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Have you been searching online for easy ways to build a vegetable garden? Join the increasing number of North Americans who are growing their own food in their own backyards. To build a raised garden bed, you will need some basic tools, lumber, a D.I.Y. attitude plus a little bit of time!  I would like to cover some of the preparation work that will help get your vegetable growing off to a good start.

toddler-gardening-raised-bedPreparing the site for building your raised garden bed

Raised garden bed size

Your garden beds can be built to a number of sizes. The most common sizes are 3′ x 3′, 3′ x 6′ or 4′ x 8′. Having one side measure only 3 or 4 feet long allows you to reach into the bed easily while working or harvesting. Once you know how much space you have available for your raised garden bed, you can then map out the best fit. You can always start with one this year and add a new raised garden bed the following year and so on.

In most cases, one raised bed can produce a lot of vegetables. Even a small 3′ x 3′ bed can produce a nice amount of edible vegetables once you know how to plant it correctly. If you use the square foot gardening method, this will give you nine sections to plant in.

The factors of sun and shade 

Finding the best location to set up your raised vegetable garden is about finding the spot where your bed will face south, thereby getting as much southern exposure as is available on your property. This is perfect for South facing homes as you can use your easement in front of your sidewalk to grow food. Your vegetable plants will require a minimum of five to eight hours of direct sun. Eight hours of sunlight is what we call “the sweet spot” when it comes to direct sunlight.

Before setting up the raised bed take some time each day to look at where any shadow lines appear on your site. These are usually from trees, buildings or any other high structures. Take note with pen and paper, writing down how many hours of sunlight each potential location receives each day. The area that clearly receives the most sun will more than likely become the best location to build your raised garden bed.

Windy locations

If you live in a windy area, it’s a good idea to choose a sunny, but sheltered spot. A fence nearby can really help act as a wind barrier. So can hedges, shrubs or the walls of a garage or shed.

Leveling the raised garden bed:

When you’ve finally scouted the perfect location for your raised bed, have chosen a plan to follow, you can build and level your project. I like to remind people about this important step, because it can affect the way your vegetable plants will grow and whether they will thrive of not. The easiest way to level a raised bed is to use a water level to make sure that the planter is level on all sides. It is ideal to build the raised planter bed as level as possible to avoid having water run off to one area or pooling in another. If you find one corner is too low, you can remove material from under the other corners to allow the raised bed to level out.

If you are planning to build the raised bed on your lawn, I always recommend removing the sod as it allows for better soil drainage and easier worm access.

TIps for keeping animals and other pests out of your raised garden beds:

Use a motion-activated garden sprinkler near your garden, aim it away from the garden bed and toward the creature’s usual approach path. This works well for raccoons, squirrels, rodents and other such critters.

For preventing underground creatures access to your root vegetables, line the bottom your raised garden frame with a tight-knit chicken wire, attach it to the frame securely before filling with soil. This will help block out tunneling creatures such as moles.