Before We Start – Building Raised Beds

Before We Start – Building Raised Beds

It is important that we know where we want to locate and position our raised beds, but before we do that lets do a little house-keeping. Before we start-building raised beds, we need to do a garden reconnaissance ( not militarily, of course ) and check  the lay-out of our surroundings, especially where we would like to set up our raised garden beds. We need to know critically, if there are any electrical cables buried underground. That is the most important element of this task, if we are planning to do a little digging in our backyard or back garden. After we have eliminated that risk , we can then check to see if there are are any other utilities running through our premises. Items like water pipes, waste water drains or sewage outlets, telephone or internet cables, gas pipes etc etc. Once we have established all of these facts, it is then safe to begin digging and preparing to make our raised bed gardens.


Soil preparation;


After we have erected the raised bed frame, it is imperative that we dig the ground inside the  frame thoroughly. We now have semi-prepared  this space and we can easily determine the quality of the soil within the raised bed frame area. The idea of this is firstly, to check for any tree roots, rocks and any foreign materials that would disrupt the growing area and secondly to ensure that the fresh topsoil that we will infill to the bed frame will integrate with the existing soil easily. This practise is known as ‘double digging’ and is a means of getting the soil ready for our vegetable planting.

It will result in better aeration and will prevent compaction of the soil, when it comes to the time for planting. Soil preparation is key to having a healthy, productive and high yield return from our raised beds. As soon as we have that task complete, we are now ready to top-up the raised beds with a good mixture of high grade top soil, good organic compost or farmyard manure and some peat. We also need to add small quantity of soil enricher like bone meal, fish meal ar any good type of organic fertiliser, which will serve to enhance the quality of the raised bed soil.


How tall should a raised bed be ?


This is a question that is asked so frequently and so often, it is impossible to answer definitely, so the answers will vary from time to time. In short these bed depths could vary from 6-8″ all the way up to 20-24″, again depending on what we have decided to plant, or what materials we had to hand when constructing the raised bed frame . If it is our standard casual vegetables like cabbages, lettuces, onions, herbs etc, a bed depth of 6-10″ will suffice. However if we decide to plant larger vegetables like potatoes or fruit bearing shrubs, then obviously these raised bed frames need to be a little deeper.




Raised bed auxillary supports;


Again before we begin planting, we must recognise that  some vegetables that will grow reasonably tall, these will need to be staked and supported, so we need to factor this into our plans. This is not a big concern in the greater scheme of things as bamboo sticks and canes are available at all garden centres and are reasonably priced. It is easy to make a temporary frame from 2″ x 1″ lengths of timber to support the bamboo canes. Just a small word of caution and advise to add here, which is; lets take it that the bed is located in an open area and we have decided to plant some of the climbing vine vegetables like tomatoes, peas, squash etc etc, the chances are that these tall vegetables will, in all probability, be battered from strong winds from time to time.

In that case I would locate my raised bed against a south facing wall, (garage or boundary). That in turn would enable us to mount and affix a trellis up against this wall and would thus be far more secure against the elements. With this system our vegetables would then be semi-protected at least and have a far greater chance to flourish and thrive. When planting, always adhere to planting instructions and ask for advise at your friendly garden centre.


So to summarise;

  • Check our surroundings,
  • Eliminate all risks,
  • Establish a safe, sunny location,
  • Construct the raised bed frame,
  • Prepare the raised bed ground,
  • Infill with good topsoil,
  • Decide raised bed depth,
  • Decide plant selection.
  • Plant and harvest.

Happy gardening to all,

Cheers           Phil Browne.



“Tickle the earth with a hoe

and she will laugh with a harvest”


Douglas William Jerrold



6 thoughts on “Before We Start – Building Raised Beds

  1. Really useful information about building raised beds. In this part of the UK, we are in the unfortunate position of having clay good enough to make pots with! The soil is absolutely terrible and raised beds was our only alternative if we wanted to produce some decent veggies.
    Suffice to say, we have had to buy all our top soil to fill our beds of which we have 4 of a similar size to those in your image. We used railway sleepers to make the beds and they seem to work great and are very sturdy. They should last us out!
    Can I ask in what part of the world you live? Thanks for the info. Although we’ve done our raised beds, there are a couple of tips here we can use. Thanks. Ches

    1. Hi there Ches,

      Thank you for your comments. I live in Ireland, ( Co. Cork ) so therefore the soil types would be pretty similar. I can easily identify with you when you described the soil type, its pretty similar over here…. a little sand and peat would improve the issue. Those raised beds made from railway sleepers should be pretty sturdy and should last for years. Glad that the site was informative and helpful. Thanks again for your website feedback.

      Have a great 2017 and happy gardening.

      Cheers…….Philip Browne.

  2. Great information on building raised beds Phil! A few years ago my husband and I decided to build one in our backyard. It worked really well for a few years, but after about the 3rd year the boards on the sides started to warp and then the soil easily seeped out while watering the plants. Last year I decided to line it with plastic, but it didn’t work so well as the sun rotted it after awhile. (we live in sunny so california) Any suggestions?

    1. Hi there Jackie,
      Thks for your comments and site feedback, its greatly appreciated. That can be a problem if the timber or wooden boards are not treated with an anti-weathering formula. I would use thicker planks or alternatively, you could look at constructing the raised bed from builders blocks or bricks. You could also look at building the bed from ordinary stone, arranged nicely to create a rectangular or square bed.

      Thanks again for your feedback

      Best wishes to you and happy gardening

      Cheers………Phil Browne.

    1. Hi there,
      Thanks for stopping-by and you are welcome.
      Always happy to help and glad to be of assistance.
      I hope the site was beneficial and informative for you,

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