Spring has sprung - but there's still time to start a raised bed! In this short video and article, we'll demonstrate how easy it is to build a small 4ft x 4ft (1.2m x 1.2m) raised bed from scratch.
For this project we've used two planks of wood that are 8 feet (2.4m) long. By cutting these in half this makes a square bed that is 4 feet (1.2m) long on each side. The advantage of a bed that size is that you can reach the centre from all sides of the bed, so that you never have to step on the soil inside the bed. That means the soil never gets compacted, which helps plants to thrive.
Preparing the Ground
Choose an area of your garden that receives plenty of sun. Start by laying cardboard over the area the new bed will occupy. This will help to clear all the grass and weeds beneath.
The first thing you need to do with any cardboard is to remove any tape and staples. That way you'll be starting with nice clean cardboard that will rot down into the soil over time. This step may seem a little tedious, but it really shouldn't take you too long.
Spread your cardboard all over the growing area, including the paths. This will help to suppress weeds, stop grass growing up through, and keep it nice and clean, ready for the compost to go on top. Overlap the cardboard generously to prevent weeds from creeping up through any gaps. Aim for an overlap of about 6 inches (15cm).
Building a Raised Bed
With the ground covered, it's time to make your raised bed. Lay out a measuring tape along each plank and clearly mark the halfway point with a pencil. Saw both planks in half to create four the four walls to your raised bed, all of equal length.
Next, drill some pilot holes. These will make it easier to screw the walls together. Use a drill bit that's slightly thinner than the screws themselves. One end of each plank will overlap the end of the next and screw directly into it, so position your pilot holes correspondingly. Two holes in each plank is sufficient.
The walls of the bed need to be laid out so that each plank overlaps the next, with the pilot holes located at the overlapping end.
Screw the walls together using long screws so that each wall is properly secured to the next with a snug, close fit.
Raised Bed Finishing Touches
With the walls of the raised bed fixed together, it's time to fill it. Add garden compost to the bed. This will give a nutrient-rich, moisture-retentive layer for roots to grow down into - a sensible move with summer approaching. It also introduces lots of beneficial microorganisms to the soil, which will further enhance plant growth.
The compost may be quite lumpy, so you can mix the compost with enriched topsoil specially formulated for vegetable gardening if you wish. Its fine texture means you can get on with sowing and planting immediately. You could use more of your own garden compost if you prefer, but make sure it's completely decomposed and of fine enough consistency to begin planting.
You can lay bark chippings directly onto the cardboard between beds to give a neat-and-tidy finish to pathways. Alternatively, cut away excess cardboard from around the raised bed to leave a simple grass path.
Next comes the fun part - sowing and planting! If you're going to create a raised bed this spring, please let us know what you plan to grow in it in the comments sections below.