How to make a contemporary raised bed
Raised beds are a great way to grow plants, improve soil conditions and resolve tricky design challenges in the garden. You can create the conditions that ensure plants thrive, and custom build it to suit your own garden.
This raised bed is made from concrete blocks and topped off with timber sleepers to provide extra seating space, invaluable in a small garden.
With basic DIY skills, plus a couple of spare weekends, you'll soon have a 2.2m x 1.4m raised bed that will provide space for ornamental and edible plants for years to come. Although the work itself doesn't take more than two days, plan ahead as you'll need to factor in two 24-hour drying periods.
Looking to make a raised bed using wood? Watch our video clip with Monty Don, to find out how:
Follow these simple steps to create your contemporary raised bed.
More like this
Our contemporary raised bed shopping listYou might already have what you need to get started on making your contemporary raised bed. If you don't, we've done the hard work for you with our handy shopping list.
- MOT type 1 Subbase, Bulk Bag | from £64 at B&Q
- Blue Circle Ready To Use Postcrete - 20kg | from £6.40 per bag at Wickes
- Tarmac Solid Dense Concrete Block 7N 440 x 215 x 100mm | from £2.24 at Jewson
- Blue Circle Mastercrete Grey Cement Bag, 25kg | from £12.99 at Builder’s Merchant
- Tarmac Sharp sand, Large Bag, 22.5kg | from 2.98 per bag at trade point
- Tarmac Building Sand Large Bag - 22.5kg | from £3.50 at Homebase
- Bond It Primer & Flexible Admix | from £10.93 at Victorian Plumbers
- New Untreated Oak Railway Sleeper (600x200x50mm) | from £5.99 at UK Timber
- Melcourt Topsoil™ Blended Loam, 20L | from £5.49 at Sure Green
- No Nonsense Trade Masonry Paint Brilliant White 10ltr | from 22.49at ScrewFix
- Block Brush, 100mm | from £2.69 at Zoro Tools
You Will Need
- Builders' rubble (two wheelbarrows full), such as Type 1 Roadstone, available from your local builders' merchants
- Postcrete (5 x 20kg bags)
- Medium concrete blocks (64 blocks of 450mm x 215mm x 10mm)
- Mastercrete cement (2 x 25kg bags)
- Sharp sand
- Building sand
- PVA admix (1 x 5l tub)
- Untreated oak sleepers (10 linear metres), we used half sleepers, which are half the depth
- Blended loam or topsoil
- Masonry paint
- Paint brush
Mark the bed shape by laying the blocks on the ground. Dig a shallow trench, 30cm wide and deep, for the foundation the blocks will sit on, and fill with a 20cm layer of rubble. Tamp down thoroughly with your heels.
Top up the foundation with a 10cm layer of Postcrete and spread out using a shovel. Use a spirit level placed on a straight board to check the surface. When it's thoroughly level, water the Postcrete thoroughly.
Set the blocks on a bed of mortar. Start building at one corner of the foundations, using mortar to stick the bricks together. Build the other corners level, then the walls, checking they're straight with a spirit level.
Once the blockwork has set (after 24 hours), make up the render (two parts sharp sand, 2 parts building sand, 1 part mortar). Add 600ml PVA adhesive per barrowful. This makes the mixture easier to work with.
Wet the blocks using a watering can. This stops the dry blocks from sucking the water out of the render. Apply 5-10mm of render using a plastering trowel. Keep wetting the blocks so the render goes on, and stays on, easily.
Once the render is fully dry (after a further 24 hours) make the edge with half sleepers. Secure them by screwing offcuts of sleeper inside the blockwork. Get someone to hold the offcuts in place while you drill.
Paint the render using an exterior-grade masonry paint (this is the best type for using on rendered blockwork). A litre of paint will cover around 6 sq m of wall. You may need two coats.
Fill the bed with a soil/compost mixture such as blended loam or make your own mix using 2-3 parts garden soil, 1 part sand and 1 part well-rotted compost. Add more sand if you have clay soil.
Avoid soil sinkage
Avoid the soil sinking in your beds by firming down the compost when adding it to the beds, and filling them right to the top. If you do find the soil sinking, top it back up where possible.