Moved; New Raised Bed Garden - What worked/didn't work for you?

Another place where cardboard can be helpful is as a mulch. Cut to fit and allow water through where wanted. Lay to cover the areas between rows or plants. Holds in moisture, weeds don’t grow under it. Then compost it at the end of the year.

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To do this very cheap last year I bought 6 hay bales from a horse feed supplier in my area. They always have many old/spent bails or ones with milkweed (toxic to our equestrian friends) in them. I got 6 for $12. I laid them down and added blood meal coffee grounds etc to quicken the composting in place time last fall. In spring I bought untreated cedar fence posts from Lowes and built a 10’x4’ raised bed around the bails (+$13 for wood). Got free composted horse manure to top it off from a guy on craigslist and boom it was full. My tomatoes were 10ft tall, kale 4’, etc. Everything boomed

Filling these can be pricey but it doesn’t have to be.


I went with a galvanized sheet raised beds but did not make an outer frame. I cut some length wise for shorter beds for where roots don’t need to go so deep.

One problem was in a strawberry bed that did ok in the spring but later had a rabbit digging around in it even though I left logs and branches to fill the bottom. Later I discovered it was digging to plant baby rabbits. While they had no interest in strawberries, I am going to build a hardware cloth cage to keep them and the chipmunks away.

While the inventory checker is not at all accurate, in many of the Lowes around there were old Yardgard brand hardware cloth and chicken wire on clearance. I found a couple 2 ft x 25 ft for around $3 locally.


@Brace So cute! I have a theory that the rabbit was more interested in the onions for her nest placement than the strawberries! Every year in my old garden, the bunny (and I assume, subsequent generations of bunnies) made her nest in my garlic patch. The patch rotated and she rotated with it. Last year I had mosquito netting over the patch because of onion flies and she faithfully chewed an entrance into the patch (and a few exits, too. Sigh).

Yes. The deer netting did not stop the mother. She seemed to like the protection and would squeeze right under it after chewing a hole.

I’d sprayed her with the hose a few times and finally saw the babies when she ran one time. The roaming neighborhood cat did solve the issue running off with gifts for his owner. The following obviously isn’t very accurate.

" Rabbits also dislike the smell of onions, so try planting these around your garden to further deter the furry creatures."

There is a lengthy discussion here on raised beds:

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@Sparty can’t agree more. I love trying new beds configurations from year to year. Woodchips, leaves, cardboard, clover, and buckwheat make nice mulches.

Like OP I just moved to a new space - the previous homeowner had one area fenced off as a garden… it was raised beds and a bunch of weeds. At some point they laid landscaping fabric too, UGH… I think it’s going to take most of the summer to clean up so I’ve signed up for a community garden plot. I did a little digging last fall and encountered quite a few landscaping rocks so I’m dreading that I might be stuck with raised beds in this spot unless I want to do a major excavation.


I’ve had a permanent mulched raised bed garden for 40 yrs and continue to appreciate how great it works. I tried wooden sides early on but gave that up quickly, preferring the ease and adaptability of dirt.


I have an article on our website on my experience making and using the raised beds:

After decades of trying different methods to keep the surrounding vegetation out of the garden I (well, my husband actually did the work) put inexpensive paver-patio blocks around the entire 50x80 garden. That has worked well. Sue



@Sue-MiUPz3 That is brilliant! Did you strip the sod from the area originally or just rototill the grass in? I love the information on your website!

Black locust, catalpa, honey locust, mulberry, osage orange…there are some things that might last forever if charred! :wink:

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Hi Kathy,
We tilled up new ground (making use of the vegetation that was there), planted some type of green manure crop, tilled that in then made the beds. The best was when we did that over two years with several green manure crops (oats, buckwheat, peas, etc). The very first garden was tilled and beds made right away and we struggled with weeding out grass for years. After that we took the time to clean out some of the grass by planting and tilling in other crops. It always took some years for everything to settle down, with plants and the soil getting better as time went on, and the original grasses less.

Glad you liked the website, it’s been a nice way to share. It looks like you have a nice spot to work with, and I wish you the best turning it into garden. What a fun adventure. Sue


I regret not putting hardware cloth under more of my beds. The gophers have nailed me when it comes to garlic, onions and other root veggies. Having said that, some of my beds were constructed by using small Douglas fir logs and as these decay they make for a nice mound that is gradually blending into the surroundings. I also started with wood chips on top of cardboard. The wood chips require some maintenance loads to keep things “chippy” along the walkways. Absent that I have just been working with what I have and planting oddball things here and there along the edges to further blend things in and let it evolve. I also burn an annual wood pile down to charcoal, put it in a feedsack and run it over a few times with the truck to crush it and then add to the beds. I don’t have any hard data on the nutrient dynamics of the char, but the water retention seems to be much better in the heavier char beds. Good luck and have fun!


Voles, moles, mice…fortunately no gophers here!

I am curious, what does that black netting keep out? Deer? The holes look large enough for most birds and any small rodent to get through. And rodents will chew through anything to get to what they want. I need protection from deer, birds of all sizes, chipmunks, squirrels, woodchucks, rats, mice, and voles. I am planning gardens as well and I have about the same acreage as the OP and most of it sunny all day. I’m definitely keeping raised beds riding mower deck width apart! I am trying micro-clover this year for many places to reduce lawn and think I will try it between the beds as well. It might give the varmints something to eat and maybe they’ll stay on the ground, haha. I raise chickens so already am a regular hardware cloth user to protect coop floors, etc. Rats are especially persistent and my new coop runs are going to be completely encased with it. I tack a piece down when I build any wooden floors and also run it up the sides a bit to cover any place they can get a purchase with their teeth. I’ll be doing the same to the inside of my beds. Other plantings will be fenced to deter deer and woodchucks.

hah nothing as it turns out… I was trying to annoy the rabbit but it chewed through it. I will be building a 1/4 inch hardware cloth box this spring and keep everything out including the chipmunks which are the biggest problem.

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Hahaha, rabbits are not easily annoyed. Cats, yes. I had a mouser that kept my property chipmunk-free, but she went to live with my son when she couldn’t get along with the other cats. I miss her, she was wonderful at rodent control. I’m thinking of adopting a feral cat or two to live in my barn. My other cats would like to be mousers but they are not outside-savvy (I live in the country but there is still a road). So they content themselves with staring at the baseboards and that’s how I know I have varmints in the walls! (1810 Colonial) It’s a never-ending battle.

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I have used the black netting for years to keep deer out of my garden but there are limitations.
Deer can jump higher than the netting. How high depends on the deer species (15ft for some).
For more on that, see My deer rant (not actually mine, that is just the name, but I added comments.

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Most my raised beds are behind 4 foot 1 inch spacing vinyl coated fence to keep out rabbits and groundhogs. Squirrels and chipmunks still invade the space but are not interested in the vegetables. So far deer have not entered.

For my still small trees, I have 2 ft hardware cloth on the lower portion for rabbit protection with the black netting up above which so far works. Where I left the trees unprotected, the deer nibbled off much of the green growth and leaves last year.

I expect I need to add 6ft 2x4" fencing this year for successful growers… and maybe add the plastic netting above for the deer.


Yes, I have seen very tall fenced-in gardens in some local areas so suspect the deer had scaled lower fencing. I have a fallow pasture (that I am converting to an orchard and nursery) that butts against wild undergrowth, scrubby trees, etc. and plan to put the deer netting right up against it so they can’t get a running jump. In other places, I will fence right up against the rows (kiwiberries, apples, peaches) to make a narrow enclosure they won’t clear. I will also do the hardware cloth along the bottom I saw someone else mention to keep out woodchuck and rodents while the trees are young. I don’t have rabbits, thank goodness. It’s my favorite animal and I would have a tough time taking them out. I find a regular application of rotten eggs along the perimeter where the deer come in keeps them away. I have chickens so sometimes have rotten eggs, never thought I would find a use for them! Thanks for the rant link, I will check it out.

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What some people can run into around my area is when they use the bulk “garden soil” that they get from the rockyards, even though it has fertilizer in it, they will still get plants that will sprout but just sit there, not growing, or be stunted with a nitrogen deficiency. I was able to fix this a little bit by having two rabbit manure layers between my soil layers. If you’ve already got it built and planted fertilizing copiously the first year helps, as does putting leaves on top of it when you aren’t growing anything.