Last updated on October 23rd, 2023 at 09:04 pm
A raised bed is a good and back-friendly way to grow fruit, vegetables or herbs. In addition to the comfortable working height, a raised bed protects your plants especially from snails and vermin. In addition, you can usefully recycle your compost and green waste for filling. However, there are a few things to consider when filling it. We explain what is important when filling the bed, which materials are suitable and how to find the ideal location for your raised bed.
- 1 How to properly fill a raised bed
- 2 Preparations before filling
- 3 Fill raised bed: These are the mistakes you should avoid
- 4 Frequently asked questions
- 5 When should you fill a raised bed?
- 6 Can a raised bed be filled with soil only?
- 7 Which branches do you take for a raised bed?
- 8 How to fill a raised bed?
- 9 Author
How to properly fill a raised bed
When is the right time to fill it?
Autumn is the ideal time to fill your raised bed. This is the time of year when most of the raw materials needed for filling accumulate. This includes green waste, shredded material and leaves. Seeding then usually takes place in the spring: Over the winter, the soil has had sufficient time to settle and natural rotting processes have begun inside the fill material. Thanks to rotting, a particularly nutrient-rich environment is created for your plants and seedlings, in which they can then thrive wonderfully.
If filling in the fall is not possible, the raised bed can also be filled in early spring.
The disadvantage here, however, is that the decomposition processes of the filling material are not yet far advanced, the soil may not be able to provide the seedlings with all the nutrients they need and so their growth will not be optimal.
The ideal location for a raised bed
Basically, you can place your raised bed almost anywhere: on the balcony, the terrace or on an open space in the garden. The wide range of raised beds in different designs and sizes offers the ideal solution for every application and space.
Depending on what type of plants you want to plant in your raised bed, you should choose the location of the bed carefully. Therefore, to find the optimal location for your raised bed, you should consider the following factors:
The ideal location for your raised bed allows you to approach the bed from all sides. This way, you can easily take care of all the plants all around.
Depending on the size of your raised bed, it can be labor intensive and exhausting to water all the plants. Therefore, make sure to place the raised bed as close to a water connection as possible. This will save you some work lugging watering cans around. Even better, simply connect a water hose. This will make watering a lot easier for you.
Are you putting your raised bed on your balcony or patio? Then the raised bed should be placed as close as possible to a water drain, because in this case the water can not seep into the natural soil. In addition, water that does not drain away and could collect under the raised bed will harm the plants and interfere with their growth.
The right amount of sunlight
Do the plants need a lot of direct sunlight and heat, or is it more likely to harm you? Ornamental plants such as geraniums, lavender and petunias, or even some vegetables (peppers, for example), feel just fine in full sun. Berries and herbs, on the other hand, are very sensitive to sunlight and, in the worst case, can burn and die. Therefore, a semi-shaded location is suitable for these types of plants.
Preparations before filling
Once the ideal location for your new raised bed has been found, it’s time to start preparing to fill it:
The right model
The range of different models and designs is wide. To choose a model, the selection of the right material for the basic structure is an important factor. Here it depends not only on personal taste and optical ideas. The service life of the raised bed also has an influence on the choice of model:
If your raised bed is to stand and be used in the same place for a long time and over several years, a masonry construction made of stone can be a good solution. Advantage: stone is weather-resistant and also stores heat.
However, if you want to be as flexible as possible with your raised bed and possibly dismantle and move it in between, then a raised bed made of wood is ideal.
Here, make sure to use high-quality hardwoods (for example, spruce, pine or larch), otherwise your raised bed will rot faster.
Metal raised beds are real eye-catchers. Especially models made of corten steel make your raised bed a visual highlight. A plus point here is also the high weather resistance.
For the most comfortable working height, the raised bed should be 70 – 90 cm high. As a guide here is your waist height. In addition, a raised bed should not be wider than an arm’s length so that you can comfortably reach all plants even if the raised bed is not accessible from all sides.
Level & stable ground
Especially if you want to place your raised bed on the open lawn in your garden, the subsoil should be leveled if necessary. An uneven surface can cause your raised bed to lean and become unstable. If the ground is particularly soft, the frame should also be additionally stabilized with slabs or paving stones.
Protection from uninvited guests
To protect the inside of your raised bed, you should lay a wire mesh as close as possible under the bed. This way, you give mice and moles no chance to destroy the valuable filling material of the raised bed. Worms and other insects, which are essential to the natural processes within the fill material, will not be kept out by the wire.
Protect the frame
Especially if the construction is made of wood, the frame should be additionally protected. To do this, apply a film inside. Pond or dimpled foils are particularly suitable for this purpose. This will protect the wood from rotting.
Collect filling material
Depending on the size and volume of your raised bed, you will need quite a bit of material to fill it. Therefore, start early enough to collect branches, compost and co. for the individual layers.
Filling: These layers go into a raised bed
The basic prerequisite for a well-functioning and flourishing raised bed is to stimulate the natural processes inside the filling and keep them going. For this purpose, it is enormously important to fill the raised bed in different layers. Basically, start coarse at the bottom and get finer and finer towards the top. This way you avoid rot and waterlogging.
Ideal for this purpose are four layers:
Drainage layer (approx. 30 cm).
This layer should consist of poorly decomposable materials such as coarse branches and stones. This allows water to drain off well.
Filling layer (approx. 20-30 cm)
Chopped branches, leaves and other green waste are used for this.
Compost layer (approx. 20 cm)
Coarsely decomposed compost is used in this layer. Grass clippings or animal bedding are also well suited for this layer. Alternating layers of the different materials is ideal.
Planting layer (fill up to the edge).
This layer consists of high-quality topsoil or garden soil and fine compost. Plant your seedlings in this layer.
Our recommendation: mix soil and compost. This will create an ideal and especially nutrient-rich soil for your plants.
Lay out gardener’s fleece on top of each layer. This will prevent soil from being washed away if it gets too wet.
Do not be alarmed if the raised bed sags a little over the winter. This is quite normal due to the rotting processes. Simply fill it up with soil and fine compost in the spring and you’re ready to start planting. If the already planted raised bed sags over time, it is recommended to fill it up again properly after the harvest or in the fall, so that you can garden diligently again in the spring.
After about 5 – 7 years, most of the organic matter in the raised bed has rotted away. Then the raised bed should be completely re-layered.
Planting the raised bed
After filling the raised bed, it is time to plant. Because of the warmth inside the bed and the high nutrient content in the soil, your plants will thrive much faster than in a conventional bed. Advantage: higher yields.
When planting, it is important to pay attention to crop rotation. This means that in the first year, when the nutrient content in the soil is very high, plant only high-yielding crops (for example, cucumbers, zucchini, potatoes and tomatoes). In subsequent years, medium growers (for example, carrots, peppers, spinach and onions) and weak growers (for example, lamb’s lettuce, herbs) can then be planted. This ensures that the soil’s nutrients are ideally absorbed by the right plants over time and that the raised bed will yield for years to come.
A so-called planting plan can also help in the selection of suitable planting. This specifies at which time of year which plants thrive particularly well and should be planted. In addition, this enables a high yield – and thus great pleasure in your own raised bed – throughout the year. For example, spinach, lettuces, leeks and spring onions should be planted in the spring, cucumber, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli and carrots in the summer and autumn lettuces from August to October. After harvesting the last vegetables and fruits, you can easily winterize the raised bed by adding a pond liner.
Basically, it is recommended to plant so-called mixed cultures in your raised bed. This means planting different types of plants together, which support each other in growth and thus increase the crop yield. For planting, you can either add seeds to the soil or use already grown seedlings from the specialty store or the garden department in the hardware store.
Fill raised bed: These are the mistakes you should avoid
Stacking the raised bed incorrectly
The following applies here: From the bottom to the top, become finer and finer (see chapter Filling: These layers go into a raised bed). This is the only way to guarantee that the decomposition processes function optimally and that you can plant an ideally prepared and particularly nutrient-rich raised bed in the spring.
Use nut leaves for filling
Nut leaves contain substances that inhibit plant growth. Therefore, it is better to avoid using nut leaves as a filling material for the raised bed.
Filling & planting at the wrong time
It is best to fill your raised bed in the fall. This allows it to sink over the winter and the decomposition processes to progress. Seeding will then take place in the spring. If necessary, the raised bed must be filled again with garden soil and fine compost in the spring.
Planting the raised bed incorrectly
When planting the raised bed, pay attention to the crop rotation of strong, medium and weak eaters, on the one hand, to make the best use of the amount of nutrients over several years.
Secondly, follow the planting schedule and sow different plants depending on the season.
Also, overly space-consuming plant species such as cabbage or squash and tall-growing plants such as perennial tomatoes should not be planted in a raised bed. These types of plants are more suitable for a flat bed.
Frequently asked questions
Here you will find answers to questions we are frequently asked.
When should you fill a raised bed?
The ideal time to fill your raised bed is in the fall. This allows all the biological processes inside the raised bed to progress over the winter.
Then, for planting in the spring, a nutrient-rich, optimally prepared soil awaits you for planting.
Can a raised bed be filled with soil only?
Yes, filling with soil only is not a problem. Especially for small raised beds, this less costly solution may be suitable. For larger raised beds that you want to use in the long term, you should still fill in layers.
Which branches do you take for a raised bed?
In the first layer (drainage layer), the coarsest possible branches are used. In the filling layer, on the other hand, mainly chopped material is used.
How to fill a raised bed?
Fill your raised bed in four different layers:
Drainage layer (approx. 30 cm): coarse material that is difficult to decompose, such as coarse branches and stones.
Filling layer (approx. 20-30 cm): leaves, green waste, shredded material
Compost layer (approx. 20 cm): grass clippings, coarsely decomposed compost
Planting layer (fill up to the top): high quality topsoil, fine compost.
This ensures that the decomposition processes inside the raised bed get underway and that the soil is optimally prepared and as nutrient-rich as possible for sowing in the spring.