How and why you should make a raised garden bed

Martyn Cox / 07 July 2014

Find out why raised beds are ideal for gardens with clay soil or hard surfaces, and how to make your own.



What is a raised garden bed?

A raised garden bed is essentially a massive container that allows you to grow a wide range of fruit and vegetables in a confined space. Generally consisting of a square or rectangular frame, they can be filled with a mixture of top soil, compost and plant food, providing excellent growing conditions for crops.

Why use a raised bed?

There are many reasons why it’s worth considering raised beds. Raised beds can be placed on patios or other hard surfaces, so even those with tiny courtyards can grow their own. If you have unforgiving heavy clay soil, a raised bed will drain far better than the surrounding soil and the mixture will warm up quicker in spring, allowing early sowing of some crops.

They are ideal on allotments or in larger gardens, as the space can divided up easily. The gaps in between can turned into paths by covering with strips of landscape fabric, then spreading with bark chippings or gravel. This will reduce your workload as there will be less weeding, digging and fertilising to do.

A raised garden bed also makes good use of the available space, allowing you to easily take care of a lot of crops in a fairly confined area – raising the same amount of vegetables in pots would take up a lot a room and require more careful management, especially when it comes to watering.

They are also a boon for anyone with a bad back or mobility problems. The height of beds reduces the need to bend and the width ensures that everything is easily within easy reach.

How to make a raised bed

It’s easy to make a raised bed from old bricks, untreated railway sleepers or lengths of timber.

There are no set rules for how large or deep they should be, but a bed measuring 2.4m by 1.2m is ideal as you’ll easily be able to reach into the centre for harvesting.

Raised beds shouldn’t be any less than 15cm deep, but a bed with a depth of around 60cm will allow you to grow a much wider range of root crops and is essential if it’s going to be placed on a hard surface.

To make a timber bed you’ll need four pieces of pressure-treated timber, cut to your required dimensions. Fix them together with L-shaped metal corner brackets, secured in place with screws.

Fill it with equal parts sterilised top soil and multi-purpose compost, with a few handfuls of controlled release fertiliser granules.    

Off-the-shelf kits for raised beds

If you don’t have any DIY skills, there are plenty of ready to buy kits that are a doddle to make. Link-a-Board consists of recycled plastic planks – in a range of six different colours - that are easy to slot together. Wooden kits, such as those supplied by Harrod Horticultural, come with corner posts and other fittings. The planks vary in width and depth.

Where to buy raised beds

Raised bed kits can be bought from specialist retailers such as Link-a-Board and Harrod Horticultural, garden centres and online retailers such as Amazon.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.