How to Build a Raised Garden Bed

A Step-by-Step Guide to Building an Easy DIY Raised Garden Bed

March 10, 2021
Raised Bed Gardening Slide
DelBoy/Shutterstock

Learn how to build a raised bed—cheaply and easily—for your garden. No special DIY skills required! To get started, here is a super-simple raised bed setup. We’ll also tell you what kind of material to use, how to fill a raised bed, how large a raised bed should be, and what to plant in a raised bed. Enjoy our Raised Bed Gardening Guide!

What Is a Raised Garden Bed?

A raised garden bed (or simply “raised bed”) is a freestanding box or frame—traditionally with no bottom or top—that sits aboveground in a sunny spot and is filled with good-quality soil. Raised beds are usually open on the bottom so that the plant roots can access soil nutrients below ground level.

At its simplest, you could even build a raised bed without a frame, and simply mound the soil 6 to 8 inches high and flatten the top. This requires no additional materials (beyond soil).

Benefits of Raised Garden Beds

Grouping together several raised beds makes for a substantial vegetable garden that is easy to maintain, with no weeding and crops that mature fast.

In raised beds, you will be planting seeds and transplants closer because the beds are smaller and the soil is richer. However, plants grown close together in raised beds mature faster, since they compete for nutrients and sunlight. Each plant senses the distance of others and adjusts its metabolism to compete. Several university studies have proven this “competition syndrome” by identifying how plants perceive others nearby using the green light spectrum.

Here are more benefits to raised garden beds:

  • Garden chores are made easier and more comfortable thanks to less bending and kneeling. Save your knees and back from the strain and pain of tending the garden!
  • Productivity of plants is improved due to better drainage and deeper rooting.
  • Raised beds are ideal for small spaces where a conventional row garden might be too wild and unwieldy. Raised beds help to keep things organized and in check.
  • Planting in a raised bed gives you full control over soil quality and content, which is especially important in areas where the existing ground soil is rocky, nutrient-poor, or riddled with weeds.
  • Raised beds allow for a longer growing season, since the soil raised above the ground warms up more quickly.
  • Fewer weeds are seen in raised beds because the beds are elevated away from surrounding weeds and filled with disease- and weed-free soil.
  • Raised beds allow for easier square-foot gardening and companion planting.

Learn more about the benefits of raised garden beds

Image: Raised bed gardening. Credit: CJP/Getty Images.
Image: Raised bed gardening. Credit: CJP/Getty Images.

Choosing the Right Wood for Raised Beds

Raised beds can be made out of quite a few different materials, but the most common one is wood. However, many people are concerned about the safety of their wood frame. Rest assured that CCA pressure-treated wood is now banned, as it was known to leach arsenic, and you won’t find it in stores. Today, safely treated and untreated woods are available.

  • Untreated wood will start to rot relatively quickly, depending on the type. There are exceptions, though: Cedar is the top choice for raised beds because this durable wood is naturally rot-resistant and can last 10 to 15 years. It is also insect-resistant because of oils in the wood. The downside is that it’s expensive.
  • Modern treated wood has chemicals to prevent rotting. Studies have shown that any compounds that leach out are well within safe levels established by the EPA, however some gardeners feel uncomfortable with treated wood. If you are concerned about using treated timbers, line the inside of the bed walls with polyethylene.
  • Another option is to simply choose much thicker boards of untreated wood. For example, a 2-inch-thick board of larch wood should last a decade without treatment. 

Alternatives to traditional wood planks include:

  • Railroad ties (treated) are easy because you can simply lay them on the ground and drive in iron spikes. Railroad ties treated with creosote do not appear to pose any health problems because most of the creosote has leached away. 
  • Pallets can be a cheap source for garden bed materials, as long as you know where they came from. Pallets are developed for shipping materials. Avoid pallets that are also treated with a chemical called methyl bromide, a known endocrine disruptive chemical which can impact your reproductive health. Most pallet producers stopped using the chemical in 2005, but many old pallets are still out there. Look for a stamp on the pallet that says “HT” or heat treated. If there is no stamp or you can’t verify an HT on the surface, don’t use the pallet in your garden. 
  • Stone or concrete blocks and bricks can be used. However, keep in mind that concrete will increase the soil pH over time, and you may have to amend the soil.
  • Stone walls make interesting beds and have a rustic feel; if stone is easily available on your land, this could be a great option; otherwise, stone can be pricey.
  • Composite wood is a newer product made from both recycled plastic and wood fibers. It’s rot-resitant and long-lasting, but also very expensive.

Another fast, cheap method of building raised beds is to use concrete construction (cinder) blocks. Their holes can be filled with soil mix and planted with herbs or strawberries. The extra gathered heat from concrete is perfect for Mediterranean-type herbs such as rosemary and lavender. Strawberry plants grow huge and fruit fast in the holes. Each block is 16 inches long by 8 inches high; the price at big box stores is most reasonable. Beds of 13 feet or longer by 4 feet wide are cheaper to build using blocks than with cedar boards.

How Big Should Your Raised Bed Be?

  • We recommend a maximum of 4-feet across. (Lumber is often cut in 4-foot increments.)
  • Do not go wider than 4-feet width so that you can access the garden without stepping into the bed (which compacts the soil, making it harder for plant roots to get the oxygen they need). Making the bed too wide will make it difficult to reach the middle, which makes weeding and harvesting difficult, too. 
  • If your raised bed is being built against a wall or fence, we recommend making it 2 to 3 feet wide, since you’ll only be able to access the garden from one side. 
  • Length isn’t as important. So, your raised bed can be 4 x 4 feet or 4 x 8 feet or 4 x 12 feet. Make your bed as long as you like or build multiple raised beds for different crops!

wood-four-ft-across_full_width.png

How Deep Should a Raised Bed Be?

The most basic height for raised beds is 6 inches. This is about the width of one standard 2 inch x 6 inch board. (Note that boards bought at a lumber yard are actually 1.5″ thick x 5.5” high.)

bed-1-plank_1_full_width.png

The most popular height for raised beds is about 1 foot. (If buying boards at a lumber yard, that’s 11 inches high. This is the height of two stacked “2 x 6″ boards.)

bed-2-plank_full_width.png

You can certainly go taller (18 inches, 24 inches, 36 inches), but note that the weight of the added soil will add pressure to the sides. You’ll need to add cross-supports to any bed over 12 inches high.

The depth of the soil itself is very important and depends on which crops you wish to grow, as well as how much soil is above the ground versus below the ground.

  • Shallow-rooted crops (such as lettuce, greens, and onions) need a minimum soil depth of 6 inches.

  • Deep-rooted crops such as carrots, parsnips, potatoes, tomatoes, and squash need a minimum soil depth of 12 to 18 inches. If plants don’t have loose soil to this depth, the roots will not be able to go down deep enough to access nutrients.

Whatever height you choose for your frame, you’ll need to loosen the soil below the ground accordingly. For example, if you have a bed that’s 6 inches high, we recommend loosening the soil below the ground about 6 to 9 more inches if you wish to grow root vegetables. If you are only growing shallow-rooted crops, there’s no need.

You can certainly build beds of different depths in your garden! If you’re growing shallow-rooted crops, it would be a waste of soil to build a bed that’s 11 inches in height.

Where to Put a Raised Bed

Before you even get started, see if you have a good location for a raised garden bed.

  • Most vegetables need 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight a day (“full sun”), especially from lunchtime onwards.
  • Level, even ground. 
  • Close to the house for easy access for weeding and harvesting
  • Do not site your bed in a windy location nor in a frost pocket. 
  • Soil needs to drain well, so avoid any wet or marshy areas.

Preparing the Site: “No-Dig” Aboveground Method

In spring, get ready to prepare your choosen site for raised garden bed(s).

Some gardeners will cut and roll up the turf. Many gardeners do not find it’s necessary to clear the ground as the soil will block out the grass and weeds beneath. Gardener Charles Dowding, who founded the “no-dig” method, has had great success with just adding 4 to 6 inches of organic matter onto cardboard over pasture/grass, producing masses of crops in his first year of a new bed. His philosophy is that diggingbrings weed seeds to the soil surface, creating more weeding. It hastens nutrient loss, so you’ll need to feed plants more often. And it rips apart the complex life and very fabric of your soil, reducing its ability to both drain properly and retain moisture. 

  1. Simply mow off the grass or weeds as close to the ground. 

  2. Then cover the area with cardboard which will rot down into the soil. (Make sure you pick off any tape and staples, which won’t decompose.)

  3. Be sure to overlap the cardboard/newspaper (by about 6 inches) to ensure no weeds slip through cracks.

  4. You’ll be adding your growing medium such as compost on top. (See how to fill your raised bed lower on this page.)

It’s fine to get on and plant immediately after setting up. By the time the roots reach the cardboard, it will have started to break down and the roots will be able to search deeper beyond that cardboard layer.

The compost that you add on top should gradually become incorporated with the soil beneath, through the actions of worms etc. Beds will need topping up with fresh organic matter (an inch or two) each fall/winter, which will help to gradually improve the fertility and health of the soil, including that below the level of the raised bed. This means you should be fine growing deeper-rooted veggies like root crops. 

cardboard_full_width.png

Preparing the Site: Digging Belowground Option

In soils that are damaged by compaction or have other problems, digging below the ground may be necessary to help build up the soil. It’s hard work if your soil is compacted but it only needs to be done once. This is most important for deep-rooted crops such as carrots which do better in soil that has been loosened and amended down to 10 to 12 inches to allow the air and water to get to the plants’ roots. 

  1. Mark the area with a hose or string. If possible, use a leveler to make sure the ground is flat or a very slight slope (with water running away from area).
  2. Remove the top layer (about a shovel’s depth or 10 inches); it may be easiest to work in rows.
  3. Remove all rocks, old roots, and plant debris.
  4. Dig down a little further with the shovel (a few more inches) to just loosen up the soil. 
  5. Mix the soil with organic matter such as compost. We recommend that the compost make up about 25% of your soil. 
  6. Then return the top layer and mix the soil layers together. 

Learn more about soil preparation and how to build up your garden soil

Building a Simple Raised 4x4 Garden Bed

It’s fine to buy a commercial raised garden kit, but they can have cringe-worthy prices. You don’t need to spend that kind of money to build your own four-by-four-foot bed (or even a 20-foot-long one).

We’ll show you how to build a 4x4-foot raised bed, which is a good beginner template because you can walk around the entire garden easily.

This 4x4-foot bed is crowded with productive peppers, cucumbers, a tomato plant and insect-repelling flowers that are edible.
This 4x4-foot bed is crowded with productive peppers, cucumbers, a tomato plant and insect-repelling flowers that are edible.

Materials

  • Two 2x6-inch cedar boards, which don’t rot with age. They come in 8-foot lengths, which is perfect for 4x4-foot beds. You’ll need to cut each plank in half, so that it is 4-feet long. Or, you can have a home improvement/lumber store make the cuts. Many places will do it for free.

  • 3-foot length of a 1x1-inch pine stake; you’ll need to cut it into four pieces, which you’ll add to the corners of the frame for bracing.

  • Deck/exterior screws

Tools

  • If cutting the planks yourself: Hand saw, tape measure
  • Drill/driver and bits, screwdriver

Make the Bed Sides 

  1. If your two 8-foot long boards were not pre-cut at the lumber store, mark off the half way point and cut each plank in half for a 4 ft x 4 foot bed. Then you’ll have four planks. 
    planks-4_full_width.png
  2. You’ll screw the planks together using decking screws. Two holes at the end of each plank is sufficient. Drill pilot holes using a drill bit slightly thinner than the screws themselves. One end of each plank will overlap the end of the next and screw directly into it, so position your pilot holes correspondingly.
    drill_full_width.png
  3. If you’d like extra bracing and a sturdier frame, cut your pine stake into four pieces and use them to nail the boards at the corners for bracing. 
    how to build raised garden beds

Assemble the Raised Bed

With all the wood cut to size and the holes drilled, we’re ready to begin putting together the bed.

  1. Lay down the beds. The walls need to be laid out so that each plank overlaps the next with the pilot holes located at the overlapping end.
    framing_full_width.png
  2. Screw the walls together with long screws so that each wall is probably secured to the next.
    screwdriver_full_width.png
    We want a snug, close fit. 
    screw-external_full_width.png

Fill the Bed

  1. Fill your bed with a nutrient-rich compost mix (homemade or commercially-produced). 
    compost_full_width.png
  2.  Then, top the compost with enriched top soil especially formulated for vegetable gardening. It has a fine texture to allow for immediate sowing and planting. 
    topsoil_full_width.png
  3. Fill your beds all the way up! The soil will settle, especially with watering. As it settles, you can always top off with compost.
    bed-finished_full_width.png

That’s it! Your bed is ready for seeds and plants. 

Watch our friend Ben share more tips and demonstrate how to build this raised bed in this video:

Filling a Raised Bed

The most important part of any garden is the soil, and the more organic matter it contains, the better. Soil microbes are fed, oxygen and water readily reach roots, and plants thrive as a result. Here is the balance to aim for:

  • 40% compost: Compost is packed with nutrients for plants. While you can compost at home, it can also be purchased in bags from your local garden center. Aged manure can also be used, but you can NOT put fresh manure directly in your garden. Learn more about manure.
  • 40% topsoil: In terms of topsoil, we’re not talking about “potting soil,” as it’s too fluffy for raised beds. You’ll also find bagged topsoil at a garden center or local farm supply or lumber store. 
  • 20% aeration: In terms of aeration, a lot of bagged soil mixes already contain some perlite, pumice, or rice hulls. If not, you need to add something for drainage. Lava rock is also a good aerator for drainage.

If you are filling a lot of raised beds, we’d recommend that you look into a local landscape company for build soil and compost mixes which should be cheaper. But if you’re just filling up a small bed, bagged is the way to go.

There are two approaches to filling your bed:

  1. Some folks pour in the compost (or composted manure) first and then add the topsoil (as shown in the video above).
  2. Other folks add the ingredients in layers like lasagna, mixing as they go. 

Do whatever is easier for you!

At the end of the growing season, in fall or winter, top off your raised beds with more compost. As it get worked into the soil, it will improve the fertility and will be all set for planting by spring.

Raised Garden Bed Soil Mix

Here’s the recipe we’ve developed in the last decade that works best for our garden beds.

For one 4 x 4-foot raised bed. (Multiply amounts to fill larger beds.)

  • 4-cubic-feet of top soil
  • 3-cubic-feet of coconut coir (Note: Traditionally, peat moss has been used as a component of garden soil, but given that it is not a sustainable material, we recommend using coconut coir instead.)
  • 2 to 3-cubic feet of compost or composted manure
  • 2-inch layer of shredded leaves or grass clippings.

If you use grass clippings, make sure they are not from a lawn that has been sprayed with herbicides or been fertilized with a food that contains granular herbicides to kill weeds. Both persist and will kill plants up to three years after the initial application.

Mix all materials with a hoe or cultivator and water well. Be sure to mulch well with organic matter such as more leaves or clippings or straw.

In the first year, you probably won’t need much added plant fertilizer or go light on the fertilizer. But in following years, as your food crops suck up all the nutrients, your soil will need some amending with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer (or more compost). See How and When to Fertilize Your Garden.

Once you plant, you’ll want to top off your bed with some mulch (leaves, straw, pine needles, or more compost) to retain moisture and suppress weeds. Read all about mulching here.

raised-bed-berries-straw_full_width.png

What to Plant in Raised Beds

If you’re a beginner gardener, we’d advise that you start with one raised bed and try your hand at growing some of your favorite vegetables. Utlimately, four or five raised beds grouped together makes a good-sized garden.

What you grow is only limited by the depth of your soil—which is the depth of your raised bed plus the depth of the soil you dug and loosened below ground.

What grows well in 6” soil depth:
Lettuce, salad greens, spinach, onions, leeks, radishes, strawberries, basil, chives, cilantro, dill, mint, oregano, parsley, thyme, marigolds, and other annual flowers

What grows well in 12” soil depth:
Beans, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cantaloupe, carrots, cauliflower, collards, cucumbers, garlic, kale, summer squash, Swiss chard, turnips, lavender, rosemary, sage, borage, calendula, cosmos, lantana, nasturtiums, snapdragons, sweet alyssum (plus everything in the 6” list)

What grows well in 18” soil depth:
Eggplant, okra, peppers, pumpkins sweet potatoes, tomatoes, watermelon, and winter squash (plus everything in the 6” and 12” lists)

For ideas, we have some sample raised bed vegetable garden plans—with plant lists!

Also, note that many vegetables grow best from seed, but some plants do better as young starter plants (especially tomatoes and peppers). See how to start seeds or plants.

Planning a Raised Bed Garden

To plan out the perfect garden for your space, try the Almanac Garden Planner! In minutes, you can create a garden plan right on your computer.

The Garden Planner even has a “Raised Garden Bed” feature. It also has a specific square-foot gardening (SFG) feature, which involves dividing the bed into squares to make the organization of your garden a lot simpler.

Raised garden bed. Photo by Oregon State University/Wikimedia Commons.
Square-foot gardening in a raised bed. Photo by Oregon State University/Wikimedia Commons.

Whichever garden you select, the Garden Planner will show you the number of crops that fit in each space so you don’t waste seed or overcrowd. There’s also a companion planting selector so you pair or group crops that thrive together.

Test out our Garden Planner with a free 7-day trial—plenty of time to play around and plan your first garden! 

gp-plan_1_full_width.png

Learn More

  • Check out our Plant Growing Guides for advice on growing all of the most popular vegetables, fruit, herbs, and flowers.
  • See the Planting Calendar to find out the best days to plant all your common vegetables, herbs, and fruit.

Have you ever thought about building your own raised garden bed? Or do you have one already? Tell us about it below!

2022_gardening_calendar_spring_ad_1.png

Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

If I were to do a 12 inch

If I were to do a 12 inch raised garden over a spot that was previously a garden , should I place landscape fabric under the raised garden between the ground and raised garden? Or should I just double dig the ground and place new compost soil over it?

There’s no need to place

The Editors's picture

There’s no need to place landscape fabric underneath the raised bed, unless you have a problem with perennial weeds which might make their way into the raised bed. 12 inches of soil will be enough for most vegetables, so you don’t need to dig the ground beneath either.

I am thinking of building a

I am thinking of building a raised veg garden. Because of back issues I am thinking I would like to build one 3 ft high at lease. I am also on a limited budget. As I will only need 12" or so of soil for the vegies, what could I use to fill in the bottom 2 feet that won't cost a fortune?

Some people fill the bottom

The Editors's picture

Some people fill the bottom of taller raised beds with rubble as this is often available free or cheaply. 

What can you fill the bottom of a taller raised bed

What would be advised that would not impact the “organic” status of our garden?

Raised garden, plastic lining

Raised garden, plastic lining or not??

would it effect my ground

would it effect my ground water in any way to have a raised bed garden right near and around my well? It would be an organic garden, but wondering if this should be avoided altogether Thanks

I want to use cinder blocks

I want to use cinder blocks to make some raised beds. We have 150 of them hanging around. I understand there is ash that comes from coal in the cinder blocks, so they are not advised for food crops. Actually some articles say it will leech, some say it would take chemicals to make it leech. I keep reading you can line the beds with plastic. Can you all tell me what type of plastic you are using? Is it something special?

When lining raised beds, most

The Editors's picture

When lining raised beds, most people will use an impermeable plastic sheet that is thick enough to last a long time. If you’re unsure of its suitability for food crops, read the label or contact the manufacturer for advice.

You might consider using weed

You might consider using weed barrier cloth. It doesn't break down so much and won't allow a pool of water lying in the bottom

I am placing a raised bed on

I am placing a raised bed on an old rock garden. It has a couple inches of pea rock. Should I move all the rock out or just fill with new soil on top? Is it good for drainage or better to move the rock?
thanks

You can build the raised bed

The Editors's picture

You can build the raised bed on top of the rocks. They will provide good drainage and keep weeds at bay.

Hello. My husband made me 2

Hello. My husband made me 2 raised garden beds next to the house. Last year we tried our first garden. He had treated the inside so it wouldn't rot. He put down rock first, then mulch & then soil. The plants were really dry looking even though I watered. Tomato plant only produced a tiny tomato. Strawberry plant produced 1 or 2 strawberries. Zucchini didn't produce. Oh....& we ended up with these great big mushrooms along the roots & around edges of the bed. Dumping everything in beds & starting over this spring. Could you help me out on what we messed up on please? & should I use plastic being would was treated & stained?

what kind of soil? it's all

what kind of soil?

it's all about the soil!

Make your Beds out of 2'x 6'x

Make your Beds out of 2'x 6'x 8' Red Cedar and they will last 10 years or more.

Garden Soil
Mushroom Soil (Compost)
Compost
Perlite
Vermiculite

Call your local Landscape company they can deliver up to 6 yards. This will fill 3 Beds 4' wide x 8' long x 1' deep They will mix it for you also.
Get half Garden Soil half Compost and a big bag of perlite or vermiculite to mix in the Garden Beds as you fill. Mix in quite a bit you want nice and light Soil.

Perlite - a form of obsidian characterized by spherlulites formed by cracking of the volcanic glass during cooling, used as insulation or in plant growth media.

My first concern is, what did

The Editors's picture

My first concern is, what did your husband treat the inside of the beds with? You need to make sure that it’s an eco-friendly wood treatment since you’re growing food in that soil. If it wasn’t, instead of starting from scratch again, lining the inside of the bed with plastic will help prevent any chemicals leaching into the soil.
Raised beds do tend to dry out quickly so need plenty of irrigation, and if your growing medium is mostly garden soil then this will dry out much faster than if it was mixed with plenty of compost (or you could use bagged potting soil). Soil on its own is also unlikely to be rich enough for good fruit production. I wouldn’t worry too much about the mushrooms though - their presence is often a sign of healthy soil. 

I will be trying my hand at a

I will be trying my hand at a raised garden this spring. I want to plant cucumbers, tomatoes, okra, yellow squash, bell pepper and maybe some romaine lettuce. What size bed should I be thinking about? I don't can, and I don't have a large family to feed.

We're happy to help. You

The Editors's picture

We're happy to help. You mentioned that you don't have a large family but how many folks do you wish to feed?  Here's a plan for four people:
http://www.almanac.com/vegetab...
Also, we have a Garden Planner that will help you determine the size of your bed and the spacing for plants.  Try it out for free here: http://gardenplanner.almanac.c...

The links were very helpful,

The links were very helpful, thanks!

what size wire mesh should be

what size wire mesh should be putdown to keep gophers out of a raised bed

Hi Greg, 1/2-inch hardware

The Editors's picture

Hi Greg,
1/2-inch hardware cloth is the best choice. Some hardware stores may have something that is called gopher wire.

I'm getting ready to build

I'm getting ready to build raised beds for my front yard. Because they'll be in front, I'd like them to be more aesthetically pleasing and paint them white to match the house trim. But I'm not sure what paints are safe to use, if any. Most eco-friendly paints I've seen are interior only. Do you know of any, or can recommend any, that are exterior paints and are also safe for the garden? Thank you!

Hello! I want to build a

Hello! I want to build a large cedar garden box on concrete and am still a little confused abVout drainage. Do you recommend creating a bottom out of slats and landscape material and blocking it up? Or just giving it a layer of gravel on the bottom? If I give it a layer of gravel, do I still need to block the wood up?
Thanks!

Lots of people do put raised

Lots of people do put raised beds directly onto concrete these days, but I’m not sure it’s the best idea. Here's a solution though: The easiest way to ensure drainage when putting raised beds directly onto concrete is to cut some small holes in the sides of your raised beds at the bottom to allow excess water to escape. You might want to line the beds with landscape fabric before adding your growing medium to stop the soil leaking out along with the water.

I've been planning a raised

I've been planning a raised bed for ages, but it's been repeatedly put on hold because money is an issue right now. However, I've found a warehouse near me that routinely has lengths of untreated pine available for free. Can you tell me:
How long will entirely untreated pine last?
How much will lining the box with plastic prolong the life of the boards?
How long would treated the boards with a food-safe sealer prolong the life of the boards?
I live in a moderately dry climate, if that effects anything. Thanks for your help!

The lifetime of untreated

The Editors's picture

The lifetime of untreated pine really depends how thick it is. Thicker wood will obviously take longer to rot. I’d expect you to get a minimum of 5 years out of untreated pine (unless extremely thin), and perhaps up to about 10 years if it’s quite thick (e.g. 2” x 6”).
Using a plastic lining will avoid having damp soil against the wood and will extend the life of the boards -- how long for will probably depend on the type of plastic used. On your question about treating the boards: Again, it would depend on the treatment used. The product should state how often your wood will need to be re-treated, which may give some indication of its lifespan.

The area where I'd like to

The area where I'd like to have a raised garden is full of tree roots and stumps. It was a cedar grove we cleared had cleared for a garden. Do we need to work up the soil or can we put beds over the existing soil and the roots of plants such as tomatoes will be able to grow deep enough? I have been composting with worms, saved boxes and newspapers. Plan to use the cedar logs for the beds. We could have someone come in and pull out the stumps and break up the soil to help with the old roots. Some of the soil looks really good while most is orange sticky clay and very rocky. I don't think we can dig by hand or till with all the roots and stumps.

If the trees are dead, then

The Editors's picture

If the trees are dead, then they will rot down. It’s possible that they might ‘rob’ nitrogen from your soil as they rot, so you might find your plants need some additional nitrogen fertilizer, but otherwise it should be fine as long as you use a good rich growing medium. If the roots are attached to living trees, then you will probably find that the roots not only suck up nutrients and water intended for your vegetables, they also invade the beds. Raised beds are a great solution where the underlying soil is very difficult to work, and cedar makes great wood for raised beds; it’s very long-lasting. About 12 inches should be deep enough for most vegetables, but for root crops you might want to build a deeper bed. 

Hi I have a LOT of old wood

Hi I have a LOT of old wood from the prebious owners of my house that I would like to turn into raised beds. I'm worried about cca in the wood that could leech into the soil. Is there a way to test for or prevent this?

This link gives information

The Editors's picture

This link gives information on how to identify if your wood has been treated with CCA, including where to purchase arsenic testing kits: http://www.beyondpesticides.or...
If in doubt, do not use anywhere near your edible plants.
 

Pages