How do I make raised beds

BILLIE_IN(z5 IN)June 30, 2005

My property is very level (way too level actually). I want to make some raised beds to give a little character. My question, how do I do this?? The soil is sandy and the area has no shade. I want to make quite a few raised areas, in the middle of my yard, on a corner, and in front of my house. What kind of material do I need, dirt, peat moss, etc... Also do I combine the sand with the new material? Is there a certain percentage (75% black dirt - 25% peat moss) or other guideline I should go by? I will be ordering from landscaping co so I can buy in bulk. Looking for something economical also.


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meldy_nva(z6b VA)

The most economical way is to make your own soil by the lasagna method. Do a 'search' at the bottom of this forum for 'lasagna' and for 'new beds' -- there's been enough info posted to make a small book :) and you will learn more than just what I suggest. You can also check out the Soil forum and the Square Foot Garden forum (they do lots of raised beds!). Then come back at us with specific questions - preferably one question to a posting, please.

Meanwhile, I'd suggest you take lots of photos from all directions and looking to all directions, including from inside your house looking out. Don't forget to label and date them - they will be a reference for years! Then take paper (1/4" graph is easy to use) and, working to scale, ink in the property boundaries and where your house and hardscape are in relation, include any permanent features such as telephone poles, mailbox, garage, etc. Make a bunch of copies of this layout, so that you can scribble, sketch, or draw without messing your original. (you can also put a clear plastic over your original and draw with 'dry-ink' pens which will wipe off.)

Once you know what you have, you can decide what you really want.. raised beds, yes: just soil mounded up? made with brick or stone sides? or with log or wood or concrete or hypertufa or paver sides? The material of the raised sides should be congenial to your house material and to your personality (oh yeah, and to your wallet). Using the graph, lay out a general guess as to where you would like the beds - and unless you are extremely formal in an extremely formal house, keep in mind that gentle curves look better than straight edges and sharp corners. Now take one of those beds - or a 10-foot section, and figure out what you want in it. Think about what it should do and where you will be when looking at it. Is it to the west of the house and you want it to provide shade as well as be pleasant to look at from the kitchen window? Or is it near a bedroom and you would like to have fragrant flowers most of the year? Or would you like to screen/conceal a driveway or road? Once you decide what the bed is supposed to do, then you can figure out (in general) what should be in the bed.

The more you can plan, and the more ideas you have, the better - keep lists of everything you think you like. But I really would suggest to never try to complete a whole yard or property all at once because a) it always takes longer, much longer, than anyone expects; b) it will cost far more than if you do a bit at a time while learning to propagate and/or exchange plants; c) your tastes will change (inevitable for all gardeners) and plants are constantly changing; d)unless you've got lots of $$$ to hire labor, you will get tired (read exhausted) and frustrated at the slow progress - and may quit just as its actually starting to get interesting. So start with a small area: a square no more than ten feet to a side is more than most folks should take for a first bite -- start with a bed that's about 3 to 5 feet wide and no more than 10 feet long. Do that one, and then rest, and then do another one, repeat and enjoy, because gardening can be fun and does not have to be exhausting!

    Bookmark   June 30, 2005 at 3:36PM
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I'm currently making my raised beds with well-rotted horse manure (free for the taking from a neighbor) and wood shavings from my husband's shop. I've mixed them together along with some of the underlying soil, and then covered with newspaper and more wood shavings to keep down weeds. I then plant by moving aside the mulch wood shavings and making a hole though the newspaper and into the manure/shavings/soil mix to plant into. Everything seems quite happy so far. In the past I've used cow manure, compost, leaves. As long as I have lots of organic material to mix into my original soil and mulch over the surface of the bed to reduce weed growth, I find it works well. For surface mulch I've used in addition to the wood shavings, compost, shredded wood or bark mulch, and shredded leaves. Often, though not always, I put several layers of newspaper under the mulch since then the light is more blocked and few if any weeds grow.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2005 at 12:19AM
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monika1(8a Canada)

I made my raised beds out of 4 foot long cedar fence boards and filled them with top-quality topsoil which I bought from a local store. My garden is fabulous. If you buy good topsoil, there is no need to add anything else, unless of course, you have a lot of time on your hands. The great thing about raised beds is you can just put the new soil on top of the old stuff, no need to mix them together.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2005 at 6:50AM
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