Cornell Cooperative Extension

October 14, 2013

Raised beds a good option for spring planting

Raised beds are a great way to grow, and now is the ideal time to get them set up so you’ll be ready to plant early next spring. 

If you’re new to gardening, start with just one. You’ll be amazed by how much it will produce and how much easier it is to manage.

There are many ways to build raised beds, so today I’ll go over some basics that you can adapt to suit your own site and needs. Gardening in raised beds lets you concentrate your efforts into a smaller area, which makes weeding, watering and tending a lot easier. 

An ideal size is 3 feet to 4 feet wide by 8 feet long. You don’t want to walk in these beds, so this size is easy to reach across and walk around. The sides are made with 2-inch by 6-inch or better yet, 2-inch by 8-inch lumber. White cedar and hemlock are preferred since they are slower to rot, but they may be hard to find. Rough-cut pine is your next best choice, but if all you can find is common pine, that’s OK, it just won’t last as long. Use wood screws to build a simple box.

You can either lay this box in your existing garden on prepared soil or right on your lawn. You don’t need to remove the sod, but you do need to either kill it first or smother it. To smother it, mow the lawn short then lay wet newspaper in overlapping layers of six sheets per layer to completely cover the area.

Set your frame on top of the newspaper, and make sure you have a full 12-inch wide band of newspaper extending out beyond the frame on all sides. I have learned the hard way that it’s much easier to stay ahead of the weeds if you don’t let any grass come within a foot of the frame. Any closer and the grass will start popping up inside your frame, and it will be very difficult to ever keep out.

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Cornell Cooperative Extension