E0055 | Building Raised Garden Beds


Building Raised Garden Beds

Welcome back to another episode of the homegrown liberty podcast! I’ve been hard at work with Catie and the boys cutting down trees, mulching brush and limbs and clearing for the new garden space. I took some video of the area before we started clearing, and pretty soon I’ll have it cleaned up. Then we’ll be filming the brand new garden beds going into their new home! I’m excited to have a new garden setup so close to the house and I’m looking forwards to showing you guys some different methods and techniques. I’ll be looking for some feedback on what you think we should do with the garden layout. But let’s get to the….

Question of the Week

From Dillon


Over the years, have you made any significant modifications to your “7-layer cake” approach to building beds using

  • wetted cardboard
  • compost
  • dried molasses
  • inoculants
  • amendments (e.g., blood & bone)
  • mulch

    I recently moved and need to build some new beds. I also have a U-haul store’s worth of cardboard boxes at my disposal and a wet Mississippi winter to get these things built and primed for spring planting.



  • Thanks for the question and it’s a timely one seeing as how I’m in the process of building a completely new garden space. The process you described above is closer to what I like to do for more of a broad area soil enrichment right before sheet mulching. This is what we did at Jack’s place to help build soil and make a lower pH zone for root development above the limestone slab that sits a couple inches below his soil surface. While not a bad method for starting a new garden space, not exactly what I prescribe for gardening.

    For my raised beds this year I’ll be essentially doing what I describe in Episode 25 of my podcast titled “Expanding Your Garden”.  http://www.homegrownliberty.com/e0025-expanding-garden/If you follow those directions you should be well on your way to having some great soil. With that said, I’m going to be building some of my raised beds with wooden sides and set level and off contour so I can create a more flat, terraced garden space. The main reasons for this departure from my curving contour based earlier garden beds are twofold. I want to build raised beds with hardware attachment options so I can standardize on sizing for row covers and season extension. I’m setting up beds on a standard unit of 4’ wide by 8’ long. This way I can construct chicken tractors to work only a small section of garden bed, or place a similarly sized hoop structure and have a modular and standardized growing space. The other major factor is that my wife likes those straight lines, she wants it to be neat and ordered. And like I always say, “happy wife, happy life”. So I’m making straight line garden beds to make my wife happy and to make my life easier when it comes to modular gardening attachments for the raised beds.  

    I’ll go into my raised garden prep ideas briefly here but if you want a write up that’s more thorough, check out episode 25 and also episode 46. http://www.homegrownliberty.com/4-steps-building-healthy-soil/


    Basically all I do is this.

    If you have established turf or grasses, there are a couple ways to deal with it. The best in my opinion is to solarize with clear plastic to kill the grass, roots, and weed seeds. Second best would be to flip the turf upside down and proceed, or lay down a couple layers of wet cardboard as a weed barrier. Side note, if you go with the cardboard option, you’ll need to either import more compost to make a deeper layer of growing space above the cardboard, or you’ll need to expose the cardboard, and plant your transplants into soil under the cardboard. The least desirable option is to treat the whole area with some kind of herbicide, preferably a concentrated vinegar solution over some synthetic herbicide but I think it’d probably be best to spend the year solarizing and building soil instead of using synthetic herbicides. Once those grasses are dealt with then proceed with the first step.

          • Break up soil in the space where I want beds.
          • Remove the good top layer of soil where the footpaths will be and put that good soil onto the new garden bed space.
          • Flatten and break up clumps to make a more uniform and flat space.
            • Add soil amendments
              • Manure or compost about 1” thick (in order of best to worst)
                • Rabbit
                • Goat/Sheep/Llama
                • Cow
                • Horse (composted)
                • Poultry (composted)
              • Forest floor soil with leaf mould and rotten twigs/limbs ¼”-1” thick
          • The following are optional but recommended and should be a light dusting application, not thick or in large amounts
            • Seed Meal ¼” thick or so (ground or cracked seeds of some kind) eg. Cottonseed meal, corn meal, flour, roasted soybean meal, chicken laying pellets, rabbit pellets, alfalfa pellets or most spoiled animal feed will work well. Caution!! – Do not include whole seed feed! Wheat and oats especially will sprout and be a real pain!
            • Earthworms and castings
            • Bone Meal
            • Azomite or other rock dusts
          • Water it in well
          • Mulch at least 2” to 8”
          • Enjoy a cold refreshing beverage of your choice.


    That’s about it! I hope that helps ya man, and of course, I hope it helps all you listeners who’ve been bitten by the gardening bug!

    I’ll be starting seeds soon, getting some seed cold stratified, and getting ready for some grafting! So be looking for those videos to be coming out in the near future. This year is kicking off and I don’t think I’m nearly as ready as I should be. I hope you are because time is ticking away whether or not we’re ready to make the most of it, so get out there and as always, Do Good Things!


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