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How to build a raised bed

For the green-fingered among us, knowing how to build a raised bed is worth learning. Not only are they aesthetically pleasing, but they offer a myriad of perennial benefits too.

That’s why this blog is going to focus on the best ways to build a raised garden bed, their uses, and why attempting this simple DIY task is worth the effort. Alternatively, you can always buy pre-made beds from your local gardening store.

However, if this sounds like a task for a professional, then don’t hesitate to contact our landscaping experts for help. Find out more about the cost of hiring a professional in our raised garden bed cost guide.

Benefits of a raised bed

how to build a raised bed with railway sleepersThere are several benefits to installing a raised bed. These include:

  • Improving your drainage
  • Introducing different types of soil to your garden
  • Aiding those with restricted mobility
  • Increasing the soil temperature
  • Enhanced root health

How to build a raised bed – preparation

Before you get started, consider what you’d like to grow in your raised bed. There are various options to choose from, such as:

  • Vegetables
  • Soft fruits
  • Alpines
  • Shrubs
  • Small trees
  • Herbaceous perennials

Once you’ve decided on your plants, you need to work out what conditions best suit them. For example, trees or root vegetables will need a deeper bed, while flowers won’t require the same amount of soil to thrive. Choosing the right soil for your perennials is also worth some research. Some plants thrive in acidic conditions while others prefer alkaline environments.

Tools you’ll need for the jobhow to build a raised bed with railway sleepers

Now you know what you want to grow and the ideal conditions for your chosen flora, it’s time to get started. So, grab the following equipment and get to work.

  • A spade
  • 5cm retaining timber stakes
  • String and pegs
  • A mallet
  • Your chosen raised bed material (timber, paving slabs, bricks, stone etc.)
  • Measuring tape
  • Screwdriver and screws
  • Topsoil
  • Chosen perennials

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How to build a raised garden bed

Step one: Mark out the area

The first step is to measure and mark out the area for your raised bed using your string. Consider access routes and make sure you leave yourself enough room to walk around all sides of your bed. The depth of your raised bed should be an absolute minimum of 20cm, but for plants such as root vegetables, this obviously needs to be a lot deeper at around 60cm.

Step two: Level the ground

Once your measurements are done, it’s time to level the ground using your spade. Churn the earth to break it up and create an oxygenated foundation for your raised bed. (This step isn’t necessary if you’re building a raised bed on a path or paving slabs).

Step three: Place your retaining stakes

In the four corners you’ve marked out with string and pegs, it’s time to hammer in your retaining stakes. This will form the base structure of your raised bed, so be sure to measure them correctly. Sink them at least 30cm into the soil.

Top tip: To ensure the stakes are level horizontally and vertically, check them with a spirit level.

Step four: Attach your walls

Take your chosen wall materials and attach them to the stakes using screws to secure them in place. If you’ve opted for timber or logs, this is an easy process. However, for materials such as bricks or stone, this process will require a different method of attachment, such as cement. Some materials will come with metal fasteners and plates for you to attach to the stakes, while others will require a more ingenious solution.

Step five: Add the soil

Once your raised bed structure is ready, prepare the bottom for soil by filling it with stones and organic matter to help with composting and proper drainage. If your base is solid, it’s important to add texture first, such as sand and stones. You’ll also need to drill holes at the bottom of the sides to allow for excess runoff during rainier months or overwatering mishaps.

For shallower beds (under 40cm), you can now add your chosen topsoil. For deeper beds (50cm +), you’ll need to add a subsoil first, then the topsoil with a mixture of fertiliser or manure. Be sure to firm in the soil by compacting it down using a spade.

Continue this process until your soil layer reaches the top of the raised bed frame.

Step six: Plant your perennials

After two weeks – when the soil is bedded in – it’s time to get planting! After a year of fruitful growth, top up the soil to add a nutrient boost and encourage healthy plant growth.

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How to build a raised bed with sleepers

Railway sleepers are a great material to use to build a raised garden bed. They’re super sturdy and can last for up to 30 years. Read on for steps on how to build a raised garden bed with sleepers:

  1. Choose the size of your sleepers.
  2. Position the sleeper where you want your flower beds to sit (it’s worth considering the best placement for the sun). They will also need to be on level ground.
  3. Use two 150mm timber screws in each corner to attach the sleepers.
  4. Continue to add sleepers on until you reach your desired height, ensuring you screw it to the sleeper below.
  5. Once you have reached the height you would like, start to fill with soil and add plants in.

You can choose whether or not to line your sleepers, but it is not necessary.

How to build a raised garden bed blogHow to build a raised garden bed with legs

Building a raised garden bed with legs is a tricky endeavour and one best saved for the professionals or experienced DIY gurus. Making sure the load-bearing capacity is high enough is paramount for raised beds with legs, so be sure you’re up to the task before building a robust structure.

Hire the professionals

If this all sounds like a lot of work, then fear not! Our professional landscapers are here to help you build the perfect raised beds for your needs and aesthetic. Just contact them via our website and request some quotes.

And if you’re looking for some extra design inspiration, then read the following blogs: Raised pond ideas: Elevating your garden aesthetic, garden trends 2021, spring garden landscaping ideas and garden sleepers ideas.

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What kind of wood should I use for raised beds?

Two popular materials for raised garden beds are oak and pine. Pine is cheaper while oak will cost you a little extra. When treating your wood, be sure to use a plant-friendly emulsion.

What is the cheapest way to make raised beds?

The cheapest way to make a raised bed is to buy all the materials and do it yourself! Thankfully, this blog includes a step-by-step guide to help you make the right decisions.

How deep should a raised bed garden be?

If you’re only planting flowers, then a minimum of 20cm should be fine. However, if you want to plant root vegetables or trees, then a depth of 60cm is advised.

What do I put on the bottom of a raised garden bed?

Organic materials such as wood chips, grass, straw etc. are good as they turn to compost, while stones and sand will help with drainage. For deeper beds, a layer of sand is advised before adding the soil. Some gardeners also add cardboard or landscape fabric on top of this layer to stop weeds from forming. The soil is then added on top.

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