Have you ever had a garden? How about a raised bed garden? I’ve had both kinds of gardens, but today I’m sharing simple tips for starting a raised bed garden.

My youngest son recently bought a home and it came with five raised beds, in his backyard. He was so generous to open it up to the whole family. Together we are planting, maintaining and eventually we will be harvesting it. I hope you follow along this growing season and see what we plant and how it does!

“Gardeners are good at nurturing, and they have a great quality of patience, they’re tender. They have to be persistent.” — Ralph Fiennes

What is a Raised Bed Garden?

I don’t like to assume everyone is a gardener. Therefore, some of you may be asking what is a raised bed garden? Creating a raised bed garden is a form of gardening where the soil is raised above ground level and the garden is enclosed in some way. The framework for a raised bed can be made out of wood, rock, concrete or other materials.

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Starting a Raised Bed Garden - Raised Garden Beds with no plants

“There are no gardening mistakes, only experiments.” – Janet Kilburn Phillips

Why I Started a Raised Bed Garden

Like a bazillion other people in America, I was searching for ways to fill my quarantine time during the pandemic. I decided I wanted to try and grow a small garden. Here at the cottage, we don’t have an ideal spot for a large one, but I thought I could nurture a raised bed garden. So I ordered two raised beds online and Big Al put them together for me.

It wasn’t a large garden but was big enough to plant and grow a small quantity of vegetables. The best part, we had something to devote a little of our excess time to and it gave us some yummy veggies.

Three Beginner’s Steps to Raised Bed Gardening

Please know, I am not a master gardener. However, if you’re a beginner and want to grow a raised bed garden and are unsure where you should start, don’t worry, I’ve been there! I have learned a ton through trial and error, over the years, and I’m going to give you all the tips that I have used along the way. Hopefully, I can help you achieve your raised bed garden dreams!

Step 1 – Location, Location

Choosing the right location is one key to a successful garden. You want a location that receives at least 6-8 hours of sunlight per day. It’s important to note that the sun should reach both sides of your garden bed. The area you choose should also be level and well-drained.

Our family garden has three beds in direct sunlight and two that get afternoon shade. Because the beds were already there, full of soil, and not wanting to move them, we had to be very mindful of what we planted in the back two beds. I used one of them to plant Zinnia seeds! They are so easy to grow and turned out it was the perfect spot for them!

A grouping of zinnia flowers in a raised bed garden.

“Why try to explain miracles to your kids when you can just have them plant a garden.” – Robert Brault

Step 2 – Build Your Raised Beds

What size should you make your raised beds? If you are attempting to make your own, the typical size is 3 to 4 feet wide and the length depends on the space available in your garden location.

If you plan on building your own garden beds and are going to use wood, make sure it is untreated. Treated lumber can contain chemicals that can seep into the soil. Even though newer treated lumber is considered safe by the EPA, many gardeners avoid any possible risk of these chemicals contaminating their fruits and vegetables. There are plenty of DIY downloadable plans on Etsy, that you can choose from.

If building your own raised garden beds out of wood isn’t your cup of tea, then galvanized steel raised beds are a fantastic alternative. They are long-lasting, weatherproof, and come in a variety of sizes to suit your needs.

Also, your beds should be square and level. Once complete, fill your raised beds with an equal part mixture of top soil, compost and peat moss. There are other items you can fill your bed with, like worm castings. However, the mixture I suggested provides a good balance of drainage, aeration, and nutrients for healthy plant growth, giving you a great start.

The garden beds at my son’s house are home-made and quite large. Three of the beds are 4 x 8 and two of the beds are 2 x 8. Spending a day cleaning out the beds and amending your soil, each year, is a must for healthy plants, too.

Step 3 – Choose Your Plants

Now that your raised beds are ready for planting, the fun part begins! The goal of a raised bed garden is to grow your own fresh produce, so chose plants that you and your family love. Growing items you enjoy eating will make the process that much more fun and exciting!

Below are some things to consider when selecting your plants.

  • Think about your climate: Before choosing your plants, it’s important to understand the climate in your area. Different plants thrive in different climates, so make sure to choose plants that are suited for your region. You can refer to the Farmer’s Almanac to find out what your planting zone is.
  • Choose easy-to-grow plants: As a beginner, it’s best to choose plants that are easy to grow and require minimal maintenance. Some good options for a raised bed garden include tomatoes, bell peppers, lettuce, spinach, radishes, and green beans.
  • Look for plants with a short growing season: Since you’re just starting out, you may want to choose plants that have a short growing season. This will allow you to see the fruits of your labor sooner and give you the confidence to continue gardening. Who doesn’t like feeling accomplished and a little more confidence can go a long way! Am I right?
  • Consider the size of your raised bed: Make sure to choose plants that will fit comfortably in your raised bed. If you have a small raised bed, you may want to choose plants that don’t take up too much space, such as herbs or cherry tomatoes. Unknowingly, the first year we put zucchini in a bed with some bell peppers and let me just tell you, it didn’t work out so good. Zucchini grows like crazy and will take over a large space. Needless to say, we didn’t have much luck with the bell peppers that year. Lesson learned!

Simple Tips for Starting a Raised Bed Garden

I hope you have enjoyed my simple tips for starting a raised bed garden. With these easy beginner steps, you will be able to create your own raised bed garden! Consider keeping a garden journal so you can refer to it next year. This really helps in deciding what worked and what didn’t.

It’s so important to remember, you are never too young or old to learn the basics of gardening. With the right soil, a little love and hopefully the perfect amount of rain and sunshine, everyone can learn to grow a garden!

I will definitely be sharing more of our family gardening adventure, so stayed tuned for more gardening tips!

Happy growing!

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A picture of all the gardening goodies needed to help with raised bed gardening.

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  1. Such great tips, Kim! I don’t have room in our room for raised beds but my daughter is just about ready to take the plunge. I am definitely sharing this article with her. Thanks so much for a great post!

  2. Love my raised bed. Thanks for the new tips. Love the photos of the family getting involved!

  3. Love the family doing this garden together. My daughter just made a few raised gardens. The grandkiddos are all excited about it. I love it when gardening involves the family. Great tips here, Kim.

  4. Love the idea of a family garden! How fun for all of you. We do not have raised beds but are planning a few in the future. Our biggest problem…deer. I am bookmarking this post and all of your tips! Happy Weekend.

  5. Love a raised bed, mine is 36” tall. Small so I plant herbs. Maybe tomato and pepper plants.
    Love your post, links and pics.

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