Building a Raised Garden

Learn tips for building a raised garden from Simple & Delicious Food Editor Amy Welk-Thieding, RD.

By Amy Welk-Thieding

Ever since my mother-in-law, Sharon, dropped off a pail full of tomatoes one summer, I dreamt of what it would be like to have my own garden space. I was giddy with excitement about the idea of just walking outside to pick my veggies for a side dish for dinner. I thought about freezing my own tomato, pizza and spaghetti sauces. Best of all, I love the taste of fresh-picked produce straight from the garden: Salsas, tomato basil salads, and even the simplicity of a fresh tomato cut into quarters and sprinkled with a little salt.

In the summer of 2010, the timing was right for us to make a raised bed garden—the materials were on sale and I knew where I wanted to put it in our yard. When we discussed size and location, I had just read in a do-it-yourself gardening book that one way to make a raised bed is to make it only 4 feet across, so that you can reach in from both sides of the bed and never have to walk across it. The raised bed has been great for weeding and harvesting…and for my knees as well! With the raised bed, I found it's the perfect height to sit on a 5 gallon bucket and pick the weeds.

For location, I watched the sun and how it moved around our yard and noticed where the shadow of our house fell. I found about a 16 foot area with no shadow and full sun. Perfect for my bed!

We built the frame of the bed with composite timbers. It was a tricky installation, as the timbers fit tightly together, and everything needed to be square, level and the cut corners had to match. Before layering dirt for the garden floor, we added wire mesh to keep any animals out. Then we filled the garden with a mixture of brown-black screened dirt mix, peat moss and organic compost.

We added a light layer of fertilizer and were finally ready to plant. For my first year, I decided to try my hand at a salsa garden. We measured and arranged spaces for our Roma and cherry tomato plants, plus a Mr. Stripey heirloom tomato plant. Once they were in place, we added jalapeno, green, sweet red, yellow and orange peppers, plus, for fun, I planted a purple bell pepper. Then to round things out, we planted onions, a little lettuce and a few rows of carrots.

I loved making Avocado Shrimp Salsa and Mandarin Salsa from my garden veggies!

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