If you have a heavy clay soil, you may find it easier to grow your vegetables in raised beds, which offer many advantages. Not only does the soil drain freely, making them ideal for root crops, but it also warms up more quickly in spring, allowing you to sow and plant sooner, and enjoy earlier harvests.
When to start: Winter.
At their best: Summer.
Time to complete: 1 day.
You will need: Spade, heavy-duty gloves, 8 lumber cut to size required, builder’s spirit level, tape measure, rubber mallet, screwdriver, long heavy-duty coach screws, broken pots, topsoil or soil-based compost.
Dig out strips of turf
Mark out lines on the ground where the lumber will rest, then use a sharp spade to cut out the outline of your bed, all the way around. If positioning the bed on an area of lawn, ease the spade between turf and soil, and lift off the grass, which you can then use elsewhere in the garden.
Lay lumber in position
Set the first layer of lumber in position. Remove or add soil until they are level. Check the levels along and diagonally across the lumber with a builder’s spirit level. Ensure that the base is square by checking that the diagonals are equal in length. For a perfect square or rectangle, have the lumber pre-cut at a timber yard.
Secure base timbers
Use a rubber mallet to adjust the position of the lumbers so they butt up and align neatly at the corners. Drill two holes on one side of each corner, and secure the joint using long, heavy-duty coach screws. Check that all lumbers are firmly joined together.
Arrange second layer
The next layer of timbers simply sit on top of the first. Arrange the pieces so that the joints at the four corners are staggered, to give the structure extra strength and stability. Check all levels before screwing the lumber in place.
Sow seeds or plant plugs
For added drainage, put a layer of broken pots or builder’s rubble in the base, then fill with garden topsoil or soil-based compost. Water it well and leave to settle for a few days, after which you can sow seeds or plant directly.