Helpful Tips for Growing a Raised Garden Bed {For Beginners}

June 05, 2024

No stress tips for starting and growing your own vegetable garden. 

The thought of trying to grow our own food used to intimidate me until so many of you helpful readers gave me a bunch of tips years ago.

Since then I have learned it really doesn't need to take much time or effort to grow your own garden! Even as a beginner, you'll get a wonderful harvest if you follow just a few simple steps. 

I planted my first vegetable garden nearly 15 years ago, and since then I've had one in the ground many times over the years. Some years life has just been too busy to get it going, and it's been a few since I had one planted. 

Up till recently I've used the very basic 4x4 beds you can buy at most hardware stores: 
4x4 cedar raised garden

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I found those trellis pieces by a dumpster and used them to keep little critters out. It definitely helped! 

I also think having the garden right next to the noisy air conditioner helped deter the wildlife.

These cedar raised garden beds are super easy to put together and a perfect for a beginner! You can buy multiples to make bigger gardens as well. 

The problem with these garden kits is the wood is very thin, so even though it's cedar and should hold up well, I found they were only last a few years at best. 

They are fairly inexpensive (as far as raised beds go), so not a huge deal. They are GREAT option if you're just starting out. 

Till this year, my process for setting up my garden beds was simply to put my kit together (you'll need a drill and screws) and then dump garden soil inside. 

That's it! No landscaping fabric, no extra steps...just soil and plants. And I always got a fruitful crop of veggies and strawberries. 

The first few times I built vegetable gardens, I didn't even remove the grass underneath. I piled the soil on and it was never an issue. 

Using a raised garden (instead of planting directly into the ground) makes it possible to experience the joy of growing your own food without a ton of work. 

There's no need to clear away weeds and grass, till your dirt, create borders, etc. A wood or metal raised garden can go almost anywhere and gives you so much flexibility! 

This time I wanted it to be a more permanent, and it worked out perfectly because last summer we got rid of a big trampoline we had in the corner of our backyard. 

It was already cleared out and landscape fabric was put down before the rocks: 
metal green raised bed in rocks

So we have a large area back there that has plenty of room for a few garden beds. 

Because I know this will be the permanent spot, I went with a metal raised garden bed this time. This King Bird garden bed is 36 by 101 inches and 18 inches tall. They have bunch of sizes and heights available. 

It's made of galvanized steel, so should hold up much better to the elements:
long metal raised garden bed

I love the green color!

It was very simple to put together and comes with plenty of extra corner pieces so you can make this larger one into two smaller garden beds. 

Because this is such a huge bed, I wanted to use whatever I could to fill it in a bit before adding soil. I used cardboard shipping boxes to cover the bottom, then took some old firewood and spread them out on top: 
old logs in bottom of raised garden

This is called hugelkultur, and as the wood breaks down, it creates healthier soil over time. Because this bed will stay put, the soil will only get better year to year. 

You can also fill your raised garden beds with branches, twigs, leaves and grass clippings. Another trick I use for my beds is to use inexpensive topsoil for the bottom of the bed, and then rich, more expensive garden soil on top.  

With smaller raised garden beds (like I mentioned early in this post), the extra filler is not needed. I would just use soil to fill them. 

I used 15 bags of top soil and seven bags of Miracle-Gro soil on top to fill my long raised garden. 

I ordered these beautiful willow expandable trellises years ago and was so excited to finally pull them out!: 
expandable willow tomato cages

Not only are they pretty, but they are helpful support for plants like tomatoes. I used one for my beefsteak, Roma and sandwich tomato plants. These are sturdier than the then wire tomato cages I've always used. 

I also placed one in between my cucumber plants. Cukes tend to vine out everywhere, so this will give them something to grab onto and go up instead of out. (I'll have to help them along, we'll see how it works!) 

Here are a few more vegetable gardening tips I've learned over the years: 
  • I've had gardens in full sun and morning sun, and the full sun gardens tend to produce more. 
  • Strawberries can be planted in the ground, but overall they do better in containers. They get better air circulation and can be kept away from pests. 
  • Play around with your spacing, as you don't want to overcrowd. But you'll be surprised at how much you can fit in a small garden! I recommend the square foot gardening technique if you're a beginner. I shared my experience as a newbie gardener more than ten years ago. 
  • It's not recommended to plant a shallow raised garden on top of rocks because they tend to hold moisture instead of letting it drain properly. I did my best to remove what was inside the metal bed, but it was hard work! I've since read that it isn't a concern as much for taller garden beds like mine. 
  • The taller the bed, the less pests you're likely to get. It's also easier on the back to have the beds as high as possible. If you're just starting out, these raised beds on legs are perfect! 
  • Vining plants like cucumbers, melons and pumpkins will expand all over the place, so giving them something like a trellis to climb keeps them off the ground and taking over. (Melons are heavier and will need additional support eventually.)
  • After planting, give your plants plenty of water. Then you can slow down to two to three times a week depending on your climate. 
  • I find as long as I get most of the plants in the ground by June, I have plenty of produce all summer long and into the fall. 
  • My first few years I never used fertilizer and still got a ton of food from the gardens. Now I fertilize every month or so during the growing season.
I'd like to add two more of these raised beds next year. My plan is to do one with earlier bloomers like lettuce in one, and later produce like pumpkins in another. That way I separate them and won't have to plant everything at once. 

I'd also love to create a cut flower garden as well! How fun would that be? 

I will add more soil to my current bed next year -- this will settle a bit and I will probably raise the soil level up a few inches. 

I'm surprised that the metal walls aren't bowing out more from the large amount of soil: 
King Bird long metal raised garden

The left is bowing a little bit, but overall I'm extremely pleased with this raised bed!

As with so many home projects, planting your own garden doesn't have to be a big laborious thing, especially for your first time. You don't have to be an expert to start your own vegetable garden!

I find it so relaxing to tend to the plants. Seeing them grow and then eating your own delicious produce is so rewarding.

Do you have more helpful tips or recommendations? Please feel free to add them in the comments. 

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  1. You'll have to update us on how they drain, I'm wondering if the metal walls will retain too much water, that happened to our container pots for our tomatoes last year, they didn't do well sadly. Prayers you have better luck.

  2. Thanks for all these great tips. I just finished reading the book you recommend, All New Square Foot Gardening, 3rd Edition and hope to build my raised beds with some leftover concrete pavers from a driveway project.
    Right now, it's super hot in my neck of the woods (Miami) but I'm making plans for the fall planting season.
    Good luck with all your plantings!

  3. Q about blackberries- known spray to keep bees, beetles from eating them on bush? Thx!

    1. Be very careful with sprays. You don't want to kill the beneficial insects like the bees. We need bees!!! Talk to a local garden expert about what's best to use. Also insect cloth will help protect plants.

  4. Nice post - I am growing all my herbs this way and I always have good a crop

  5. Thank you for this great info. I used raised garden beds with huge success in my previous backyard which had a 6ft privacy fence. However, at my new home (1 acre) I have a huge backyard but no fence yet. I have plenty of deer and other wildlife that would love to feast on my garden. I have an area in full sun where this set would work but I need to be able to prevent access to unwanted guests. Very budget friendly access, I should add.


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