Building Raised Beds For an Organic Garden

A few years ago when I was pregnant with Roscoe, I had a sudden Saturday urge to grow zucchini and hustled off to the hardware store to buy the wares for a small raised bed.  I sat in our driveway with the drill and awkwardly put together a rather pathetic little garden box that has nonetheless yielded some beautiful basil and tomatoes over the last few summers.  In this photo Roscoe is trying to prevent the weed-filled bed from being captured on film. 

This year with the help of my neighbors, I plan on putting together a more respectable raised bed.  Although I could just plop the plants in the dirt, raised beds provide excellent drainage for plants and also allow you to heap in all your own rich new soil. 

If you’d like directions on how to build one yourself, go to this website and check it out.  Then get some dirt, dump in those plants and see what happens.  (One tip: some websites recommend using pressure treated wood or painting the wood with stain, but you might not want those chemicals leaching into your plants.  We just chose to skip that step.)

If you have lawn you’d like to cover with raised beds, you don’t have to worry about digging out the sod.  Our neighbors gave us the great tip of going to a bike shop and getting large cardboard boxes.  Simply place the boxes along the bottom of your raised beds to stop the grass from growing up through your garden.  Then pile the dirt on top and you’re ready to go!

Squash, sweet potatoes, zucchini,  cauliflower, and sweet peas are just a few of the plants that you can easily turn into organic baby food as they are harvested.  Remember that home-prepared spinach, beets, turnips, carrots or collard greens shouldn’t be fed to babies younger than six months because of the high level of nitrates they contain. 

If you need further inspiration to grow your own organic vegetables, check out Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  It documents her family’s year of living off the land and is full of her rich and often funny descriptive writing.  You’ll also find yourself motivated to hit the farmer’s market and maybe even plant your own asparagus.  Enjoy the sunshine!



  1. Our garden is sort of raised 🙂 But we were suckers and did the digging of sod business. I couldn’t convince DH we could just do the newspaper/compost/peastraw layers and leave it. So I made him do most of the digging.

    It’s nice to see I’m not the only one who has a weedy garden!!! But I am getting stuff out of it still. Greens and herbs mostly now it’s autumn here.

    Loved the Kingsolver book.

    I’m giving away some eco bags on my blog at present 🙂

  2. TIP: To avoid the weed-filled garden bed, mulch it heavily after you’ve harvested everything. I usually put a huge pile of raked-up leaves on the garden beds in the fall. You can also mulch with straw. Not only does this prevent weeds from growing, it also keeps the rain from sapping minerals from the soil. (It also gives you something to do with all those leaves.) The leaves slowly decompose and can simply be turned into the soil in the spring. This is MUCH easier than having to pull all those weeds before you can even work the soil.

  3. What is the most nontoxic, inert material to frame (enclose) a raised garden bed? Where can I purchase this material? Thank you!

  4. Daren,

    I am not an expert, but I was looking around and read that plain, untreated cedar is a good material for building raised beds. It starts out reddish and becomes silver/gray over time. I know you’re not supposed to use painted or treated wood that can leach into the soil. I’m starting to contemplate building a raised bed myself. I hope I can do it!

  5. You rock. World needs more souls like you.

  6. organic garden will reduce global warming in the future

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