Raised Bed Gardening – How to Start

You can do almost all of my gardening in a raised bed.  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.

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 pitchfork 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 have 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 – 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.  That can be better than trying to buy enough to fill your bed at the local hardware store.

You might have a local farm that produces large amounts of compost.  You can fill your beds mostly (over 50%) with this compost.  There are positives and negatives to this.  The positive is that it is pretty cheap 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, you would fill your beds with the following ratio:

50% topsoil
40% compost
10% some combination of  peat moss – Hoffman 15503 Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss/ coco fiber – Zoo Med Eco Earth Loose Coconut Fiber Substrate/ vermiculate – Espoma VM8 8-Quart Organic Vermiculite/ perlite – Espoma PR8 8-Quart Organic Perlite

You can certainly tweak this to work with your needs, plants and requirements.


If you’re not lucky enough to live in the pacific northwest, watering your garden is going to be a serious consideration.  You have to decide how you will get water in your garden and how often you will water.

Plants generally need about 1″ of water per week.  You can utilizing soaker hoses and being sure to water early in the morning or late in the evening works best for my raised beds.