Real Men Sow

How I Made My Garden Raised Beds

Posted on by in how to with 2 Comments


Three years ago today, I was edging closer and closer to finishing my three garden raised beds.

If you’re thinking of trying raised beds, I’d thoroughly recommend them for a number of reasons, including attractiveness and the chance to control your soil. Since using my beds for the first time in 2014 I’m well and truly converted.

Now is a great time to be out building raised beds. Not much is growing, and the summer veg has been pulled up so the plot will be nice and clear and ready for your structures to be built.

Here’s my rough guide to making a raised bed.

What Material?
My raised beds are a mixture of railway sleepers and old scaffold boards. Scaffold boards are the ideal material for raised beds as they are hard wearing, sturdy and readily available. They’re reasonably cheap too. I searched ebay for mine, and found a local chap selling six footers for just a few quid each.

Railways sleepers look beautiful, but are pricey – I was lucky enough to inherit mine when mum and dad sold our old family home. Don’t be tempted by the cheaper old style sleepers that have been treated with toxic preservatives. Modern wood treatments are considered safe however but expect to pay for this.

Another bonus about scaffold boards is that they are easy to move around and install. I’ve seen raised beds made from longer lasting materials such as brick, but they’re tricky to build and once concreted in are immoveable.

What Size?
Optimum size for raised beds is between 4 and 5 feet wide. Mine are this wide, and I find they’re just the right size to be able to lean across without treading on the soil too much. You want to avoid walking on the soil as much as possible as this can cause compaction.

Settling the Boards in to the Ground
Clear the area of weeds etc, and then dig a shallow recess to sit the board in. It doesn’t have to be any deeper than an inch – just deep enough for the board to stand proud and help support it. Use a spirit level to check whether it is straight, and add soil underneath the board to even it up if need be.

Supporting Your Boards
I have supported my boards by banging stakes in to the soil on the outside of the boards at various points around the bed. The soil pushes the boards out tight against the stakes, and being rigid means the boards hold themselves in position.

You can also put a square post in each inside corner of your bed, and nail through the board into the post. This will work equally well.

Filling the Bed
Once you’ve put your bed together, its time to fill with lovely soil and organic matter! Topsoil can be bought from most gardening centres, whilst organic matter such as well rotted manure, compost or even seaweed can be picked up for next to nothing. I also used leaf mould to bulk up the soil.

Spread the soil evenly, but watch out as it the soil level will drop over time so might need to add some more soil and manure.


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  1. MattNovember 14, 2015 at 11:38 amReply

    I had some raised beds made from secondhand scaffolding boards that lasted for years. They’re a really good option.

  2. AdamFebruary 3, 2016 at 7:37 pmReply

    I’ll certainly be building raised beds in the summer at my allotment. Each time I empty the compost bins they get higher and higher!

    Thanks for the tips!

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About Real Men Sow

meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope. However, over a decade later, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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