Building Grow Beds

Building Grow Beds - Raise Bed our front yard

I’m building grow beds, what is the best way?  I hear this question a lot.  Unfortunately, there is no simple answer.  Several factors need to be considered before you begin construction.

Consider things like

  • The location of the grow bed.   Is it going to be visible from the street?  Am I concerned about looks?  How big do I want it? 
  • What am I going to grow in it? 
  • Is it permanent or will I want to move it in a few years when I get bored with it?  Finally,
  • What is the budget?

Location

Your first consideration should always be the location of the raised bed.  This decision is mitigated by knowing what you want to grow. Are you interested in ornamentals or vegetables?  Does the bed location get enough sun to grow vegetables?  Is water easily available?  Will the grow bed run afoul of any local ordinances or your HOA?

Materials

Materials are always a big factor when coupled with budget considerations.  If HOA or local ordinances are in play, your choices may be much narrower to keep within the confines of these regulations and rules.  Where possible, my choice is untreated wood.  I prefer to use 2” x 6” or 2” by 8” lumber standard grade construction lumber.  You can use wider lumber but it gets heavy and unwieldy, not to mention the additional cost of wider material.  Some will argue that the untreated wood is shortlived when exposed to weather and insects.  It is true that compared to concrete blocks or other masonry, untreated lumber does seem shortlived.  I have found that there is not much difference between the life of construction grade lumber and more expensive treated lumber or even cedar.

Treated Lumber

On the topic of treated lumber, I advise against using it.  The new treatments are supposed to be safe to use around vegetables, but I tend to err on the side of caution.  The material has been impregnated using high pressure and temperature with some kind of chemical mixture that insects find unpalatable.  I am pretty sure I would find it unpalatable as well, so I avoid it.

Concrete Block

building Grow Beds - raised bed concrete block

Concrete blocks are another good option.  I have seen cost analysis done that says building comparably sized beds with lumber and concrete block; the block beds are cheaper.  Building beds with block require a bit more care in the preparation stage since the bed needs to be level and compacted to provide a firm level footing for the concrete block.  The blocks need to be laid in a specific fashion to make them stable.  This is not outside the capability of home DIY’ers but does require some forethought and planning. 

Decorative Stone

Along the same line as concrete block are the decorative landscape stones used to build retaining walls.  They are not much more expensive than concrete block and can create a very pleasing finished raised bed that would complement any landscape and add curb appeal.  The downsides are the weight of the stones and the need to do much more preparation on the site to ensure that the stones are level and interlock properly.  On the upside, a raised bed built of the landscape stones or retaining wall stones will usually be easily approved by an HOA.

building grow beds raised bed dry stack stone

If budget is not a consideration, more permanent and professional installations are always an option.  Brick, stone, flagstone are all options that can be considered, but most are beyond the average homeowners DIY skills.  These projects usually not only require some skill and training but also require more extensive site preparation and specialized tools.

Almost any other material can be used.  I have seen grow beds built from metal roofing material and reclaimed brick.  If the material can be raised to a sufficient height and withstand the side pressure of the soil in the bed, it should work.

Construction Details

Actual construction is a matter of taste.  As a rule, I suggest that beds be no more than 4 feet across.  Four feet is about as wide as most people can comfortably reach even if you work from both sides.  It provides a reasonable planting space.   Length is a matter of the available room.

Beds should be no less than 12” deep.  I prefer mine to be between 18” and 24”,  giving enough depth to allow any plant to be grown, including root crops such as carrots and potatoes.

Raised Bed Resource List

For more information about container gardening and gardening in raised beds visit our website at https://www.westtexasorganicgardening.com

For additional information, you can also visit the site listed below.

Texas AMU   Building a Raised Garden Bed

Texas AMU  Earthkind Raised Beds

Other Links and Resources

For more information about organic gardening, lifestyles, and living, visit our website at West Texas Organic Gardening.

If you found the information here helpful, you might also find these articles on our website of interest.

Mulch

Fertile Soil

Getting started with Raised Beds

If you have more specific questions or problems, you can contact us using the contact form on our website. You can also post your question to our community forum at this page; West Texas Organic Gardening Community Forum.

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