I’ve planned this post for quite a while now. And always something intervened like other great posts, the loss of an entire folder of pictures, a cold, … Usually I’m really focused when it comes to my projects but sometimes it’s just out of my control. Do you know those situations, too? A tiny angel and an even smaller devil harshly argued on my shoulders about whether or not to finally do the post. I can’t repeat what they’ve said. First, because you might think I’m crazy and secondly, I can’t tell you their actual words. It’s not suitable for my blog! Well, the angel won and here it is, my long-promised post how to build a raised bed.
I have to admit, I love these two huge plant boxes. My husband and I’ve spent a lot of time and effort on this project: research, drawings, multiple trips to the garden center, buying a pickup truck, the construction … Since they’ve finally been finished I have a childish joy taking care of them. It’s just wonderful to watch the progress of the young plants and observe them fearfully. Last week I had a tragic zucchini loss which I am still recovering from.
Is it ridiculous to grieve over a plant that has died of a fungal disease? Everyone has a spleen and mine is being over protective in concern of the wellbeing of our plants. Who am I kidding? Gardening is just fun. Probably because there are ups and downs and the possibility of not being successful.
But let’s come back to the real reason for this post: raised beds and how to build them. Here I’ve summed up the instructions exclusively for you. I’m so looking forward to hearing about your great new raised beds. Let me know if you guys had just as much fun as we had! Happy DIY, Lovelies!
4 used pallets
4 weather shields (for an optional cover – 2” x 6” x lenght as needed)
branches, sticks and hedge cuttings
soil (topsoil and garden soil)
You can build a raised bed all year round. The timing is totally up to you. In fall and in winter you can use all the leaves that you might have in abundance during that time. This way you don’t have to think too much about what to do with all the foliage! When building in spring you have to trim your hedges and trees anyway. The remaining cuttings are perfect to fill the beds. And in this time of the year sowing is possible directly, as it is in summer.
When you build a raised bed one of the most important things to consider is the location. Finally, chard, zucchini and co. love a bright spot and they’re really thirsty. Plants need at least six hours of sun per day. I can highly recommend to have a water tap nearby. I moved our water hose around the garden and tried to figure out which place within this radius is the best. Plants need to be watered every day and I wanted it to be something nice and not a burden. If you keep all that mind, it is easy to find a really good spot. Or, you’ll might learn that the garden of your neighbor would have been the perfect location for your raised bed.
The construction of the box is a bit time-consuming but actually simple. When it comes to the size of your raised bed there are a few things you might consider. It shouldn’t be too wide otherwise you can’t reach the center. That would be a problem when you start to sow and plant. The length on the other side is only dependent on your preferences and the space in your garden. The best way to align every bed, if high or low, is from north to south. The tall plants are placed in the northern part thus avoiding to shade the smaller ones in the south.
If you’ve decided how big you want to have your raised bed and all the materials are there, you’re good to go. Place the pallets on the ground around your imaginary bed. Dig a flat ditch where you want to place the first pallet. Put the palette in the ditch, place some soil around it and tramp it to give the pallets some hold. The ditch for the next pallet needs to be rectangular to the end of the first pallet. Place the second pallet in the second ditch, take an angle and join the two pallets by screwing one side of the angle to the one pallet and the other side of the angle to, well, the other pallet. Easy as one, two, three. Stabilize it with a little soil and work on the next two pallets accordingly. If one angle per corner isn’t enough to have a stable construction, use two or three for every corner. It wasn’t necessary for us but sometimes you might need more. The perfectionist can, of course, align the pallets with a level. We have built by eye because we don’t care if it’s 100 % even or not. I kind of like it a bit shabby. Especially if you’re an architect you can stretch a point.
Do you have voles in your garden? If that’s the case you should add chicken wire to the ground of your box to protect it against the little rodents. That wasn’t necessary for us because our raised beds are placed on concrete. Still, a few lizards and most likely chipmunks live in the space between the pallets and the tarp but I actually like that. As long as they keep their little paws to themselves and don’t eat my vegetables, they are welcomed guests. I mentioned a tarp. The tarp covers the gaps in the pallets and prevents the filling from falling out of your raised bed. Cut it to the height of the pallets and attach it all-round the inside. The easiest way to do this is with a staple gun. Please don’t shoot yourself in the foot. You do not want be the next slapstick number for the whole neighborhood.
Basically, the raised bed is ready to be filled. However, it is more beautiful to add a surrounding cover. Cut the weather shields to lengths and widths, put them on top of the pallets and fix them. It is optional but it looks even more pretty.
Now you can start to fill your box. This was my favorite part of the whole project. We’ve put a lot of branches, sticks and hedge cuttings in the raised bed until it was half-filled. In between all that stuff there’ll be lot of gaps and spaces that thermally insulate the raised bed downwards. This raises the temperature on colder days, protects the plants against the first frost and extends the season. For the next layer, you can use lawn clippings or leaves. Both need to be dried. And please, if you use leaves – jump in the box as soon as there are enough inside and throw the stuff around you. It’s soo much fun! I can highly recommend it. Once you’re steamed of, fill in the last three layers: 4” – 8” garden soil, 6” – 8” compost and 8” – 10” topsoil. This structure is just perfect. The organic material composts slowly and the raised bed will feed itself for a long time (four to six years depending on what you’ll plant).
We built our two boxes in autumn and winter and decided to wait a bit before we added the last layer. The filling had time to settle a bit and we could observe if we needed more soil. Another nice thing was that we had the chance to collect our kitchen waste in the boxes. We spoiled the beds with a little compost-kickstart. Maybe an experienced composting expert may scream: you can’t do that, the compost is not ready yet, but the inexperienced composting expert says: we had no complains, prove me wrong! The zucchini doesn’t count, I am almost certain it was related to the weather!
Once the top layer has been filled in and the right time has come, you can start planting and sowing. Enjoy the season and all the wonderful veggies you’ll grow, y’all!