For beginning and experienced gardeners alike, the idea of making a new flower or vegetable bed brings to mind weekends of hard labor chopping out sod, tilling the ground, and preparing it for plants or seeds. Raised beds add an extra layer of effort: building the wooden frame to hold the dirt in.
Luckily, it is possible to make raised beds for flower or vegetable gardening without hacking up all of the sod before you get started. Not only does this kind of raised garden bed save you from hours of back-breaking labor, but it can also start your plants off better because you have full control of the soil quality.
Plan Your Raised Bed Garden
Although appearance is often the reason to choose raised beds, there are other excellent reasons to choose them as well. They can be easier to reach and work in for people with bad backs or other mobility issues. They are also simpler to build without a lot of digging and tilling before you get to the more enjoyable planting part.
Begin by selecting a location in your yard for your new flower or vegetable garden. Take the amount of sunlight, potential issues with the wind, and anything that may block rainfall into account. It might be a good idea to mark the corners of the intended raised bed so you know exactly where you want it when you come back from the hardware store.
Building the Raised Garden Beds
First, you must build the frame for the raised bed. This can be done using 4 x 4 posts stacked on top of each other, 2 x 4 or 1 x 6-inch boards, bricks and mortar, or landscaping stones designed for retaining walls with edges that fit together without the need for mortar.
After you construct the sides of each bed you plan to make and move them into the correct position, it is time to deal with the grass and fill the forms with healthy organic soil.
Cover the grass completely with black and white newspaper that is at least 8 sheets thick. These should be laid from the very edges of the raised bed structure and overlap across the entire space inside. This is a layer that will help kill the grass over time and will break down to provide more compost for the growing plants.
Now, it is time to fill in the raised bed. How you go about this depends largely on how high the walls are. If you made a raised flower bed that is only 8 inches tall, you can use a mixture of compost, peat moss, and garden or topsoil to create a ground that can be planted immediately. If your raised bed is much deeper, you can fill in the lowest levels with lawn clippings, fallen leaves, and other organic material. Spray this thoroughly with water before adding a layer of peat, soil, and compost.
Unless you are planting flowering annuals or vegetables immediately, you should water the raised bed well and stretch a tarp over the whole thing to create ideal conditions for the breakdown of all the organic materials underneath. Then, when you remove it the next spring or later in the season, you will have lovely dark compost to plant in.