We asked one of our our green fingered experts for tips on creating a growing area as a feature in your outdoor space. From reasons to have a raised garden bed to the things you need to build and enhance one, Rowan Godfrey from our Horticulture team shares all below.

Raised Garden Bed Advice
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Raised garden beds are becoming more and more popular, Rowan - but why build one?

Lots of people build raised beds to separate the ‘growing area’ from the lawn, either for aesthetic reasons, to make maintenance easier or to form part of a wildlife garden. These beds aren’t typically much higher than ground level, so log rolls or log panels are great here. A more 'structured' raised bed can also be used to add shape to a garden, or raise the plane of the garden above the ground if the garden covers a slope or a bank - sloping gardens can be difficult to manage, and water can run straight downhill towards the house. 

Accessibility is another top reason for choosing to create a higher level for growing. Gardening is a great stress reliever for everyone but many people, for different reasons, might struggle to pursue their hobby at ground level. Higher beds reduce the need for bending down or kneeling, and also allow gardeners to work from a wheelchair, or a seated/supported position.

OK...so what do we need to get started?

To raise the level you can either use log rolls or panels which allows a raise of a couple of inches, or sleepers - for a higher raise. Larger rocks or stones can also work as long as they fit tightly together to keep soil and moisture in. The sky is (almost literally) the limit. To fix and make the beds you’ll need:

  • Posts - For taller 3-4 sided beds use treated posts that allow you to have minimum 1ft of post knocked into the ground. For single face beds (e.g. on a slope), the posts will be taking more pressure, aim for 2-3ft knocked into the ground here and a thicker fence post.
  • Screws - I would always advise screwing raised beds together with outdoor timber screws. This way you know the bed is secure around little ones and it can also be moved / redesigned at a later date.
  • A mallet - to knock posts into the ground.
  • Electric Drill / Screwdriver - This does make life easier and faster. Pre-drill with a smaller drill bit for easy fixing of screws

What are your top tips for getting it right?

For taller raised beds - make sure you can reach the middle. 1m wide is typically suitable but you can judge your own reach and work from here. It makes weeding much easier. On slopes to terrace - Use sleepers and good quality 3ft + treated stakes to support the weight of the soil. If in doubt take professional advice from a builder. For anything over 2ft high, take professional advice from a builder. You should alway use topsoil too - feel free to mix in mushroom compost & composted manure. Multipurpose compost is not appropriate here, save this for your pots.

Always put weed matting under taller beds, particularly over grass, keep that grass and weeds at bay. If you don't want to use weed matting, use thick layers of newspaper or cardboard. For decorative flower beds with clearly defined planting, weed matting on the top of the bed with gravel can have great effect. Cut the weed matting to the size of the bed, the cut X's in the matting to plant through. Gravel around the plants. When adding more plants, draw the gravel back from the area to be planted, cut an X in the matting before planting and putting the gravel back. Use wood chip or child safe play bark as an alternative to gravel.

And which flowers are best for a raised space?

Anything can be grown in a raised bed. They’re great for the full range of veg (Carrots & Parsnips can benefit lots from fresh loose soil, but compact the soil for Cabbage & Kale). Depending on the position of the bed a central shrub that allows plenty of light can make a really strong focal point, and you can ‘underplant’ decorative grasses, bulbs & flowering plants. Treat as you would herbaceous borders, with layered planting.

Raised Garden Bed Ideas

What about maintenance - are raised garden beds easy to ‘keep’?

A raised area is fairly easy to maintain - you can paint taller beds to add a little colour to your space, and simply repaint every year. You’ll need to keep on top of the weeding, and always water plants well initially to settle them in. Then water if necessary during warm periods. Feed vegetables like Tomatoes following their care instructions. For larger beds, use a board to walk on the bed without compacting the soil.