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Elevate Your Garden: Building Raised Garden Beds Made Easy

This article sharing information on how to set up your budget raised garden beds contains affiliate links that may earn me a commission if you purchase through them.

When you first start an outdoor garden, finding the right place to set it up is key. If you have enough space to move past individual pots, creating a raised garden bed is your best bet, both to help organize yourself and to keep your plants contained – pun intended.

Raised garden bed with straw mulch.

You can also look at both an elevated raised bed that is usually about waist height or an in-ground raised garden bed. I prefer the in-ground raised garden beds, as they retain water better than the elevated beds, and they allow for more root growth.

The biggest reason though? After a few years, more than one friend has had the bottom of the elevated bed simply rot out and drop all the garden plants on the ground in the middle of the season, which creates a major issue.

I have five raised garden beds, and my favorite is the rectangular galvanized steel bed I received from Sunnydaze Decor. It was incredibly easy to set up, and the galvanized steel means that it will last for years.

And when I say easy, I mean that it just needs an Allen wrench that comes with the kit. It helps to have two people just to hold the pieces in place, but this is a quick and easy assembly.

Screwing together a raised garden bed.

The galvanized steel bed was also significantly less expensive than the wooden garden beds I’ve set up in the past, which adds up as I continue to grow my garden area.

Benefits of Raised Garden Beds

Raised beds can be ideal for both new and experienced gardeners. They are much easier to plant and maintain than traditional in-ground gardens that we’re most used to seeing for a host of reasons.

The fact that you control the soil is one of the biggest advantages. If you live where I do with clay-filled soil that you have to constantly amend and that is tough to dig into, a raised garden bed lets you avoid digging almost entirely and also ensures you have ideal soil since you purchase and add the soil for your raised bed.

This galvanized steel raised bed also looks fantastic in the garden, and it won’t rust or rot, which means that it will look this good next year and the year after, too.

The steel helps do double duty of helping prevent both critters and weeds from getting into your garden. While there are still critters that will get to your plants unless you protect them with netting or organza gift bags – my favorite tricks – I have fewer chipmunks, bunnies, etc trying to eat my veggies in a raised bed.

Additionally, some garden plants are a little prolific. I need to keep my strawberries, mint, and similar plants contained. If you allow them to grow in a traditional garden, they’ll simply take over. The raised bed limits how far they can grow and multiply.

The raised bed also provides a physical barrier to keep weeds from spreading from outside my garden into my garden. I still have to pull the stray weed, but I do far less weeding with my raised bed than I ever did in a traditional garden, especially when I mulch it properly.

Is wood or metal better for raised garden beds?

While you can find raised garden beds from other materials, the two most common are wood and metal. In my experience, I’ve found that galvanized steel makes for a great raised garden bed.

The galvanized steel is incredibly durable and will last for years, while also being highly affordable compared to wooden beds. It is also much easier to assemble than a wooden bed.

My son was able to assemble our galvanized steel bed with just a screwdriver while I held it in place. Too often, my wooden beds have had the screw holes not drilled accurately or deeply enough where we’ve had to break out bigger tools.

If you choose to use wood, be sure to get wood that isn’t treated with chemicals that may be harmful for any food you may grow. That’s one reason I prefer the galvanized steel.

The galvanized steel is also significantly lighter than wood, which means that you can more easily move it around as you find the best spot for it in your space.

Additionally, it is resistant to rot and rust, so it won’t fall apart as easily over time the way a wooden bed might.

Again, I absolutely love my Sunnydaze galvanized steel rectangular raised garden bed. It comes in hexagon, square, and rectangle shapes, which gives you more flexibility in your garden design.

Fully assembled galvanized steel garden bed.

The hexagon and the square are 16 inches deep, which is plenty deep enough for just about anything you want to grow and is high enough to deter many critters. The rectangle that I have is 12 inches, which is definitely an adequate height, though I still protect my more attractive plants like tomatoes and strawberries with organza bags as they start to ripen.

The square offers the smallest space at 22 by 22 inches. The rectangle is the largest of the three options at 48 by 36, which allows for 12 feet of square foot gardening. The hexagon is roughly 40 by 36 inches.

Choosing a location

When it comes to choosing the best location for a raised garden beds, there are a few things to keep in mind. My biggest priority is making sure that the bed gets the most sunlight possible so that my plants can thrive.

Try to pick a spot in your yard with full sun during the morning and afternoon hours when plants need the most light. Generally, you want southern exposure for that.

It’s more than just sun though. If you have an area that is more protected and less windy, aim for that. Too much wind can damage tender seedlings and young plants.

Avoid putting your garden on a hill or an area of uneven ground. In addition to making it harder to level the raised garden bed, it makes it more difficult to evenly water your garden and your “good” soil is likely to be much more shallow in portions of the garden bed.

if you do need to place your raised garden bed on a slope or in an uneven area, make sure you till it first to loosen the soil so you can make as even a surface as possible before you fill your raised garden bed. This is a good idea in general to ensure you cut through any weed roots and loosen the soil below your bed.

Removing weeds with a hoe.

My last consideration is for water. You will likely need to water your garden regularly unless you’re lucky enough to have just the right amount of rain all the way through the season. Make sure you have your outside spigot relatively near your raised garden bed so that your hose can easily reach it.

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

Before I even think about putting my raised garden bed in place, I want to ensure I’ve done what I can to ensure tough weeds don’t grow through it. This is a key consideration when I’m making a new bed rather than replacing an existing one.

If you know you plan to build a new bed weeks or months beforehand, place black plastic over the area, and weight down the edges. The impermeable layer concentrates the sun’s rays and burns any weeds or other plants trying to grow in that space, which reduces your weeds in the new bed.

Black plastic weighted down on a garden plot.

In addition, I always put something on the bottom to help prevent weeds from growing up through the soil. While you can buy a weed barrier, there are simpler and cheaper methods that work well.

My favorite strategy is to line the bottom with newspapers. Not only does it keep weeds away, but it also helps hold in moisture and adds a layer of insulation that can help your plants grow better.

I start by laying down an even layer of newspaper over the entire surface of the bed, including a bit outside the raised bed perimeter. Then I add a few inches of soil on top and spread out evenly.

Budget garden bed lined with newspaper.

Add your soil and any matter you plan to mix in over this.

Prepping the soil

The good news is that when you use a raised bed, you control the soil rather than having to amend what’s in the ground where you live. You can go as fancy or as simple as you want with your soil, but it will have an impact on the plants you grow.

Ideally, you want to use a soil mix designed for raised beds. This is different from topsoil or even potting soil that you may be used to seeing.

Raised garden bed filled with soil.

You can easily purchase raised bed soil for vegetables at any garden center. If you choose, you can stop with this.

If you want even “better” soil, you generally want to mix one-third peat moss, one-third vermiculite, and one-third compost. This gives you a nutrient-rich soil that drains well, but it does take some extra work.

Be sure to break up any chunks you have in your soil before you plant anything in your bed. You want it as well aerated as possible. Be gentle as you place the soil in your bed so you have air pockets in the soil so oxygen can reach down into the roots of your plants.

Some people also add small branches and other organic matter to help give soil space and prevent it from becoming compacted.

How to fill and water a raised garden bed

Once you’ve added soil and any extra components to your raised garden bed, water it gently with a diffused hose attachment so you moisten the soil without compacting it too much. You want the soil wet enough that it won’t pull moisture from the plants without becoming wet and heavy.

Watering a freshly filled galvanized steel raised garden bed.

Make sure you have your plan already in place so you know what you plan to plant where. Note which grow well together and which should stay far from each other. Be sure you know how much space they need and whether they require support as they grow.

My tomatoes need at least 18 by 18 inches of space and are happier with two full feet, while lettuce can be grown with four plants to a square foot, for example.

If you plant seedlings, be sure to dig a hole deep enough not just to cover the roots but also some of the stem in most cases. This helps create a stronger plant.

If you plant seeds, I find it easiest to make all my holes first so I can easily see my spacing, then I add each seed at the proper depth before covering them.

Water the area again once you plant everything to ensure your plants have as little shock to the new environment as possible. Here you want to give everything a good and gentle soak.

I have terra cotta watering spikes that I add next to any water hungry plants. Fill an empty glass bottle and carefully place it inside the spike. This helps deliver consistent water throughout the season, and I generally have to refill them once a week.

Mulch the bed

Once I have everything planted, I mulch the entire bed. You can use traditional (non-treated) mulch or straw, whichever you happen to have on hand.

Mulching has a few benefits. It helps protect the soil from drying out too quickly while also keeping weeds away. The mulch also keeps the soil temperature even, which really matters as summer wears on and the heat soars.

When you apply mulch, leave a small area around each plant which lets you easily water them rather than it having to go through the mulch first.

At this point, you just need to consistently water and feed your plants based on their needs, and ensure you provide support to those that require it as they grow. Remove any weeds that pop up while they’re still young, and your raised garden bed makes everything else easy.

The best part is that next year, you just need to add any nutrients you know this year’s plants used up, and your galvanized steel raised bed will be ready for planting year after year.

Don’t wait any longer—take the first step towards your dream garden with your own raised garden bed

Don’t miss out on the joys of gardening. Start building your raised garden bed now and cultivate a vibrant and thriving oasis in your backyard. You’ll love this galvanized steel raised garden bed you can use and reuse season after season.

What will you do with all your harvest? I can’t wait for tomatoes to make my homemade tomato sauce and zucchini to make my double chocolate zucchini muffins.

Galvanized steel raised bed with text how to start your raised bed garden.

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