Raised Bed Gardening – How to Start

How to Get Started with Raised Bed Gardening - Five Little Homesteaders

I do almost all of my gardening in raised bed.  I’ve found that when living in an urban or suburban setting, raised bed gardening is usually the most practical, attractive and fruitful way to grow your own food.

I do have a small plot of vegetables planted directly in the ground in our front yard but given that the land I live on hasn’t been used for farming in over a century, the soil has degraded and compacted.  I’m working on improving the soil in the front, but it is definitely an uphill battle.  For me, raised bed gardening is the way to go.

Raised Bed Gardening

There are many reasons to choose raised bed gardening when thinking about planting vegetables.

To begin, you’ll be able to plant in better soil.  Since you are going to have to find a source for all the soil you put into the beds, you can be sure that the ratios and nutrient contents are at good levels.  You’ll also have fewer weeds to contend with and the ones that do grow will be easier to deal with.  Given its elevated nature, raised bed gardening makes it easier to plant and harvest.  Raised beds are also attractive additions to any backyard.



Before getting started, you’ll want to determine the best location for your raised bed.  Most plants need at least 8 hours of sun and in general, the more sun the better.  So make sure to position the bed in a sunny part of your yard.

It is also important to ensure that your garden has good drainage.  One way we ensure that drainage is good is to loosen the soil (with a pitch fork or tiller) under where we are going to place the raised bed.  This allows us to set the bed into the ground ever so slightly and to ensure that the ground under the bed will be able to absorb excess water.


Generally raised beds will be made out of wood, though I have seen some made out of metal, concrete block or large logs.  When buying wood, you’ll want to be sure you don’t buy any that has been treated with chemicals of any kind, as these chemicals can and will leach into your soil.  Cedar is a popular choice when building raised beds but we usually buy untreated pine.



When setting up a raised bed, you’ll have to find soil with which to fill it.  This can be tricky and expensive.  A great resource that I found recently was this soil calculator – http://www.gardeners.com/Soil-Calculator/7558,default,pg.html .  It will tell you how much you need to fill your space.

When looking for where to source good soil and compost, the best place to start is by talking to fellow gardeners to find out where theirs is from.  Trust me, you don’t want to try to buy enough to fill your bed at the local hardware store.

In Phoenix we have a local farm that produces large amounts of compost.  I fill my beds mostly (over 50%) with this compost.  There are positives and negatives to this.  The positive is that it is pretty cheap (just $35 for a truck load) and it does the job.  The negative is that it breaks down quickly, which requires me to “top off” the bed each season.

In a perfect world, I would recommend that you fill your beds with the following ratio:

50% topsoil
40% compost
10% some combination of  peat moss – http://amzn.to/1iXzGmg / coco fiber – http://amzn.to/1d8Uy7X / vermiculate – http://amzn.to/1nzQjXe / perlite – http://amzn.to/1ixWoPp

As I said, I don’t do exactly this.  My combination is probably more like 70% compost, 25% topsoil and 5% of the a perlite/vermiculate mix.  At the end of the day, I have no problem with this ratio and it works because compost is cheap and easy for me to come by.  My plants really don’t seem to mind.  I also amend each season with organic fertilizer and practice good crop rotation.


If  you’re not lucky enough to live in the pacific northwest, watering your garden is going to be a serious consideration.  I live in the desert southwest, so you better believe it is a consideration for me.  You have to decide how you will get water to your garden and how often you will water.

Plants generally need about 1″ of water per week.  This is not going to happen in Phoenix.  I’ve found that utilizing soaker hoses and being sure to water early in the morning or late in the evening works best for my raised beds.  (Here is a soaker hose similar to what I use.)



I’m lucky to have an incredibly handy husband.  He has built me several different styles of raised bed.  I have some that are quick and easy raised beds to build.  I also have several that are beautiful and much taller.  These are the ones pictured above.  My husband is also an architect and has drawn up the plans for how to build the raised beds pictured above and we have them for sale.   We are selling the plans for just $3.97 – https://www.e-junkie.com/ecom/gb.php?c=cart&i=1336979&cl=249672&ejc=2 right now.

Click here to buy.

Raised Bed Garden Plans - Five LIttle Homesteaders


30 Day Natural Living Challenge - The Mind to Homestead

This post is part of the 30 Day Natural Living Challenge that is being hosted at A Blossoming Life.  Click below to check out other posts in this series:

30 Day Natural Challenge – http://www.ablossominglife.com/2014/03/30-day-natural-challenge.html

30 Day Natural Challenge: Setting Goals – http://www.ablossominglife.com/2014/03/30-day-natural-living-challenge-setting-goals.html

Sustainable Fashion – http://www.lilywhite-designs.com/2014/03/sustainable-fashion.html

Homemade Natural Skincare {Getting Started} – http://www.ablossominglife.com/2014/03/homemade-natural-skincare-getting-started.html

5 Simple Steps to Real Food – http://livesimply.me/2014/03/07/five-simple-steps-real-food/

Starting Seedlings

Sustainable Fashion: Thrifted Outfits – http://www.lilywhite-designs.com/2014/03/sustainable-fashion-thrifted-outfits.html

DIY Basic Natural Medicine Cabinet – http://themindtohomestead.com/diy-basic-natural-medicine-cabinet/


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