Monday, April 12, 2010

DIY: Raised vegetable garden bed

This Vintage Monday post has been officially hijacked by a DIY post instead!  We've been working on this project for the past couple of weeks now and in order for me to show the progress pictures, I've first got to show you what we started out with!

B and I attended a local gardening class back in March and learned all about how to create a raised vegetable garden bed.  The class also included DIY composting (ew and ick), rain barrels and how to build trellises and green houses.  It was really informative and fun and just the kick start we needed to get going on our own little garden.

Step one:
Locate a plot in your yard that receives a ton of sun.  Mow the grass down (we neglected to do this) and apply compost liberally, making sure you cover a good 1-2 feet outside the edge of your garden bed as well.

Step two: 
Water the compost--it's supposed to help break down the weeds in that area and provide a ton of nutrients for your future vegetable roots.

Step 3: 
Spread out a layer of cardboard to cover the compost.  We broke down cardboard boxes and made sure to peel off all labels and tape.  This cardboard acts as a protective layer to help the compost break down all the weeds and prevent them from growing up in your bed.

Step 4: 
Water the cardboard (do this on and off for an hour or so) and get it really good and soaked.  This helps the cardboard begin to disintegrate more quickly.  Ideally the cardboard helps the compost keep the weeds down to a minimum and yet it also disintegrates in time so that when the vegetable roots do grow, they'll grow down past the cardboard into the composted soil.

Step 5:
Place your newly made wooden frame on top of the cardboard.  B made the frame with untreated pine wood using his handy drill and coated deck screws.  In our class they recommend 4x4 beds.  We got greedy and made ours 8x4.  Ideally you should be able to lean in and reach two squares from each side to make it easier on your back.  Remember to get untreated wood since you'll be growing edibles.  We were hoping for cedar (lasts longer and looks nicer) but Home Depot didn't offer it in the lengths we needed so we went with pine.

Step 6:
Start hauling your soil and place it in the frame.  (We went to the Natural Gardener and bagged our own soil and compost in the soil yard.  By "we" I really mean B)  We went with the Hill Country Garden Soil.  Fun fact: each bag was 10 gallons and weighed 70lbs each!  You can calculate how much soil you need for your frame with this nifty formula.
Step 7:
Once the bed is filled with soil, be sure to mulch the outsides (where the cardboard still lies) to make it prettier and to keep the weeds at a distance from your garden.

Step 8:
Measure and mark each foot.  Then using green gardening tape, stretch it out and staple on each side, horizontally and vertically till you get a nice tic tac toe board.   If you have a 4x4 bed, you should have 16 squares.  In our case, we went with slightly bigger squares and got 7x4=28 squares.

Step 9:
Plan out where you want your plants. We used a combination of seeds and already sprouted plants.  Plus we added some different flowers for color and to also attract and repel certain bugs to our garden.

Here's our diagram of what we planted (so we could remember and not be too surprised when something started sprouting):

Step 10: 
Water daily and keep watch!!

ps: a watchdog helps!


  1. You grow, girl!

    (I have an intense fear of gardening, so I will live vicariously through you.)

  2. This is a great photographic tutorial! I want to do raised beds someday but my current little postage stamp yard has no room for them.

  3. Jess--that's the beauty of the raised bed garden though--you can make it whatever size you want. Even a smaller 4x4 box would yield 16 squares where you can plant to your heart's content!

  4. Thank you for this tutorial! I'm planning on making some raised beds this week for my pumpkin patch! I was thinking of 16 by 16, but maybe I'll do several small ones!

  5. I'm glad this was helpful! A pumpkin patch sounds so fun! We're planning on making a small bed for a strawberry patch soon :)

  6. Thank you so much for posting this!! I am excited to tell you that we just did this today! I can't believe how affordable a pickup load of topsoil was...only $28!! So much more affordable than buying bag after bag of the stuff..compost was on sale for $1.99 a bag so I got enough to cover the bottom....soon I am buying a composter from Lowe''s the one where the barrel spins around, you can compost in only a few weeks. Looking forward to many yummy veggies from the, and of course strawberries! Thanks again.

  7. How deep was your garden?

    1. under 1 foot, but after the cardboard decomposed, the roots go deeper