Introduction: Getting Started With Gardening Using Raised Beds

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by Kristian Hansen, Garden Expert at the Urban Garden Workshop

Starting your very first garden can be a daunting task. This is a guide to help make your entry into gardening fun and easy, and to give you some guidelines to help foster your relationship with your backyard. By the end of this article, you should be able to answer the following questions:

• Where do I begin?
• What kind of plants should I grow?
• How should I build, construct, and prepare my garden?

Now, let’s get started!

Planning Your Garden: Site Selection & Size

The first step to a successful garden is figuring out where you are going to place it. The space that you choose will help determine the types of plants that will grow best. Spend a day figuring out where in your backyard you get maximum sunlight. Your vegetables require 6-8 hours of natural sun per day to mature quickly.

You will might also want to determine the pH level of your soil. What kind of dirt do you have available? You might have to add nutrients to the soil, compost, etc. to make it great for growing your plants.

If you’re just starting out with gardening it might be easiest to build a raised bed. These come in a variety of sizes to fit inside of your backyard. Best of all, you can always add more later or take them apart and relocate them somewhere else later on. I also like first-time gardeners to try out raised beds because you can control most of the variables, like the soil content and watering schedule best. Since California is in a draught, we need to be mindful for water and how we can use it best.

Raised Beds: Save Water & Easy to Build

A raised bed is a great way to get started once you’ve decided on the location of your garden.

Redwood or Cedar makes for great wood. Make sure it is not treated lumber (I do not recommend pressure-treated wood due to the chemicals that can leach into your food). I recommend using 2" x 6" lumber. You can cut it down to the appropriate heights and use 4" x 4" wood in the corners and secure it with carriage bolts.

Furthermore, you can make the raised bed multi-tiered to raise the overall height of your garden (12" or two tiers is great for carrots).

If you have issues with rodents (like gophers), you may want to use hardware cloth underneath your raised bed.

Irrigation & Water

If you’re growing vegetables, you’ll want to provide about an inch of water per week. I tend to water my plants in the morning or at night. 

Depending on how warm your area is you may only need to water your plants once a day or every other day. You can purchase a water timer from most nurseries for $20-50 and a simple irrigation kit of drips and tubing for another $30-50.

Vegetables & Fruits

The types of vegetables and fruits that you grow depends on the amount of sunlight and temperature you can provide for your plants. You can buy seeds online or find them at your local nursery. When I shop for seeds, I try and buy heirloom non-GMO varieties.

If you’re a little late in planning your garden, it might be time to buy starter plants. You can buy plants that are a few inches tall already and will jump-start your garden by about a month.

Depending on how big you decided to make your garden, you should set aside some space for the following:

Herbs & Spices: Thyme, Rosemary, Dill, Lavender, Basil, Mint;
Vegetables: Cucumbers, Tomatoes, Kale, Lettuce, Spinach, Potatoes; and
Fruits: Strawberries, Grapes, Blueberries.


Starting your garden should be fun for your whole family. With a few hours of work you can start to see results. Within a week of planting your seeds, you’ll see sprouts and your garden becoming a reality.

As you take care and nurture your plants, you’ll see your plants grow, leaves spread and fruit and vegetables bloom, and you’ll be happy growing your own food and making your backyard a more beautiful, living and useful space.

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