Raised Beds built, questions about leveling..

prairiemoon2 z6 MAApril 15, 2014

Our raised bed frames are coming along. Have a few more still left to build. Now we're looking at leveling the beds. Our land where the beds are is at a slight slope which is noticeable to the eye. I would think this is a good thing for drainage. We tried raising the low end and it would have to come up too high with a large gap that would have to be filled with bricks or something. So, not sure we should dig the high end into the ground or just let the bed go with the natural slope of the land. I would think if I bury part of the frame, it will speed up the wear and tear on the bed, no?

Also, is there some trick to getting all the beds to be uniformly level to each other? Some beds look a little lower than other beds.

And I assume we should wait until all the beds are done and in place to start to level them and try to get some uniformity.

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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

It depends on the layout. If the length is situated down the slope, it is tougher than if the width is, Also depends on how long or wide the beds are, what the ground slope is.

Anyway, I would prefer shaving the high side than having a gap on the low side. You don't need slope for the purpose of raised beds' drainage. On the other hand, raised beds do not need to be perfectly level. A slight slope won't hurt anything. To make all of them in the same order, run a twine line.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 6:08AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Yes, the length of the beds are going down the slope. I also have one long 16ft bed that is in the opposite direction. Three beds are 4x12ft and one is 20ft all going East to West on the down slope with one more bed gong North to South that is 16ft long at the top of the slope.

Not sure what you mean by 'shaving the high side'. Do you mean with a plane to the actual top rim of the bed?

The twine line, sounds like that will work fine. Thanks.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 6:42AM
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My raise bed garden is on a slope also. I did level them. Raising the low end and adding more boards where needed. There is almost a 10" difference on one of the beds, so the low end needed 3 more 2x4's, on the sides the bottom boards were cut at a diagonal.

I built the beds even, but nailed longish 2x2's (cut like stakes at the bottom) on the inside corners, sort of like table legs. Then when I placed them I knocked the high end down into the ground, until I had the whole thing level, and pieced in the bottom parts that were gapping.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 7:54AM
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I second Mandolls method, and the corner stake idea to aid in leveling sounds like a great idea. When you have a single bed by itself, it looks just fine if it's a little out of level. But in my opinion, as soon as you start placing several beds together, it starts to look a little sloppy if they're all at different heights and degrees of level... simply because your eye can easily compare one bed to the next. Along those lines... it's all about what pleases your eye, and just "eyeballing the degree of level is fine. If level is very important, it's easy enough to use a level to aid you. Start by laying the beds in the location they're going to live. Once you've kicked them around into an arrangement that suits you, start at the highest point of your slope and level out from that point. You'll basically be lifting the down slope edges of the beds until the level looks right. Eyeball across adjacent beds to align them and put some sort of shim under them to hold them at the appropriate height. (Or utilize Mandolls stake technique) Once you've tweaked everything to a point that it pleases your eye, you should have created a series of wedge shaped gaps under your bed walls. Measure the height of the gaps at each end, transfer them to a board, draw a straight line between them, and cut the "wedges" preferably with a circular saw. Nail/screw these tapered pieces to the underside of your beds and you'll have a neat, organized looking arrangement of level beds for years to come. Having said all of that... If the gaps are only a couple of inches, you could simply shim them up with a brick or a small rock rather than taking time to do some carpentry! I apologize if I oversimplified the instructions not knowing your skill level. Best of luck!

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 9:00AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Great, thank you all for the detailed explanations and the photos to go with them. Very nice looking beds you both have, Creativeguy and Mandolls!

Mandolls, you have more of a slope than I do. I think we probably had a 2 or 3 inch gap when we raised the low end. You ended up with some nice deep beds. Your vegetable beds remind me of terraced beds which I always love the look of.

Creativeguy, your description of the 'wedge shaped gap' gave me a good visual of what is going to happen. Are those supports for tomatoes on your beds?

Okay, we'll wait to finish all the beds, have them half done with three more to go and it's raining here today and maybe tomorrow. This shouldn't be too hard. :-)

Thank you!!

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 9:35AM
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Ours is on a crazy hill! We put in corner supports first and built the beds into the hill.

The back bed, on the greatest slope, has 1 board on the back 2 sides and 2 boards on the other 2 sides (we dug them into the hill, except where too much would be buried, we used a skill saw to cut the boards with the slope of the hill and then dug them in just a little to secure them without having the risk of rot if that makes sense). The front bed has a similar set up only with 2 boards all the way around (again cut and buried a little so that the top is level).

It was a LOT of work to build them in place, but it would have been much harder to try to build them first and then attempt to dig them in and level them - although that might be easier with smaller beds. I hope that makes sense - I wish I took pictures of the process (it took 2 full days, not including planning or painting!)

Ignore the lack of grass - that is next! :)

This post was edited by kcg1231 on Tue, Apr 15, 14 at 13:27

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 1:17PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

It is a lot of work to build the beds and get them worked into the landscape the way you want them. And you've added painting to the process. Nice decorative corners! Thanks for the photo. :-)

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 4:12PM
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Those are indeed my tomato stakes. I like to grow 'em high. Practical? No, not really. But fun.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 4:42PM
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Creativeguy - looks like you could easily put up plastic and turn that structure into a green house to extend your growing season - very nice.

I made some low tunnels out of pvc that I can pop over the tops of mine, but I haven't made much use of them. I simply don't have the time to get much started in April, and usually by mid-May when I do have the time, I don't need them.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 7:09PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Not sure what you mean by 'shaving the high side'
It means removing the soil from high/hilly side and transferring it to the low side, thus making a near level foundation, slightly wider than the bed. Making a bed frame with varied depth is also another option. It just needs some extra lumber and carpentry work. It can be done by a circular saw.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 7:14PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Creativeguy, I was thinking the same thing about being able to turn your tomato support system into a greenhouse. :-)

Thanks Seysonn, yes, that is another way I could do it. Working on this with my son so I'll pass along all these suggestions and see what he wants to do. He does have a circular saw and some experience with wood, too.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 8:19PM
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I would definitely level them. Water will have less tendency to run off that way.


    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 9:16PM
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