place we added new dirt. Our original garden dirt was not very rich. To increase the possibility of success, I decided to go with all new growing soil.
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Video in collaboration with Homesteaders of America “Grow Your Own Food” Series.
The Soil for the Raised Bed Garden
The recommendation I went with was 60 % topsoil, 30 % organic matter/compost and 10 % peat moss. We did use our own compost from the farm along with a purchased leaf compost.
Soil in a garden box won’t compact as much as the in ground garden so you will need to tamp it down a little bit and add more until the level is at least 10 inches of dirt. You do want the soil to be loosely compacted for optimal drainage.
Should You Add Rocks or Garden Fabric Before the Dirt?
I have seen the suggestion to line the box with garden fabric to prevent weeds. I did not do this because one of the great reasons for using a raised bed garden is that it reduces the weeds in your garden. The rocks in the bottom of the box are suggested for drainage but again, our soil mixture was loose and well draining. These are good trouble shooting suggestions should you have problems with weeds or drainage when you build a garden box.
Sheets of cardboard placed in the bottom of the box can help slow weeds from entering your raised bed, too.
How to Build a Garden Box for Your Yard
Large Garden Box
- 6 boards 2″ x 6″ – 8′ (cut 2 boards in half for the 4 end pieces.)
- 4 scraps of 2 x 4 x 12″ lumber for the corner braces.
- 2 scraps of 2 x 4 18″ lumber or the side braces outside the frame.
- 3″ wood screws and drill driver.
Small Garden Box
- 6 boards 2″x 6″ – 4 ft (cut two of the boards in half for the end pieces)
- 4 scraps for corner braces as described above.
- 2 scraps for outside braces as described above.
*Note- our lumber is rough cut size. It may appear different than a 2×6 that you purchase from a home improvement store.
Assemble the Garden Box.
For the first layer, stand one 8 ft board on edge. Stand one of the 4 ft boards perpendicular and place a corner brace piece in the corner. Screw the boards into the corner brace. Repeat for the other three corners.
Repeat the above for the second layer, making the box 12 inches deep.
Place the garden box on the selected spot. Before adding the soil, insert the two outside braces into the ground on the long sides. This will help the long sides from bowing out from the pressure of the soil.
Factors To Consider When Using a Raised Bed Garden
- Look at the shade cover from trees. Most vegetables need full to part sun.
- Be careful not to overcrowd the plants. Leave plenty of room for growth. Use a garden rotation instead of overcrowding the garden.
- Raised garden beds work well with vertical gardening systems and trellises.
- Raised garden beds often have a higher soil temperature.
What to Consider When You Build a Garden Box
When you build a garden box for your vegetable growing, remember that the higher soil temperature means that your garden may need more water. Although weeds will appear at a lower rate, they will still find their way. Keep on top of the weed removal so the soil nutrients are available for your plants.
What Can You Plant in a Raised Garden Bed?
After you build a garden box, the fun begins. Choosing seeds and garden starts to plant takes some planning. The first topic to consider is what does your family like to eat. There is no point in taking up valuable garden space with food you won’t enjoy.
Carrots, radishes, lettuce and other greens, herbs, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers are the first choices for me and my garden boxes. We also love squash and watermelon but they require a large space or you can train them to trail outside of the garden box. A trellis, arch or other vertical aid can help you grow more veggies in a limited space. Green beans are easy to grow up a garden trellis.
Grow in the off Season when You Build a Garden Box
When we really started to garden exclusively in raised garden beds, we were able to extend our growing season. After the heat of the summer, our beds are turned over to growing garlic, greens and radishes for the fall and winter. A simple row cover or cold frame can be added to your box when the winter weather gets too cold.
Enjoy your raised gardens. I hope you have as much fun and success with them as I have experienced.