Friday, May 27, 2011

How We Built Our Tiered Raised Bed Vegetable Garden on a Slope


When we bought our house and saw the slope in the backyard, we knew we had some challenges ahead of us. The yard extended about 15 feet out at grade, and then the slope began. We wanted to plant a vegetable garden, but we were not sure how to do that on the slope. For the first two years, I planted only tomatoes in a small bed on the slope which receives a lot of sun.

Now and then, we discussed how we wanted to build some garden beds. We did not want wood because it would not last long. We would have used cedar which would last quite a while, but we wanted something a little more permanent. Eventually, we discovered some retaining wall stone at Home Depot that seemed perfect for the job. These are made by Pavestone® and they have a lip on the bottom back which helps to hold them in place. Since we did not want to mortar our garden beds, these building stones seemed like a good choice.

Upside down paving stone with lip on bottom
After doing some research, we decided to build our garden. Although I helped my husband with some of these tasks, he is really the one who built these beds. After doing a couple of them, he became very proficient at it.

To get the beds to grade we needed them to be about two to two and a half feet high, and we decided to make them about five feet wide and about three feet deep. Sometimes those measurements varied as the hill grade changed. At first, we decided on four beds. However, we later realized we needed at least two more for a total of six beds--three on each side.

Each bed is about two to two and a half feet tall
Tools needed:

Level
Rubber Mallet
Sand
Crusher run or crushed stone
Pea Gravel
Pavestone® AnchorWindsor Stone®
Shovel
Garden Trowel
Hammer
Chisel

To begin, we dug a trench about the height of the stone to lay the first row at the bottom (down the slope) of the bed. Digging in the first row adds stability to the bed. We spread a thin layer of sand over the trench and then spread the crusher run or crushed stones. We laid the stones in the middle of the first row and worked our way around, using the level to make sure each stone was level. We used the trowel to adjust the sand and crusher run/crushed stone to level the stones out. After placing each stone, we used the rubber mallet to secure it in place.

The first row is placed in the trench to add stability for the stones above.
Once the few stones are in place at the bottom of the bed, we began working our way around the bed. The hill guided us as to when to start the next row. The first row does not go all the way around the bed because of the hill grade. After the first row, things became a bit easier because only a few stones need to be dug in as they meet the sides on the slope. The remainder of the stones are stacked on other stones. We staggered the stones by placing the center of a stone over each joint for stability.

The rows meet the slope, and then the next row is laid.
After the first bed was completed, the remainder of the beds in that row came up to meet the first bed without going all the way around as the first bed did.

The first bed's top row encircles the entire bed, but the beds down the row meet the bed before it.
We dug out some of each bed, and then spread pea gravel against the first row of stones for good drainage.  Then, we filled each bed with soil, compost, humus, and manure. The instructions from the manufacturer suggest spreading landscape fabric around the inside against the stones to prevent soil from escaping through small openings. We did not do this, but we may do it in the future. We have not really had a major problem with soil escaping.

We laid some gravel against the first two rows for better drainage and then backfilled with soil, compost, humus, and manure.
As we came around the rows setting the stones, there were times when the stones did not fit. We had to cut a few to make them fit. We used a chisel and hammer to mark where we needed the cut, and then hammered off the excess. Sometimes the stone broke at the cut, and sometimes we had to shape it a bit with the hammer.

The third stone from the end is a cut stone.
Given that we have this slope, I cannot say enough about how much I love these garden beds. They have extended our yard so we can have a vegetable garden. The beds are easy to work in and around, and they have held up without incident for four years now. Last year, we placed pavers in between the rows because sometimes the hill is slippery. And this year, we hope to create a path and a fence all around the garden because rabbits are frequent visitors.

For more information, the manufacturer, Pavestone®, has some building instructions on their site.

I am linking up with My Romantic Home for Show and Tell Friday.
©Michelle A. Potter

60 comments:

  1. Steep slopes are a real gardening challenge (I struggle with the same issue in my garden). Your raised beds are a great solution! I know how much hard work that is! So great that your husband was willing to do so much of it. Well done!

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  2. You certainly rose to the challenge. Your garden is beautiful and I like the different dimensions that come with having beds at different levels.

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  3. That is a fantastic project. We have a slope out back, too, so I'm inspired!

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  4. What exciting garden beds and a great solution for such a steep block.

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  5. This is wonderful, Sage Butterfly. We have a really steep, solid granite hill in the back yard, but it get's lots of sun. I'm inspired by this for sure. Your garden is lovely!

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  6. What a major undertaking but the end result is so worth it. The beds look like they've been there forever. Fantastic job!

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  7. That is the most beautiful vegetable garden I've ever seen. Wow! I really appreciated your detailed and clear explanation of the process of building these beds. When I redo my front garden, I'll need to do some terracing to deal with the slope (nowhere near as steep as yours!); these stones look like they might be a good option for me. -Jean

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  8. I like your vegetable garden. You have so cleverly used stones to reinforce the slope. The most wonderful part is no cement was used. I used to think that first I need to make my own cement (which I don't know how to) before I can lay the stones. Good job, excellent!

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  9. They are sturdy and beautiful looking beds. Thank you for sharing how you got them built. They are useful even on flat land.

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  10. I'm so glad you did this post! Your raised beds are absolutely gorgeous - be sure you tell your hubby how good he did! I wasn't sure these would 'cut' without a special saw. Thanks for the instructions.

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  11. You really did a great job of explaining this clearly and concisely and the result is impressive.

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  12. Beautiful!

    I wish I had enough sun for a garden. And better soil. Or someone who would build me some raised beds (and a fence to go with them! so many determined critters around here!)

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  13. @Karin / Southern Meadows Yes, he is a charm. I think he actually enjoys building things like that....I am glad!

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  14. @Bumble Lush (A Garden Blog) It worked out well. We hoped for the best, and they turned out to be very functional...as well as aesthetically pleasing.

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  15. @Jessica I wish you the best of luck! Slopes can be quite a challenge...I am glad we were able to find a simple solution so we could have a vegetable garden.

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  16. @Greenearth Thanks...it worked out for us. And thanks for visiting.

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  17. @Wall Flower Studio I am so glad you are inspired. It is so worth it! Thanks for visiting.

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  18. @Debbie/GardenofPossibilities Don't they? And we are hoping they will be here for a very long time.

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  19. @jeansgarden That you were able to find something helpful here is a great compliment. Good luck on your tiered project!

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  20. @Autumn Belle We did not want to use cement because we thought it might create more problems...and it is so messy. This option works so well.

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  21. @One I am so glad you think so. They are also useful on flat land...would be just as nice.

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  22. @HolleyGarden Didn't he do a good job? We did not use a special saw...and it worked out fine.

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  23. @Carolyn @ Carolyn's Shade Gardens Thank you, Carolyn. And thanks for stopping by for a visit.

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  24. @thecatinthetree We have the critters as well...we are now building a fence around that garden to keep them out. We all want to live harmoniously...:)

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  25. A very elegant solution! We have slopes all over the property here, actually I'm not sure any of it is flat. We're constantly having to be creative with how to use the slope to our best advantage. I'm sure your veggies will appreciate the deep soil in the raised beds, and reward you accordingly! Very well done!

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  26. Your beds are charming and functional! Great design :)I just read your companion planting article, very good ideas! Cheers, Jenni

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  27. Wow! I LOVE your garden. It's so beautiful. I would have never thought that a veggie garden would be possible on a slope but you showed that it can be done!

    I look forward to seeing more pictures!!!

    PS...thanks for visiting my blog (Fat Earth) and for the kind words!

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  28. wonderful Michelle, when I first found your blog I saw your raised beds and noticed the bricks as they sell them here and I had been thinking about using them, I was impressed at how well they worked with a fairly high raised wall,
    :) until I got to know your blog better I used to remember you as 'the lady with the raised beds'
    my slope is not as steep as yours, you and your husband have done well and thank you so much for sharing, Frances

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  29. @Curbstone Valley Farm I completely understand your dilemma. Until we bought this house, I never understood the challenges that come with slopes. It has been a real learning experience. As I read your blog, I see how creative you have been....and continue to be.

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  30. @Jenni@ RainyDayGardener Hi Jenni. Thank you for your compliments, and thank you for stopping by.

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  31. @DivaGardener We were not sure it was possible at first, but I am so glad we were able to make it happen....love those homegrown veggies! I enjoy your blog and can appreciate all the hard work you put into your garden.

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  32. @Island Threads Thanks, Frances. I am so glad you liked the post. Even though building on the slope was a challenge, I probably would not have created raised beds on flat land. Having worked with the raised beds on the slope, I don't think I could ever go back. Thanks for stopping by.

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  33. It looks lovely, and will certainly keep you fit! What a great idea.

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  34. This is so beautiful! There aren't that many good looking vegie gardens around, but yours is certainly one of few.

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  35. @ronniejt28 It does keep us fit. Our muscles have become accustomed to the slope...and we realize that when we have guests over and the hill is too much for them. :)

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  36. @hearts_in_asia Thank you...that is very nice of you to say. And thanks for visiting.

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  37. I just love those raised beds of yours. I thought when I first saw them what a wonderful idea and use of space. But they also look beautiful. Have a wonderful weekend.

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  38. Your beds look very impressive! I am sure it was a lot of hard work, but you did it really really well. I am looking forward to seeing the pictures of all the vegetables that grew there.

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  39. Oh, how i love finding new gardeners that share the passion of Gardening! I host a garden party on Thursday's called Cottage Flora Thursday's...would love to have you come by & peek around & would love it even better if you'd link a garden post sometime? oxox,tracie

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  40. Your beds are awesome! My hubby is a great guy but super unhandy. However, we are excellent at hiring people! Unfortunately, that costs big bucks so some of my big plans never go past the design stage. Great tutorail! :o)

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  41. @Lona Thanks...the original intention was function, but it is nice that they look good, too.

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  42. @Masha It was a lot of hard work, but we are also glad we did it. The rewards far outweigh any of the achiness from our building it.

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  43. @Fishtail Cottage Thank you for dropping by and letting me know about your blog meme. Perhaps I'll join in sometime.

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  44. @Casa Mariposa Thanks...I am lucky that my husband is willing to try building these things...and sometimes digging large planting holes for me. The rest I think I can handle myself. BTW...those beds are really not hard to build at all.

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  45. @Shyrlene Thanks, Shyrlene...and thanks for taking a peek.

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  46. @aseaaranion Thanks, Sky. One of the benefits is they turned out very nicely...even though they were meant as a simple vegetable garden.

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  47. This is beautiful, just what I needed to see today to give me inspiration for my riverfront project, but wow what a lot of work. I imagine it took some time to plan and create.

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  48. Wow, that is truly nifty! We have a steep slope on the west side of our house and it's very treacherous to walk over there. Maybe we can borrow some of your tips. Thanks!

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  49. this is incredibly well thought out, with a successful and beautiful result. thank you for sharing!

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  50. @Gardening not Landscaping I hope you are able to start your project. I always dread the beginning of a project...and, of course, all the hard work. However, when it is done, I am so happy it is there.

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  51. @PlantPostings I have slipped several times on that slope...especially on wet grass. We are trying to put in paths to minimize the wet grass slipping.

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  52. @Ginger Thanks, Ginger. I am so glad you stopped by.

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  53. Yeah! So glad you did this post so I can see how you did it! I love it!

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  54. Dear Butterfly, This is a beautiful and practical solution to a very difficult problem. Very impressive! P. x

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  55. As i said before I just love the beds and how you transformed the slope into a veg garden...just ingenious. I used these same stones on the many slopes at my old house and they worked great...alas here at the new house we are barely above sea level with a mild grade so I have no need for stone beds although...nothing says I couldn't make a few raised beds to add interest in the garden beds...hmmm...

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  56. this is amazing! we are trying to be as cost effective but this is gorgeous! any idea abou thow much this cost?

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'I see trees of green, red roses, too
I see 'em bloom for me and for you
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world'
--What a Wonderful World

Thank you for visiting The Sage Butterfly blog. I enjoy reading your charming reflections very much. Have a great day!

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