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Make Your Own Raised Bed

raised bed illustration

Raised beds make vegetable growing so much easier. No more digging, neat paths and easy crop rotation. I wish I had done it sooner!

After years of stubbornly rotovating my vegetable patch, which admittedly did look stunning afterwards, I finally relented and installed 18 raised beds in 2004. I have never looked back. They make growing vegetables so much easier.

Raised beds are typically triangular or rectangular. Here are the key steps for making rectangualr raised beds:

  • Measure the space you have available and draw up a plan. The optimum size for a raised bed is 1.2m wide (so you can reach into the centre without walking on it) and 3m long (so that it doesn’t take so long to walk round that you are tempted to jump across). 1.2m is a convenient width too as timber is often sold in 3.6m lengths, so it neatly cuts into 3 widths. The paths between the beds need only be 30cm if it is just for you, and at least 60cm if it is for you and a wheelbarrow. If you have space, the best arrangement is to alternate between the two, so that each bed has at least one side which is accessible by a wheelbarrow. If possible make every bed the same size, so that if you build a cage to protect your crops from pests, it will fit any bed.
  • Order the timber.Railway sleepers are very popular, but they are very thick. This makes them less drying (which is helpful in light soils), but they take up a lot more space. I plumped for 8x2” treated timber, with a 2” square post inside each corner to screw into. Each post is about 20” long, so sinks into the ground around 12”.
  • Mark out the paths. This is best done with tent pegs and string to ensure everything lines up. Dig out the top soil from each path and place it onto the raised beds. After you have done a few it will resemble a graveyard, with the raised beds looking like tombs. I found it easiest to assemble each raised bed frame on a flat surface and then to lower it into position. Once you’re happy that it is lined up and level (this is more important than you think as it is extremely difficult to move a full raised bed, even by an inch), bang a square post into the ground at each corner and screw the frame to the posts.
  • Finish the job. Level out the paths and beds. Add a thick layer of manure or compost to the beds, this is important for water retention as well as fertility, and line the paths with a porous membrane. Add a deep layer of bark chips to the paths, then stand back and admire your work. Use the paper plan to keep a note of which crops are grown in which bed each year, so that get your crop rotation right.