Building a garden bed can be daunting to say the least. But here at UF/IFAS we are total nerds about all things gardening and we have some tips on building a garden bed this season.  

A raised garden bed is simply a structure built to grow plants above the existing soil on a site. Raised garden beds can come in all different shapes and sizes, and they are often built from wood, plastic, or concrete.  

A garden bed made from plastic materials.
A garden bed constructed with cinder blocks.
A garden bed built with wood and nails.

Raised beds are very common because they allow us to grow in good, healthy garden soil instead of our native sandy soils (not that our native soils aren’t good and healthy too… they’re just not great for vegetables). They can be used to grow a lot of plants on a small space, making them perfect for backyard gardens. 

So when I’m teaching classes at UF/IFAS, a very common question that is asked is “how do I build a garden bed?” The best possible answer I can give is to show people a retaining wall block garden. 

A normal size for a garden bed is 8 feet by 4 feet, and anywhere between 6in – 12in deep. The first step is to go to a local hardware store and look for retaining wall blocks, you’ll need 4 of them. 

A retaining wall block, the openings in the side of the block perfectly fit a 2inch by 6inch board.

These blocks will be your corner pieces, the notches in the block are designed to fit a 2in by 6in board. Speaking of, you will need three 8-foot-long boards measuring 2in by 6in.  

Now if you do not want to use any power tools in this process then most hardware stores will allow two free cuts at the store location. All you need to do is ask for one of the 8-foot boards to be cut in half, to create two 4-foot boards. 

Now time to put it all together. Just lay the pieces of wood out in your garden to make the shape of a 4-foot by 8-foot rectangle. Then set the blocks at the corners of the rectangle and slide the boards into notches. 

The 2inch by 6inch boards can be slid between the blocks to create raised bed walls.

 Once completed, you can fill with soil and now you have a retaining wall block garden without the use of any power tools!  

A row of retaining wall block gardens that have provided harvests through several seasons.

One last note; let’s talk about soil. If you follow the directions given, you will need 9 bags of soil from the store. Each bag will need to contain 1.5 cubic feet of soil, which is usually written somewhere on the bag. 

Now you have a raised garden bed full of soil; go on and get planting! 

by Calvin Gardner

Source: UF/IFAS Pest Alert

Note: All images and contents are the property of UF/IFAS.

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