How to Grow: Making a Raised Bed Garden

Learn how to build a raised bed garden including the materials to use, the size of the bed, and what to grow and hot to care for them. For more garden videos, check out the National Gardening Association.


Hi I’m Charlie Nardozzi of the National Gardening Association. Today I’d like to talk to you about raised bed gardening. Raised beds are just what they sound like; mounds of soil that made it to various shapes. They offer lots of advantages in the garden. They warm up sooner and dry out faster in the spring making it easier for you to get in the garden. They’re easier to plant weed and fertilize. And since they’re raised up, you won’t be stepping on the soil so you won’t be compacting the roots.

Raised beds are great for clay soil because clay is so hard to work. The raised beds make them easier. But if you have sandy soil, it’ll dry out really fast. You might want to avoid using a raised bed.

There are two different types of raised beds; permanent and temporary. Temporary raised beds like these are made each spring. You can make them in any different shape to fit the space that you have. Most beds tend to be rectangular or square but you can make them round or serpentine. Permanent raised beds I have some kind of structure around them that holds the soil together. It be a natural rot resistant wood like cedar, plastic wood, stone, or brick. You’d want to avoid any kind of treated wood because that has chemicals that will leach into the soil. But you can treat wood with linseed oil as a natural preservative to keep the wood strong for years. Regardless of  whether it’s a permanent or temporary raised bed, here are the steps to make one.

First you want to locate the raised bed close to the house or in the garden we’re going to pass by it regularly every day. That way you’ll be sure to take good care of it. If it’s in full sun with well-drained soil, that would be ideal. Today we’re going to work right here. The first thing you want to do is loosen up the soil in the spring whenever it’s dried out enough. By loosening up the soil what you’re doing is creating drainage spaces so that the water will drain out whenever it rains. When you finish loosing the soil now I like to mark out the edges of my raised bed. I use stakes to do that. Put them right in the boundaries, right at the edge and pound them. I put the last stake here in the corner. When you’re done it’s good to the see if it’s wide enough. You want it to be about three to four feet wide so you can reach your hand into the center like this and work all the plants in here without having to step on the bed.

Once you’ve sketched it all out now it’s time to build up the soil in there to about 10 to 12 inches high. Once you’ve created your mound into a raised bed, then you want to put a little compost on top to add fertility to the soil. If you put down about an inch or so compost layer every year, that’ll keep the garden healthy. You want to spread the compost right around the bed. I want to rake this nice and smooth to flatten out the top of the raised bed and remove any kind of big chunks of soil, rocks and debris that I might have here. Once the raised bed is finished, I like to mulch around the edge of the raised bed. Some people use newspaper or cardboard. I like straw mulch. What you want to do is put it around the pathways. It’s going to prevent weeds from growing and keep the soil nice and moist

Now the fun part. It’s time to plant. I love planting hot red chili peppers in my raised beds because they really spice up all kinds of dishes and they make a great pasta sauce. The nice thing about raised beds you can plant things closer together than normal. The reason being you can concentrate your fertilizing and watering in this small space. You won’t have to weed as much either. So raised beds are a great thing to use. You just have to remember they’re raised up so you’re going to have to water them a little bit more because they’ll dry out faster.