How To: Building Raised Garden Beds

Raised Garden Bed
Raised Garden Bed

How To: Building Raised Garden Beds


Getting Started

Decide how big your raised bed is going to be

When planning your raised beds it’s important to remember you’ll need to be able to access and work on it without having to stand on the bed, as this will flatten the soil. You’ll also need to make a path around the bed so you can get to it easily. The minimum width for walking is usually about 30cm and if you want to use a wheelbarrow then you will need to allow sufficient additional access. If you make the paths too narrow, the bed will be too difficult to work on. If you or anyone who will be working in your garden uses a wheelchair or other mobility aid then you’ll have to take this into account too.


Decide what your bed is going to be made from

Raised beds can be made from various materials. You need to decide what your budget for your new project is and whether you want this to be a permanent feature of your garden. There are three main options when sourcing your materials:


Recycle materials such as timber planks

Purchase timber or masonry from local builders merchant or DIY store. The cheapest option is timber although bear in mind that even treated it will not be as long lasting as some options. Railway sleepers look great and last a long time but can be expensive and quite difficult to cut to size. An alternative is second-hand scaffolding planks. Masonry is attractive and permanent but can be an expensive option and it’s worth seeing what you can find at reclamation yards or recycle from other areas of your garden.


Building your raised bed

There are a few steps involved. Building a raised bed is not a five minute job but once the initial construction is complete, your bed should be easy to maintain and worth the effort for many growing seasons to come. Our quick guide assumes you are using timber to construct your raised bed but you can adapt this if you are using masonry or follow the manufacturer’s instructions if you have purchased plastic panels.


You’ve already decided on the site and dimensions of your new raised bed. You need to clear away any existing vegetation and level the ground where the bed will stand if necessary.


Using string and stakes, mark out the area of your new bed. You can use a spirit level to check that you are not on a slope and everything is straight.


Make a cutting list for your boards and cut your timber panels to size.


Stout internal corner posts (2 x 2 inch timber) should be used. It’s a good idea to treat these as they will be in contact with the ground and will be prone to rot over time. Sink them 12 to 18 inches into the ground to support the panels. For extra stability for a larger bed, sink additional stakes every 5ft to support the sides.


Using non-rusting screws, attach your panels to the corner posts.


For a useful finishing touch you can fit a decorative finial on top of each corner post. Not only does this add to the general appearance of your raised bed but it will prevent your hosepipe being pulled across the plants when you water.


Now it’s time to work on your soil. Cultivate and enrich the underlying soil with well-rotted compost or other organic matter. Dig well to ensure any perennial roots are removed and the soil is loosened.


Fill up the bed with layers of good quality topsoil alternated with layers of organic matter such as well rotted compost or manure. Firm each layer down as you work. The soil you use will depend on what you plan to grow in the raised bed.

 

Remember, in a raised bed you can grow plants that don’t usually thrive in your garden because of the underlying soil type that you are working with.

 

Choosing the right topsoil for your project is vital and Wholesale Landscapes has different grades of topsoil suitable for either specialist or more general planting applications.


Raised beds can also be built on top of hard surfaces but will need to be deeper, ideally at least 50cm so plants can root properly.

 

Your new raised bed is now ready to enjoy.

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Recommended depths

Typically you need a finishing layer of screened soil of 100mm when working with an uneven surface. 100mm of soil will allow to even out any hollows and give enough depth to create a flat surface

A general rule for compost is to allow for the depth of the current root structure of your plants with an additional 30-50% to mix in with the base. If you’re planting into holes or filling up a vege garden  you will need to accommodate for this prior to filling up

We recommend 100mm (10cm) deep for new bark gardens and planting into bare areas. For existing gardens with some cover, we recommend 75mm-100mm (7.5cm-10cm)

Note: Barked areas for playground impact protection need to meet NZS5828:2015 standards and is calculated on the fall areas and the height of the playground. Please contact us to discuss your barked playground areas

For paths and driveways which are often exposed to car and foot traffic, we recommend 100mm-125mm (10cm-12.5cm) on newly prepared areas due to settling of product.

This excludes preparation, compaction or drainage gravel underneath. For existing areas 75mm thickness is recommended for areas needing a small top-up.