11 Tips to Consider When Designing a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden

Raised bed garden with tomatoes
During my quest to make my raised bed vegetable garden layout more efficient and easier to maneuver through I've learned some helpful raised bed garden tips that may help gardeners to avoid the same mistakes I made when planning and setting up my first raised bed vegetable garden layout. If you keep these ideas in mind while you are designing your raised beds you can make your gardening experience as good as it can be. Here are 11 tips for planning your best raised bed vegetable garden!

11 Tips and Ideas to Consider when Designing a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden

  1. Set up the raised bed garden the right way in the beginning!

  2. Plan your raised garden bed exactly how you want it because it can be difficult to move later. Trust me, I know! Make it adaptable so that you can add more raised beds as you need them. There is never enough space in the garden and you will eventually want a larger garden. Make sure the raised bed garden is expandable as you may want to add more raised beds later.

  3. Make each vegetable bed a separate box garden.

    Originally I connected a few beds together and discovered that it was a pain to move around. When I attached the beds together I found that I either had to climb across them or make a long trek around the beds to get to the other side. Smaller unattached beds will allow for greater mobility. A 4'x8' is probably as large as you need and a 4'x4' box garden works very well. Follow the next tip and you will be on the right track! Square or rectangular beds are a simple and efficient use of space.
  4. Leave a space of at least 2 feet between beds for easy access.

    Larger spaces might be better for wheelbarrow access or (if needed) handicap access. Your vegetable garden's raised bed arrangement should make things convenient for planting, harvesting, and cleanup. You want a garden that is comfortable to move around which makes your time in the garden much more pleasant! 
  5. Consider the best materials for building your raised bed.

    Designing a Raised bed vegetable garden
    Over time the initial costs of the materials will even out. Stone will last as long as you could hope for but it is initially more expensive. Cedar will last much longer than other types of wood you will pay more for it. Using cedar might help your beds last 3-6 years as opposed to 1-2 for pine. I'll be replacing the pine wood I used next year. The one advantage to pine is it is cheap. Using a food safe wood sealer on the wood can help your beds last longer. How you build your raised garden beds depends on two things time and money. If you can afford it and can move stone works great because it lasts with wood you will eventually replace the raised bed. Consider alternative materials like metal for your raised beds.  Here's one raised bed I put together this year: sheet metal raised beds.
  6. Level the soil underneath the raised beds.

    A slight slope isn't a big deal but you definitely don't want your soil to flow out of the raised beds. You can also adjust for the slope with the construction of your raised beds. Just make the low end of the raised bed higher.  Don't let a sloped property discourage you from making a raised bed garden.  Raised beds can in fact be a solution to problem areas!
  7. How to execute and install an irrigation system.

    Drip lines are relatively cheap to install but soaker hoses work well too (Links to Amazon). Whichever route you take place the water line underneath your mulch, this will keep it from evaporating your money...oops, I mean water! Using a sprinkler will send water into the air which will evaporate and allow water to rest on the leaves of plants which can contribute to fungal diseases.
  8. Sunlight!

    Position the garden to maximize the amount of light it will receive. Most vegetables like full sun and will thrive in open areas with plenty of exposure. Find a location that gets a minimum of 8 hours of light, but for most vegetables the more light the better.  For those vegetables and plants that may prefer less sun consider interplanting taller vegetables as shade cover or use a trellis with a vine vegetable like cucumbers to cover the more sun sensitive plants.
    Summer squash blossom grown in raised beds

  9. Plan what kinds of plants and vegetables you want to grow ahead of time.

    This will help to determine how much space you need. Consider making a layout of each vegetable bed to help plan it out. Graph paper works well for a quick and easy sketch garden plan. Consult the back of the seed packets for space recommendations.  Proper spacing of your plants can reduce fungal diseases and make it easier for harvesting your vegetables.
  10. Consider companion planting your plants to maximize space.

    Many plants have repellent properties to ward of pests and others help enrich the soil with nitrogen fixing properties like members of the legume family. Herbs make good companion plants as do many flowers. Some plants may be used as a trap crops to catch pesky bugs like aphids then maybe either removed from the garden or treated with insecticidal soap. Flowering plants attract pollinators which are always helpful! Companion planing isn't going to protect your plants 100% but it will significantly reduce your crop losses due to insects.  I think it's an essential part of any garden plan!
  11. Arrange the raised vegetable beds to make them suitable for crop rotation.

    Plants need different nutrients in different amounts and a heavy feeder in one year needs to be replaced by one that nourishes the soil. Crop rotation will help improve the sustainability of your garden. Make sure that you plan ahead for a good crop rotation and never plant the same bed with the same vegetables the following year.
  12. Compost!

    Putting your compost bin near your garden will make things much more convenient. Your vegetable garden will produce waste material which needs to be dealt with and composting is the best way to do it! Using soil high in organic matter (like compost) helps your raised bed provide all the nutrients your plants need. Organic content allows the roots to gather available resources like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium much more easily. Plus it holds water well which reduces your irrigation needs. If compost isn't convenient consider other organic matter that will break down fast like grass clippings, leaves, or straw as amendments. If it's convenient animal compost is great to use in the garden too, just make sure that it is completely broken down. Never use chicken manure directly on the garden as it will burn the plants.  Compost bins are easy to put together with some old leftover pallets, wire mesh and posts, fencing materials or can even just be a pile in the corner of the garden.  Turn your compost periodically and continue to add new green material to keep the bin composting.
    Picture of compost bins made from fence panels

  13. Whether you have been gardening for a while or are just now starting your first vegetable garden I hope you can find these tips useful! If you have questions please leave a comment below or ask on the Growing The Home Garden Facebook page!

    For More Raised Bed Vegetable Garden Tips 
    please read this post: 3 More Things About Raised Beds.

    Also check out this page to read more posts about vegetable gardening.

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