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Can you talk to me about making raised beds?

(26 Posts)
TheCountessofFitzdotterel Fri 17-Feb-17 13:51:33

I have some weedy vegetable patches I would like to replace with raised beds, for neatness and ease of weed control.

Not sure where to start! I have no woodworking skills but am generally pretty practical. Should I buy kits (eg these) or is it actually really simple and much cheaper to buy wood and make my own from scratch?

And what do I fill them with? I have a massive garden so it seems like there ought to be some soil to spare somewhere, but would it be much easier to buy topsoil so it can be guaranteed weed free? Or is that stupidly expensive?


Cathpot Fri 17-Feb-17 17:45:59

Hi- we did it the expensive way and got sleepers and topsoil in and made a waist high raised bed with a layer of gravel , then ordinary soil, then topsoil. I love it but it really did cost quite a bit in the end and actually you only need the top few inches . I think it's just as easy to get the timber in and do it yourself as buy the kits if you have someone in your house who can use a saw and a drill. We built a model of ours out of lego first so we could see how to cut the sleepers to go together in the shape we wanted but if it's just a rectangle that's pretty straightforward. I can also get horse poo cheaply so I bunged in lots of that. Can you do a combination of compost from your garden and top soil?

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Sat 18-Feb-17 09:45:33

Thanks very much, Cathpot.
I can probably find some cheap manure because there are lots of stables round here.
For now the compost we have made is tainted with weed seeds (because I let nettles grow round it last year) so I am thinking of getting sterilised topsoil for a couple of the beds and our own compost/topsoil for others, then I can do the thing where I encourage weeds to germinate so I can hoe them out.
I don't want to make them too high though the taller ones do look nice.

BarchesterFlowers Sat 18-Feb-17 09:53:22

We have used both sleepers and fence rails. Sleepers we did 2 high, so a 12 foot sleeper cut ⅔ along the length gives 8 x 4 beds. 2 sleepers high needs 4 sleepers, I think they were about £10 each on offer at a local woodyard. You can sit on the edge quite comfortably grin.

We have made some using old fence rails too, 2" x 4" - four high, we made those 3ft square.

I have got chickens and the extra height serves me well, they only seem to mess about with them when they are empty.

I have got horses so more manure than I need. We mixed it with soil from the garden and left it over winter before using them.

I love them, much easier to keep clean and weed free.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Mon 20-Feb-17 08:17:03

Thanks, BarchesterFlowers. That's an interesting point about the chickens. I don't have any right now but have before in my old house and might again and they did used to flick the soil out of the 2 beds I had there.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Mon 20-Feb-17 18:14:42

Well, I have bitten the bullet and ordered the Scaffolding Direct ones!
One is going to be an asparagus bed so I might go for bought topsoil plus manure for that one and soil and compost from the garden for the rest.

Cathpot Mon 20-Feb-17 18:44:52

Fab! Picture when you've done??

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Tue 21-Feb-17 07:15:11

Yes, I will take some 'before' pictures today too smile

shovetheholly Tue 21-Feb-17 07:41:44

Those Scaffolding Direct ones look pretty solid and a good price! smile I think those are the best ones I've seen for quality/price.

I build mine out of pressure treated gravel boards from B&Q - it was dead easy with a cordless screwdriver. I bought 2 x 3 metre lengths (£4 on offer currently) and 1 x 2.4 metre length (£3 on offer) per bed, and just cut the 2.4 metres in half, then screwed the whole lot together using 2x4 in the corners and some screws and cornerplates from Aldi. It worked out cheaper than the Scaffolding Direct ones, but the wood isn't as solid and pleasingly finished, and nor are they as high.

sunnyhills Tue 21-Feb-17 09:37:03

Another one thinking those Scaffolding Direct ones look really good value .
Thanks for sharing !

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Tue 21-Feb-17 09:42:22

They're not such good value once you take their eye watering delivery charges into account, unfortunately. I am still getting them but they're not as bargainaceous as they look (but I don't drive and dh doesn't want to spend his weekend lugging timber from B&Q, which was the decider for us in the end.)

Artandco Tue 21-Feb-17 09:42:41

How high is practical for raised beds?
We are looking to move and will have a big garden to grow things more. I would like them to be wheelchair accessible height ideally.
Would a metre high be about right?

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Tue 21-Feb-17 10:49:54

I think the wheelchair accessible ones are a metre or slightly less, but there will be detailed advice for that online, I would think.

shovetheholly Tue 21-Feb-17 15:07:28

Guidance from Thrive for wheelchair users here:

Do bear in mind that width is as important as height - if you can't reach into the middle, it's a PITA!

clarabellski Tue 21-Feb-17 16:43:46

When we moved to a new (to us) house 2 years ago we made raised beds out of the timber decking that was at the house (massive decked area which we replaced with patio because decking = death trap).

It was easy if a little physical with the sawing. We made a variety of sizes, and did double height (so about 10 inches deep from the ground). We ended up needing to buy a few extra lengths of timber but not much. We now have around 16 square metres worth of planting space.

As we'd moved house we didn't have a supply of compost yet so we bought in compost in industrial amounts which was way cheaper than buying lots of bags from the garden centre. We bought a few different kinds (green, mushroom, manure) and mixed it all up on a large tarpaulin and also bought some vermiculite to mix through to keep everything loose.

Anyway, might be worth searching freecycle/gumtree to see if anyone is giving away lengths of timber before buying any.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Tue 21-Feb-17 18:19:28

Where did you get the compost, Clarabellski?

Cathpot Tue 21-Feb-17 19:36:51

I made the mistake with ours which is in a u shape , of having a bench inside the inner bit of the u and then wires for peas across the back. This makes it quite hard to access in the middle of summer! If you are putting supports in its worth thinking about access.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Wed 22-Feb-17 07:30:55

If you have fixed supports does that mean you need to grow the peas in the same place every year?

clarabellski Wed 22-Feb-17 09:18:55

Hey countess, a couple of different places but one of them from memory was called 'Garden Solutions' as I now keep getting junk mail from them! They are Scotland based though so depends where you are. I basically just googled 'bulk compost' and found suppliers online.

For our supports we bought cheap 2metre tall arches that stake into the ground. We can move them from bed to bed each year. We string on some pea netting to the arches for climbing beans/peas. Our raised beds are in three rows and the arch way went over the path between one of the rows so it was really rather pretty when the beans grow up and over the top to create a tunnel between the beds. It did limit what you could grow in the bed that was overshadowed by the arch. We grew rocket and pak choi quite successfully though.

I should really dig out a couple of photos as it is hard to describe!

wonkylegs Wed 22-Feb-17 09:39:46

Here's one of ours made by DH from pressure treated fence gravel boards, looking a bit unkempt because last summer I'd just had a baby. We buried plastic pipes so we could put in the removable hoops (slightly smaller plastic pipes) for the netting as we have a big problem with birds eating our crops.
We made ours because the scale of our garden is pretty huge so we could make them to suit without bankrupting us - this one is our strawberry bed its about 4m x 1.2m x h0.8m - it required bracing due to the weight of the soil, it's height is perfect for me.
We filled it with a combination of compost (ours), soil from elsewhere in the garden and bulk deliveries of topsoil (2 tons for this bed) - we could have gone for a cheaper option of partial fill but this is easy to turn over and maintain.

Artandco Wed 22-Feb-17 10:43:48

WOnky - donyou think your pipe method would work for adding a cold frame over in winter also?

Has anyone added irrigation pipes inside theirs? I quite fancy being able to just add connector to waterbutt and water plants automatically once a day in summer ( on some timer maybe?)

clarabellski Wed 22-Feb-17 11:13:49

We didn't bother with irrigation but I'd imagine it would be easy enough to do.

We just use a sprinkler that which sits in the middle of the three main rows of beds and does a good job of watering. I'm too lazy to water properly with a can and we don't have too many issues with rotting leaves etc. And we live in Scotland so actually there are not that many weeks when we need to water the outdoor plants!!! wink

We also put vermiculite through our mix though to soak up any excess
water from heavy rains. Again we bought industrial quantities of it.

I'm quite excited that our compost heap is now in full swing so we don't need to buy any more compost to keep the beds topped up. It i now a self sustaining system but I estimate we spent around £300 in materials setting the whole thing up in 2015 (timber, screws, compost, vermiculite). As I said above though, we've got around 16 square metres worth of outdoor planting space which is plenty to keep us in veg for 7/8 months of the year.

wonkylegs Wed 22-Feb-17 16:30:18

Yep it would work for a cold frame too, although we have big cedar coldframes next to our greenhouse so tend to use those.
We have a solar powered automatic watering irrigation system with a timer for our greenhouse and it's truly awesome, we found we didn't need it so much for outside beds as we tended to go up and do them regularly enough but the greenhouse was a bit more thirsty and couldn't cope if we forgot to go up one day.
The problem is the vegetable garden is quite a trek from the house so sometimes we forget can't be arsed and our crops suffer.

shovetheholly Wed 22-Feb-17 19:08:50

Wonky- your beds (and garden) look gorgeous! (And not at all unkempt) You must be really pleased!

Artandco Wed 22-Feb-17 19:42:36

Yes I'm fairly lazy, and we travel a fair bit, so something that requires a bit more effort to install and then can semi fend for itself would be ideal

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