The Responsible Survivialist

How I Build Raised Beds
April 19, 2010, 10:14 pm
Filed under: Gardening

I had a chance to start the third raised bed today. I had to, the seeds I planted last week came up with a vengeance and I don’t expect I can keep them inside as long as I had planned.

On another website I had a question on how I built the beds, so while I worked, I kept the camera ready and took a few photos. Here’s how I do it…

First, clear away the grass from the area you’re going to use. I prefer using a flat blade shovel. It lets me slice under the grass, taking off just the top inch or so of soil. Use the blade to cut the ground into blade size chunks then push the blade under the edge and gentle wiggle it back and forth while pushing with your foot.

bed building first step

(This was taken a bit later in the process, since you can see the first two blocks are already laid. I just forgot to get a good shot of this, so I took it when I remembered I needed it.)

Second, once you have the beginning area cleared of grass, dig down to the depth you want your blocks planted. I go down about 2 inches. Scrape away the soil until its nearly level. Then take your shovel and lightly break up about 1/4 of an inch of soil where you will be laying the side blocks.

bed building second step

Then, using one of the blocks, tamp the soil down. Try to keep the area level.

bed building third step

Third, place the first block. You can use a carpenter’s level if you want but I just eyeball it to see that its straight. Then add the second block. If there is a gap at the bottom where they join, the far end of the ground is high. Remove the block and use it to tamp down the ground more.

If there is a gap at the top, then the ground is low. Remove the block, add a small amount of loose dirt, tamp it down and replace the block.

bed building fourth step

Fourth, remove the grass from an area about 24″ long and as wide as your ends. Dig down and repeat the step for place a block on the back side of the bed, in my case the one against the fence.

bed building fifth step

Once you have the block in place, begin to break up the ground inside of the bed as deep as you can. in my case it’s the depth of the shovel blade, or about 6-8 inches. What you are doing is making the soil loose and easy for the plants’ roots to get through and establish themselves.

Leave an area in front where the next block will go.

bed building sixth step

Its up to you whether you want to add compose at this point. I didn’t partly to save money but then I’m also going to be adding a few inches of compost rich medium in the bed as well as planting each vegetable in a hole full of compost to help it get started and grow.

Fifth, continue to remove the grass, this time back about another 18 inches. Once you have, repeat the steps and place the next rear block in the ground, then the first front block.

I toss the loosened earth into the space between the blocks. Go ahead and pile it to the top, you’ll have a chance to level it out once you finish.

bed building seventh step

Finally, just keep doing those steps until you reach the length of bed you want.

bed building eighth step

I had to stop at that point for a lunch meeting with a friend. I will post a few more pictures once i get this bed completed.


By the way, here’s a picture of the seeds. I’ve never planted cucumbers before but WOW those seeds sprout quickly and grow like they are on steroids.

cucumber seedlings three days

These are almost 2 inches high after only 4 days, the first 2 with no light on them. For some reason the peppers, spinach and okra haven’t come up yet. The tomatoes are all sprouting, as are the lettuce and broccoli.

I might have over planted. Where my commercially bought seeds had a good portion not germinate, the ones from Seed Savers are great. Almost every one so far has sprouted. I’m going to have to build some apartment pots for some of my friends, say tomatoes, peppers and such and give them as late Spring gifts. I’d hate to just kill the seedlings that have come up and are extra.

I’m also going to have to watch the squirrels and rabbits I think. I left the seed starter kits out while I went to lunch and when I came back there was a squirrel in the yard. I found out the furry pest had eaten one corn seedling, and nibbled on the leaves of two sunflower seedlings. The sunflowers are ok enough to leave but the corn is toast. I’ll have to consider fencing around the beds now. Having the wild life eat a few leaves when I have full size plants is ok with me, giving something back to Nature, but having them eat my entire garden while its small beginning plants is not.

The next two days, Wednesday and Thursday, I work. If it doesn’t rain on Friday, which the weather forecast predicts, then I’ll post more pictures when I finish up.


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