Starting a Raised Bed Garden


Every morning I look out on my estate with hands at my waist a la the King of Siam and comment how all is right with the world. It is currently misting and the temperature is hovering around 50 degrees in Chicago. Normally, this would make me grumpy and research cheapest airfares to sunny locales. But this is just what my garden needs. My priorities have shifted to my raised bed garden.

A few friends inquired how to make their own raised bed garden. It is quite simple and could be setup on one weekend morning. The source text for this project was:

Front CoverAll New Square Foot Gardening, Second Edition: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More In Less Space


I got mine out of the library, but you can snag a copy for the cost of shipping. Owning the book would be helpful as a resource when new issues arise. I grew up gardening with my mom and now that I have a yard, I wanted to setup my own garden.

How to Make Your Raised Bed Garden


You only need a few items to make your box. You can fancy it up if you want or go the cheapest route like I have.

  1. 4 pieces of lumber 4ft in length. Avoid getting pre-treated lumber. You don’t want the chemicals to leach into your dirt and veggies. The wood cost about $9. I found 8-foot long planks and had them cut in half at the hardware store.
  2. Wood screws. I bought a small bag of 2-3-inch screws for about a dollar.
  3. 6 nails or screws. These are for separating the box into the grid. Not totally necessary but it helps to divide the space when planting.
  4. Twine. My mom had some extra twine, so FREE!
  5. 1 bag/3cu. ft. of Peat Moss ~$8
  6. 4-5 bags of compost. I bought an array, mushroom, cow manure, organic hummus (not for dipping). These totaled ~$10.
  7. 1 bag of vermiculite. This was the most expensive of the soil components at ~$20.
  8. Newspaper

Raised bed gardening


  1. Build yo box! It had been at least 10 years since I took shop. Drill pilot holes in the edges of the wood. Assemble the box by screwing one piece into another. Follow the pics if you need guidance. I used two screws on each joint.
  2. Decide where you want your garden. They advise to place the garden somewhere visible so you can see your progress. You want an area that gets a lot of sun and potentially somewhere within hose distance.
  3. Make your expensive dirt. The goal is equal parts peat moss, compost and vermiculite. I combined mine in an old storage bin and used a shovel to mix the mix. This wasn’t the most effective method but it got the job done.
  4. Fill your box. If you are putting your raised bed garden on grass, it’s best to put a barrier between the grass and your garden. Eventually the grass will die off. You could use a weed barrier cloth. That costs money. I used newspaper to cover the grass after I decided digging up the grass was too much effort. Start shoveling the dirt mixture into the box. The soil mix should fill your box to the brim.
  5. Water. Water your dirt mix.

Planning and Planting

The book provides great advice on when and how to start certain plants. Some are best to start from seed (radish, lettuce, beets, beans). Others can be started indoors and transplanted. Plants like tomato and peppers are best to buy at the store and transplant into your garden. They take too long to grow from seed and our climate isn’t stellar to allow for that time.

raised bed gardening

After I planted my first seeds I woke up the next morning to gaze at my handiwork only to discover someone else was also a fan of the garden. An animal had come in the night and dug out all the seeds I planted. How rude and impatient! If they just waited 6-8 weeks they could have had a full, ripe vegetable instead of a dried seed. Savages!

I wasn’t about to let an animal eat my seeds. After researching local ordinances on having an electric fence on private property I decided to scale it back and fashion a chicken wire enclosure for my garden box. Be sure to use gloves when handling chicken wire. And maybe make sure you are up to date on tetanus shots. There are some plants that deter animals, so i’ll have to grab some of those this weekend. Marigolds are a front runner for repelling most garden-loving critters.

What did I plant, you ask?

There are 16 1×1 boxes to fill with veggies and herbs. My game plan is essentially to grow a salsa garden.

Row 1: Tomatoes – roma, beefstake, cherry and herbs (basil, chives, cilantro, oregano) in the corner.

Row 2: Peppers – Bell, Poblano, Tomatillo, Jalepeno

Row 3: Salad Bar – Romaine, Arugula, Spinach, Kale

Row 4: Miscellaneous – Sugar snap peas, radishes, beets, cucumber & zucchini


About a week after planting more seeds, they are starting to grow! Back to patrolling the vegetable cage.