How tall should I build my Raised Bed Garden? How high should the soil be?

Alright this is John Kohler with
today we are going to answer a big question that I get often times and how it
came up was my friend who I’m helping design you know, raised beds at their house. He’s like “John,
you know, how tall should I make my raised beds?” and you know I said, well my raised beds range in
heights. And I said well, he’s like well and I said how’s about like twelve inches, I think that’s a pretty
good height. He’s like well man, I want to do 24 man you know, more is better, there’s going to be more soil
in there and more spaces for the roots to go and you know and I’m like, you know what Rick? Most stuff,
actually you know the roots don’t really go down that far especially like most veggies. Or you know,
common fruits and vegetables. Vegetables meaning, I mean fruits meaning like tomatoes and cucumbers
because botanically they are a fruit because they have seeds inside. So, I’m not talking about fruit
trees or shrubs. ‘Cause those you know will probably need something you know, a lot deeper but for standard
plants in your standard vegetable garden, you know I think twelve inches is probably pretty good. If you want to be sure, maybe go sixteen but
you know what, then what happens is you start to waste extra money in materials and extra costs and
you know including buying extra compost and organic soil and things to fill your beds because that
gets really really expensive really quick. When you are trying to fill a lot larger space. I mean just going
from six inches high to twelve inches high, you know that is going to double your costs in buying the organic
compost to fill your raised beds. So, I’m here at my front yard garden here and we are going to
check out my raised beds. Got a handy dandy tape measure here so my raised beds are approximately a
foot or you know twelve inches. So you can see, and actually even on the inside, the soil has sunk down
even not up to the top so we need to refill that and check out these tree kales, I mean we could probably
measure these tree kales and they go up and up and up and up. So my raised bed that’s twelve inches
deep is supporting tree kale that at its peak is you know, approximately seven feet. Actually there is
some over there that are eight feet tall. So, you know what if my twelve inch raised beds, twelve inch
tall raised bed can handle an eight foot tall tree kale or tree collard, you know, it’s probably got to be
good for everything else. The only caveat I think is that if you are going to grow carrots, and I mean long
carrots get pretty long, or something like burdock root, those people who are Japanese know what burdock
root is. It is a really long root. Then you know what, you might need a longer raised bed. So you know
what, I think, you know twelve inches is the optimal depth so I would say go for twelve inches but you
know what, I have also grown with good success in shorter beds as well. So, we are going to right now
go to the community garden and we are going to check out some of the shorter beds that I have done
that has also worked. So let’s head over to the community garden and check out what I have done over
there. Alright, so we are here at my community garden
plot and we’re at this is actually my first community garden plot. And when I built this plot, what
I got was I got this free plastic lumber off craigslist so, that’s what we used and when we got this basically
it was twice this height. And I figured it would be too tall plus we didn’t have enough of this plastic
lumber to do the whole plot with it if we didn’t cut it in half so I wouldn’t have to buy more. So, I decided
at that point to cut it in half and then make my raised beds and let’s measure how tall this is. My raised
beds in this plot are actually like about four and a half inches tall. I mean I will show you again
there, about four and a half inches tall and let’s see, we put these one by one stakes on the corners and
we probably should have done it every three feet but we probably did it about every six feet. And
this has held up really well for many years. If I was going to do this again, I definitely would make it higher,
so you know, you can grow in raised beds as high or even as short as four and a half inches. It has done
really well, you know we are growing tomatoes in here, and this is the winter garden in here now. We
have cabbages, and collards, and chard, and arugula, and fava beans, and a whole bunch of um snow peas growing.
So you know, four and a half inches will be fine. If I was recommending it to people you know, I
would probably say at least go with six inches and let’s go to my other community garden and check out how
tall it is over there. Alright, so this is the second community garden plot that I did and I did
a couple things differently than my first plot. Number one is, I only put twelve inches of space for walkways
in the other plot. That was because it was really small and I figured oh, yea twelve inches are plenty but
when stuff starts growing up, let me tell you, twelve inches is not enough. I would recommend a minimum
of sixteen to eighteen inches wide walkways between the plots and definitely more if it is like
a main walkway so you could maybe take a wheelbarrow through, or a garden cart or something like
that. But, let’s get back to the height. So after I did that one and it was like four and a half inches tall
I was like, you know what, that’s not quite tall enough I really want to do it taller so then we built these
and these are out of the same wood we are actually using at the house there. Um, using the same stakes,
the plastic stakes to hold it up and this is a good basic construction. It has held up really well,
this is about a year old now. And it is doing really well and you know, if these go bad we can go ahead and
just replace them. So they are easily unscrewed here so they can be removed. The construction is, we can
get a close up on the construction, we basically just put these stakes in, and we used the plastic stakes
here and we did these, I don’t know, about every two feet. So this one has you know, one, two,
three, four. Four things supporting this and I think this is about a four foot run here. And I would also recommend
one at the corners. I don’t know why we didn’t do one at the corner over there. But we screwed
in the corners there. But yeah, this is a good basic construction for an easy raised bed you could
make out of just wooden fence boards and they are relatively inexpensive. I think these are
the three inch ones but let’s see, let’s check the height here. So the height is, the height on this is actually
seven inches. So I think seven inches is probably a pretty good height. Though I didn’t want to waste too
many fence boards. Because then these are fence boards that I would be having at home to replace ones
at my house which is a lot more important than these at the community garden plot. So, back to construction,
these are cedar fence boards. Um I’d either use cedar or redwood fence boards, they are the best.
I probably wouldn’t get this thickness, this is about three and a half inches thick. Uh, normally they
come in about a six inch. So you could do one six inch, which actually it says it is six inches, but actually
it actually measures about five and a half. One layer of five and a half all the way around would probably
be pretty good and you know and if you wanted to do two five and a half that would give you about
eleven inches and that would actually be. You know I don’t think you would really need to go much taller
than that. So, uh, let’s see, we are going to go back to the house. Alright, so we are in the front of my front
yard raised bed garden and uh you know, as you get back what I’ve done as you can see, I’ve all the way
down it is level. So the level is correct all the way down of each bed. It is all level, all the way down but
my property line slopes so it is lower in the front. So I wanted to make all the raised beds level. All the way
down, it looks a lot nicer and so that means in the front my raised bed is much taller. So let’s see, in
the front I have basically thirty one inches tall is how tall my raised bed is in the front. Now you know what,
thirty one inches tall is pretty dang tall and you know, do I really need it that tall? I can tell
you definitely not because you know after the seasons pass we pull up the different plants whether it is the
bok choy, arugula, tomatoes, peppers, or you know whatever and most things don’t root down more than
twelve inches. So here is a perfect example. We were just pulling up the uh, the dinosaur kale or the
lacinato kale you can see a couple of leaves still up on there. And this is how big the plant got I think
this is basically over a years’ worth of growth. And we pulled this up and I mean this thing in its self is probably
like three feet tall. And down here is what I want you to focus on, is you know the root system. So
I mean it pretty much went down to this root system here and I mean these roots went out a little bit but
these roots got cut off but you the root system really is from here down. The root system, and why don’t
we measure this for you, so the root system, really maybe we go that far. I mean maybe the root system
is like maybe eight inches total. So if your beds are twelve inches total you know this is going to be
more than enough space and that is one of the things about raised beds. You can specifically control
the nutrient quality that is in the beds. I mean all of my beds are filled with organic compost. So you know,
it’s like when the plant is getting all the food it needs you know the roots don’t need to go far because
the plant has all the nutrients right there. Where it needs it, without having to grow real far roots.
The reason why the plants have roots that are really long is because it’s searching out that food you know.
Roots are going to go out as far as they need to, to get good nutrition. And if you have nutrition
in there, you know what, they won’t even need to grow that much. I would recommend organic compost or organic
potting soil, you know, depending on what you can have. I think I definitely would encourage
everybody to get organic compost. And the other thing that is really, really, really important and I
am going to make a show on this really soon is using rock dust minerals. Rock dust minerals adds basically
minerals back into the soil which makes your plants more healthy, more vigorous, more disease resistant
and you know, actually much bigger. You are going to have much bigger harvests, and they have done
studies on this. Visit the website for more information about rock dust it’s
really beneficial and if it is one thing that I really highly recommend. I don’t usually like to use too
many products to go into my soil you know, aside from what I find in the rock dust is essential. Alright, so I hope you have learned today
how deep to build your raised beds. Definitely go with the goal of twelve inches but you know if finances
or new materials, you can’t afford that, definitely six inch minimum. Twelve inch maximum, if you
want to go higher, that’s good but oh, the other thing that can happen is on these beds when they get
really high, you definitely need to do some engineering to make sure they won’t bow. So, um the problem
we had is the beds were built and they started to bow because the soil in there is so high and it
gets so heavy and it is pushing against the boards. So our, so we started having bowing wood. We had to go
back in there and reinforce it. So if you do build them high, definitely think of that ahead of time.
So this is John Kohler with keep on growing those greens.

100 thoughts on “How tall should I build my Raised Bed Garden? How high should the soil be?

  1. @jcreedd You can screw vertical boards to the inside of the bed every few feet on the long sides–make sure they're tall enough to connect all of the horizontals; space them equidistant on both long sides. Add cross-braces near the top of the boards using metal strips; also at midpoint if beds are very tall. Cut a metal strap to length and screw it to the side of your vertical board on each side of the bed to connect the two long sides of the bed; repeat for each vertical board set.

  2. @scottj719 It would be easier to grow potatoes in "raised beds" by growing them in old tires from the landfill. First tire–fill with soil & compost; add spuds. As they grow, add another tire and more soil. You can go 3-5 tires high. At harvest, remove tires one at a time; shovel the soil onto a compost pile. Old leaves or hay can be used instead of, or in addition to, the soil. Drill holes into the bottom of the tires (close to the sidewalls) to ensure proper drainage, if desired.

  3. I have a somewhat larger raised garden in my sloping back yard and have trouble with tree roots. I have several large oaks about 20 feet from my garden. I want to move to smaller 4x8x12" raised beds. What do you suggest to keep the tree roots out, or should I not worry about it. Thanks!

  4. My raised beds will be at least 3-4 feet high because I do not want to bend my back at all…just fill the bottom half with straw or hay, so the beds are not that heavy or expensive to fill and if the roots grow below the soil (rare in my case), they can grow into the hay.

  5. Hi John, It me Jon lol.. Anyway I live in texas and was wondering if you could do a video on growing strawberries, grapes, and blackberries. For some reason I havent seen the begin to sprout although I just recently decided to plant them within a 3wk period. It said on packaged directions that there should be some result within 7-15 days..

  6. It's not the same as planting above soil, but I went with 12" on a rooftop garden and it was ok, but not ideal for certain plants. The tomato plants pulled the cages right out of the bed, I figure I need about an extra 4 inches minimum so I'll probably add an extra 2×6 around the top of the bed to make it taller for next season.

  7. can i say you and Praxxus55712 were separated at birth for sure you are both extremely knowledgeable, enthusiastic,really nice guys & very generous with your both have given such fantastic gardening lessons you tube is all the better for having you two on board. thank you very much indeed!!!

  8. Hey John. My property is surrounded by old growth trees and therefore I do not receive much sunlight on my lawn. So I think it would be best for me to make a vegetable garden on my flat garage roof (which receives the most sun). The roof really wont handle a lot of weight so I want to do something simple (raised beds weigh too much). I want to roll up landscape fabric and fill it with soil/compost and grow vegetables in that. What percentage of soil, compost, and rock dust should I use?Thanks

  9. I'm reading a book right now that says for most beds 6 inches in height will usually be enough to grow great vegetables and fruits. However, I am looking at growing things like strawberries and raspberries. Would a height range of 6 to 12 inches be enough for something like that?

  10. LOL! 2:04 (tape measure winds up) crack up! I am going to use cedar wood or redwood, whatever is cheapest for a raised bed project in Victorville… i imagine the conditions will be similar to Vegas. I will send progress. thanks for the vid John.

  11. @growingyourgreens I would really like to mimic your raised beds their beautiful do have a video I may have missed?

  12. I've got SC sand for soil. I am using cinder block for garden borders, capped off to prevent weeds. Works just fine! For dirt I am using topsoil from a dump. Has probably 10% small rocks, and some annoying glass. Soil quality is fine. I sent off a soil test, adjusted the soil, and am in business!

  13. taller sides ,simple pull one stake at a time cut a taller stake re screw the bottom then add 4/5" taller (oh yea stake every 3/4 feet no blow outs )

  14. here is a good tip, make your stakes 12-16" high so later on you can alway's add another board, and they aren't in the way of the plants.

  15. I think you can put down something non-contaminant yes, I do not see much problem in the soil, at least if it was not contaminated, any stones or soil you can put down, I live in southern Brazil and do my crops on common ground, with of course a land prepared above

  16. I live in Florida and we have nematodes in our soil that kill any vegetable plants they can reach. Therefore, we have our raised bed on top of the concrete slab patio, we put cardboard in the bottom and the soil/compost on top of that. I had my husband make it 18" tall, since none of the roots will ever be able to grow through concrete. But we are going to be building another raised bed in the next few weeks and if I can get by with 12" that would be great. What do you think in this situation?

  17. I have old deck boards that I would like to repurpose to build raised vegetable garden beds. I'm thinking of putting landscape paper down to line the boxes and keep them from leeching any chemicals they might have had originally. I assume they were pressure treated. Do you have any advice, warnings, or comments that might help me out? Thanks so much for your help.

  18. Hi,I have a full concrete backyard which has a slope and a 15 foot wall. I plan to plant some shrubs,vines along the wall in raised beds. What are the things I should consider?

  19. I want to discover ways to get laid. My buddy has started dating a 10 because 8 weeks back he registered to a site named Master Attraction (Google it if you want to know more.) I'm envious because I want to fall in love too. I'm gonna look into this Jake Ayres man's stuff and see if it can help somebody like me. Odd thing is, my friend used to have NO results with women. How does one change that swiftly? His lady's a fucking model!

  20. Have you ever though about using inorganic material in your beds. Something turface, a fired clay product, doesn't break down easily, but aids drainage, as well as holds moisture and nutrients.

  21. Great video, tons of relevant info. Do you have a video explaining how much garden a person needs to feed a family of four for a season/year? I have a tentative plan to build (4) 4'w x 8'L x 12"h elevated raised garden beds. I want to grow sufficient & efficient.

  22. Life sucks. My friend has started dating a 10 mainly because 8 weeks back he registered to a site called Master Attraction (Google it if you want to learn more.) I'm so jealous since I wish to just fall in love as well. I'm going to look into this Jake Ayres guy's stuff and figure out if it may help a person like me. Strange thing is, he once had no good fortune with females. How can you transform so fast? His girl's like a model!

  23. I went big and tall because I have bad knees and wanted a tall bed. Mine is over 2 ft high, 3' wide and 16' long. Bought 3 yards of garden mix from a soil co in Irwindale ca. Now I have to remove a lot of the soil and replace it with a better soil because water drains too quickly.

  24. John-
    I am a subscriber and will soon order a juicer. I really admire your raised beds, especially the cap or ledge that you have on top of them. Do you have the plans or a YouTube video that shows the plans?

  25. I wish I could just hear you explain how to do it without all the other garbage you talk about. I don't have the time to hear you spew about arbitrary info.

  26. John would you still use only 4,6,12" if you have garden cloth on the ground?  My beds are in my greenhouse in Keaau Hawaii.  As always great show

  27. I've been gardening in raised mounds. Welcome to weed and slug city. This year, raised beds. Thanks for the tips.

  28. Is this not set on soil? Could one not roto-till the ground before installation to break it up ,then it would be incorporated with the new soil? Just a question.

  29. Those timber boards for the raised garden beds in the video are likely chemically treated with insecticides and fungicides and hence the garden is no longer an organic garden.

  30. Please be more opened minded as many people need a raised bed so they can access it better. For example, i had surgery on my knee and I cant bend my leg beyond 22 degrees. So I must have a bed where I could sit at a level of at least 16 inches. So while it may cost more, at least I get to enjoy gardening again.

  31. Why would you say that? Many people have handicapped issues and still like to live and garden. My point was that you could of addressed these issues in your youtube post. Im addressing a need that these type of people need so my comments ARE NOT ABSURD.

  32. I saw you at the Health Fair at the Anaheim Convention center and I love your videos!! So informative and healthy looking as well! You have inspired me.

  33. what is the purpose of a raised bed if is at ground level?might  just put it in the ground!!! all that work to bend and kill??? nopi!!! I am going to do mine two feet!!!!

  34. Hey bro how you doing NE ways I think one of the reasons you got illigally searched was because of the amount of compost you bought…
    Just an idea but after they searched did the come back? Great vids

  35. TFS! Just a thought… Is it alright to have vegetable gardens in your front yard in CA? I'm not sure if my area would accept this even though I'd love to have one set up in my front yard! Did you have to take permission from your city/association?

  36. Thanks for sharing what you have learned over the years for those of us just beginning. God bless you!

  37. Should I line the sides and or bottom with plastic? Can I leave the bottom open and just position over my grass lawn?

  38. All of your videos are so helpful. I am a beginner with raised and organic gardening and your videos provide a lot of info to get me started on the right track. Keep up the good work!

  39. All of your videos are so helpful. I am a beginner with raised and organic gardening and your videos provide a lot of info to get me started on the right track. Keep up the good work!

  40. All of your videos are so helpful. I am a beginner with raised and organic gardening and your videos provide a lot of info to get me started on the right track. Keep up the good work!

  41. Hi john …If you use a clear varnish or stain on the out side of the boxes for ascetics would that be safe ?

  42. I bought excellent handbook from woodprix website. Just google woodprix and start your journey to better life

  43. Would it be okay if you were to build 3-4 feet (for the comfort of not having to bend and or kneal the whole time) up and fill the bottom half of so with some cheap material and the top 12-18 inches with soil? i was thinking about that. i just cant think of what to fill the bottom half with. if you have nay ideas shoot them out! haha

  44. your missing part of the point.the higher the raised bed the less you have to bend over.this can be important to someone with health issues.

  45. John, Great Videos.
    After seeing some of your videos on raised beds, I am thinking to convert my 2 acre commercial farm into raised bed system.

    What are your inputs?

  46. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Hyezmar is giving his collection of woodworking plans on his website. There’s an excellent alternative for this project!

  47. mine are 3 feet tall, no bending for me…I filled the bottom with oak and pine logs as a filler, otherwise I would have had to use lots of dirt….I can stand and care for my lettuce with zero bending

  48. Hmm, healthier roots are shorter, that should be obvious, but it wasn't to me, thanks for sharing!

  49. What non toxic wood treatment can I use without using paint o wood stain? And instructions on how to do it.

  50. I built mine for 18 inches but in reality leave about three inches for mulch. Last year tomato plants hit 10 feet by mid season which tells you that is plenty of depth.

  51. what about put some kinda rain storage container deep bed. so still 12 inches soil veggies. but have place store rain water for later use

  52. google root development for veges they can be 3 feet and more deep . there are all kinds of books on that..

  53. But one thing most don't take into account is if a person can't bend down  I found turn them into a wicking bed I've used some socked agricultural line the bottom 12 inches or 300mm I used sand then only had to put in12 inches of compost they are all line with plastic to be wicking bed, I can't be down to 12 inches so I adapted every thing to 800mm which a little over the  foot beds.

  54. 24 inches is the minimum height for my raised beds in order to prevent rabbits from getting in. 24 inches may not even be enough for other types of rabbits, but for the type around my area, 24 is good. Tried 18 in. and it was not enough. For me, building tall beats having to deal with chicken wire fencing or constantly using any type of rabbit repellent.

  55. It's not always about what the plants need. I made my raised beds tall so that my mother who has very limited mobility can get around and between and behind the beds and does not have to stoop to plant, weed, apply fertilizer, debug, prune, tie, harvest or clear out the beds. I'm no spring chicken either so bending and stooping isn't that easy for me either anymore and having the beds at almost waist height accommodates almost anyone; -even in a scooter or wheelchair or someone ambulatory who just cannot bend, stoop or kneel for long due to back issues.

  56. So the height is a personal decision based on your needs, your limitations, what you expect to grow in your garden and how big your budget is. A raised bed can be placed on just about anything – it does not have to be on the existing soil as someone posted on here. My raised beds are 18 inches tall. I chose that so that for several reasons – 1.) I have almost all clay soil so earth gardening is out of the question and I need a depth that all plants can utilized without using the existing soil. 2). There is less bending over and helps save the back and knees on us older folks. 3.) I also want to grow root crops and be able to rotate my crops across all of the beds without worrying which ones had to go where based on the depth.

  57. Ty, I was wondering this, and of course you have a video on it. I'm building it today. Thanks John you are a literal inspiration and have changed me and my families life these past couple years

  58. My 3 small raised beds are around 16 1/2 inches deep simply because that is the height of 2 cheap garden sleepers here in Australia.

    Right now the soil is only about 12 in as I'm struggling to make enough compost to keep them topped up 🙂

  59. THE 10 INCH TALL BEDS is only under ideal circumstances!!
    I live in S.W. Florida and since we get torrential rains in the Summer with a lot of standing water, I decided to make my beds at least 20 inches tall OR MORE !

  60. I’m considering growing a garden for my spouse and me. How do you have so much without wasting most of it? What do you do after you harvest your vegetables? Replant the same seed or refreshen the soil before the next season? I know very little about what to do from A through z. I want 2 or 3 raised beds.

  61. I’m new to this this year and also filled bottom of 30” garden with popular logs. I have a fence to as deer live here too. One thing I’ve noticed is lots of ants. Any sudgestions

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