Vermont Public is independent, community-supported media, serving Vermont with trusted, relevant and essential information. We share stories that bring people together, from every corner of our region. New to Vermont Public? Start here.

© 2024 Vermont Public | 365 Troy Ave. Colchester, VT 05446

Public Files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact or call 802-655-9451.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Raise Your Gardening Game With Raised Beds

A raised garden bed with herbs and veggies is watered from a watering can.
Patrick Daxenbichler
Building a raised bed - whether its a simple wooden frame or made from concrete or brick - can create a great growing space with well-drained soil for your plants and veggies.

Early spring is the perfect time to build some raised beds. First, though, there are some things to consider, like the size of the raised bed and the material you’ll use.

Stones, cement and metal are great material choices to build your frame, but most folks use wood. Get the most rot-resistant wood possible for your project. Cedar is expensive but can last 10 years. Hemlock and spruce woods are more cost-effective though not quite as long-lasting.

Your raised bed can be any shape but a simple rectangle or square works just fine. Use two-inch diameter boards so they’ll last through wet and dry seasons and build your frame 10 to 12 inches tall and three to four feet wide.

Aim to build your frame no more than eight feet long. Even then, you might need a bracing board so the raised bed sides don’t bow over time.

Once you have your raised bed frame built, plan for other issues that can happen. Sometimes the wooden corners will rot out. To remedy this, you can try metal raised-bed corners. These work well and you can reuse them even after you replace older wooden boards on your raised bed.

You might also have critter issues, like listener Ursula in Pittsford. Ursula asked what to do about moles invading raised beds and chewing beets and carrot tops.

If you lay down some hardware cloth underneath your raised bed while you’re building it, this can impede small animals burrowing up and under into your raised bed garden and treating it like a salad bar. If you’re combating weeds, laying cardboard or landscape fabric down and under the bed can help with weed growth, too.

Also, building a taller version of a raised bed can work, too, as well as being easier to reach and thus kinder on your knees and back! 

Q: I’m wondering how to do succession planting in a raised bed, mine is 6-by-3 and divided into 18 squares. Do I plant one square of say spinach then harvest it and plant more in the same square? — Kim, in South Burlington

Begin in spring by planting one of the squares in your raised bed with a cool-season crop like spinach. Then when it’s warmer, try bush beans in that same space. Then later in the fall, go back to another cool-season crop like kale.

You’ll be getting three crops from each square per season! The goal is to put in plants that are similar size and similar growth patterns. This can really extend the harvest in each one of your squares.

Q: I have raised beds and have always planted my seedling tomatoes in rows. Can you explain more in detail how to change this method? — Edie, in West Marlboro

Plant tomatoes in a zig-zag pattern to use every inch possible. Keep the plants two to three feet apart, then all that soil real estate under the plants can be used for other smaller plants like greens and radishes. Try that pattern and you might have room to squeeze in a few more tomato plants.

Here’s another query from a listener Carol, in Middlebury, about raised beds:

"I have a 3-by-8 raised bed in which I plant tomatoes, lettuce, cukes, peppers, beets, and cabbage. I always plant my tomatoes in the east-most row, so that when the sun comes around from south to west, everything gets a lot of sun. My raised bed is high enough for me to sit on the edge so I plant my cukes along part of the west-most edge and train the vines so that they hang over the edge of the bed. This seems to work well but doesn't leave me much room for crop rotation."

That can be an issue if you have just one raised bed. Everything you plant fits nicely though you might not be able to rotate the crops in this configuration.

If you plant cukes and tomatoes in the same spots each season, you might want to give your soil a break for a year or two and plant them in a container and then come back to planting tomatoes and cucumbers in the raised bed.

We'll ask for pruning questions for the next episode!

a grey line

All Things Gardening is powered by you, the listener! Send your gardening questions and conundrums and Charlie may answer them in upcoming episodes. You can also leave a voicemail with your gardening question by calling VPR at (802) 655-9451.

Hear All Things Gardening during Weekend Edition Sunday with VPR host Mary Engisch, Sunday mornings at 9:35.

Have questions, comments or tips?Send us a messageor get in touch by tweeting us @vprnet.

We've closed our comments. Read about ways to get in touch here.

Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
Latest Stories