gardening on uneven ground: leveling raised beds

leveling raised bed illoIS YOUR GARDEN ON THE LEVEL? THE SUBJECT OF RAISED BEDS keeps coming up in the Urgent Garden Question Forum, and now the topic has turned to the ever-so-tricky aspect of how to build them on uneven ground. Been there, done that. I thought it might best be answered in pictures:

I’m a believer that each raised bed, which I like made from 2-by-10’s, must be a level entity unto itself, but that all the beds within a plot don’t need to match in terms of how much they extend out of the ground. To make them match on my crazy terrain, you’d have to build the downhill-side walls of the lowest ones several times as high as the uphill sides of the highest ones (if you can even decode that sentence). Then you’d have to bring in about 10 truckloads of soil and shovel for a year to fill them.

Like I said, it’s easier to explain in photos, but first one more thought: Strive to have your pathways between beds, which should be just wide enough for a wheelbarrow, end up on the level, too. Nothing worse than uneven footing while working, or having a barrow-load of something topple.

Click the first thumbnail to start the slideshow, then toggle from image to image using the arrows beside each caption. Enjoy.

More raised-bed details:

  1. That’s actually one of my pet peeves. Any raised bed, or even just a large planter, sitting on an unlevel surface. It just looks sloppy. We have large street-side planters along a busy strip here in Buffalo and they’re all sitting on the sidewalk at whatever angle the side walk is — wether it’s for designed for rainwater runoff or just deteriorating sidewalks. They’d look so much better if they had wedges underneath to make them level. Thank you for exposing the heinous, deplorable practice of gardening that’s not on the level. We level-headed people appreciate it.

  2. Turling says:

    HA! I was wondering about the leveling. We’re preparing our own raised beds on slightly uneven ground and it occurred to me that the water from the irrigation would run downhill leaving a large section of the planter dry. I like the method you used at leveling.

    1. Margaret says:

      @Jim: Glad I’m not the only fussy-budget, but both for ease of use and also some sense of visual order, I think you have to come up with some systematic approach…and this is the only one I could here on my insane piece of land. :)

      @Turling: Yes, same as when a pot isn’t level; you’re right. The water soaks into one part only, or even spills out. Glad this illuminates a possible solution.

  3. Rich Pomerantz says:

    Thanks for a timely (for me) post! I just picked up some newly milled locust from my local mill to replace the old boards that rotted (also locust – it lasted more than 10 years). I see you are connecting the corners with what looks like a two-by-two inside the corner. And I think you have screwed it into both of the boards it joins – is that right? Also it looks like you have the screws going in from the outside of one board but then from the inside of the other. This all appears very sensible – is there a reason to do it this way as opposed to all from the outside?

    I am also curious whether you have any experience with the pre-fab corner joiners available from places like gardeners supply.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Marla. All I can say is, a very long time. So many factors can alter the lifespan, but many, many years. The bottom boards (or the bottom edge of the lowest boards that form the box edge), in constant soil and moisture contact, will decline sooner I bet…but I expect more than a decade (and probably longer) even from those, maybe twice that long, who knows? But they have a lot of natural rot resistance, not unlike cedar and teak and so on; I think boats are even made of black locust.

      I used 2-inch-wide boards from a local sawmill, so there is a substantial thickness to the material as well.

  4. Alexa Freeman says:

    I am eager to see what you’ve done but can’t start the slide show. Do you have an active link? Also, I practically inhaled your new “A Way to Garden.” I read it straight through as bedtime reading in a few nights. It is fantastic and I know I will be referring to it often. Thank you, and congratulations!

  5. Joannah Kuriloff says:

    You great article/links/photos on leveling raised vegetable beds don’t seem to be active any longer… the subject of leveling them (or not) continues at this link.

    is there anyway to make the above “link” in your article active again…as well as the photos you posted?

    Thanks very much. Greatly appreciated!

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