How to Create a Gorgeous Raised Bed Garden
This article could be called many things. It could be called, “How to Create a Gorgeous Raised Bed Garden.” It could also be called, “The Evolution of Noelle’s Garden.” Or, “How to Build a Raised Garden from Scratch,” or “Total Backyard Transformation.” Perhaps finally, it might be titled, “Turning a Whole Lotta Dirt into a Whole Lotta Beauty.” Ha ~ you get the point! Over the course of about a year, I took a 1/4 acre piece of land that was ALL hard, volcanic Central Oregon dirt & turned it into an evolving & every-changing series of raised beds….of all sizes. I’ll give you a first-hand look into this year-long journey in this article!
And in case you’re wondering….this was the “Before”……
My Top Garden Priorities
I had a few very important priorities when beginning to design the garden:
- To create privacy from the neighbors above me, who ~ when I first moved in, were basically looking directly into my yard;
- Do everything possible to enhance the property’s mountain views; & finally,
- To essentially create a mini-French country masterpiece of a garden, gaining structure & symmetry (plus making it FAR easier to plant) with the use of raised beds.
Step #1: Gather Inspiration for Your Garden
If you’re creating a large garden area from scratch, or even if you’re doing a major renovation of an existing space: the most important first step is to gather inspiration. Discover your garden style. Head to Pinterest. Check out gorgeous gardens on Instagram. Buy a gardening magazine….or ten. Go to Yardzen’s website for help identifying whether you like a more minimalist, modern kind of yard vs. an English cottage-style garden that simply overflows with flowers. Find out what you like, what you’re drawn to. Do this before you even draw up your first garden plan.
GWTW Tip: If you choose to stain or paint your garden beds, know that most paints & stains will harm your plants ~ particularly if you’re growing fruits & vegetables. Opt for an organic or plant-safe stain, or even better: buy beds that you already like the color of!
My Two Favorite Influences…
In creating my own garden, I looked to two primary influences: Joanna Gaines’ garden from the show “Fixer Upper,” & Misha from Farmluxe (this is her Instagram handle ~ you MUST check out her page!!!). The first time I ever heard about raised bed gardening was when Joanna transformed a simple patch of farmland into a stunning raised bed, flower & vegetable garden ~ complete with an arched pergola leading to a gorgeous “She Shed.” Seeing the layout & design of both these ladies’ yards/farms gave me a ton of inspiration & insight when I began to create my own.
Both of their yards are quite elaborate & involve a lot of labor (as does mine); if this sounds like too much work for you, seek out yards that employ a simpler design with fewer plantings.
GWTW Tip: Both Joanna Gaines AND Misha from Farmluxe have beautiful “She Sheds” in their gardens; & each is a completely different style. Get all kinds of ideas for designing & creating your own “She Shed” in this article.
Take a Tour of Farmluxe’s Garden….
I think my current #1 favorite garden belongs to Misha from Farmluxe: her & her husband bought a gorgeous farm on Bainbridge Island in Washington, & it’s absolutely SHOW-STOPPING!! She’s able to grow almost anything in the moist environment that surrounds Seattle, including an insane collection of dahlias ~ many grow as large as her head! I’ve gotten so many ideas from Misha about garden design & layout: when you look at aerial photos of her garden below, notice the symmetrical layout of her garden beds; some are square, others rectangular, & some even form “L” shapes.
I did this in my own garden (created an “L” shape with two garden beds) & created a fabulous little reading nook ~ which I’ll show later in this article….
I love how Misha has used garden beds to create all kinds of nooks & seating areas around & by her beds. When you sit in these areas, with flowers surrounding you: it’s as if you’re sitting right in the midst of the garden. Such a peaceful feeling. And perhaps the design idea I’ve copied the most from her is the use of river rocks to create garden borders, which is a very “cottage garden” look ~ incidentally, my favorite kind of garden. I’ve tended to use pavers to create my pathways, but river rocks to surround my trees & wildflower gardens; it’s a less formal yet beautiful look for the garden.
GWTW Tip: Because raised beds are typically either square or rectangular ~ it’s nice to add circular elements to your yard such as fountains surrounded by rocks, a circular fire pit surrounded by Adirondack chairs, or simply an in-ground garden bed created in the shape of an oval or circle.
Step #2: Sketch Out Your Garden Plan
Okay, so by now, you’ve gathered inspiration for your garden; it’s helpful to tear out photos from magazines that you’re inspired by & would like to incorporate into your own garden. Now comes the fun part: Draw out your first sketch of the garden! My first drawing (which can be found in this article) ended up being quite close to my finished garden ~ particularly when it came to the placement of my raised beds. I knew I needed the beds to create an initial structure, around which I could add winding garden paths, various seating areas, & eventually a fire pit or central dining area.
Here are my top takeaways in regards to garden design:
- Design your garden to look its best from your home ~ especially from areas where you spend most of your time. In my case, this is the kitchen, dining & living rooms, master bedroom, & two back patios: all of which have large vantage points of the backyard. Views from these windows & sliders ought to be your most beautiful.
- Before I plant anything in my yard, I step back to my house & see how the planting will look from the house; I often leave the plant (especially trees) there for several days, envisioning how it will look fully grown. Will it block my view? Will it help create privacy from my neighbors? Is this the right place for the plant, will it get enough sun, etc. It’s always better not to rush plantings; take your time in choosing their home. Make sure things are going in the right spot.
Before Photos of My Garden
Okay, enough with words: as they say, photos are worth a thousand words ~ so here are plenty of photos of my backyard transformation.
GWTW Tip: The main reason to use raised garden beds is because, A) It’s way easier to plant in them, vs. trying to use a pick-axe & dig into ROCK HARD soil, like mine! & B) You can add gorgeous, rich organic soil to your beds ~ which is far easier to work with than most native soils, & in which most plants will thrive far more easily.
After Photos of Garden…
“Before” Photos of Outdoor Deck
Perhaps the best overall investment I’ve made in the backyard is to add a 30×12 deck off the back of the house. By raising the deck a foot off the ground, it enhanced the home’s mountain views dramatically (one of my original goals). And to create privacy from neighbors, all I did was to buy some relatively inexpensive white outdoor curtains from Amazon, which helped created two separate outdoor “rooms” on the deck. The material of the curtains is thick enough to withstand strong winter winds; the sheer curtains I originally chose didn’t hold up to their first winter.
“After” Photos of Outdoor Deck
Best Investments I’ve Made in the Yard:
- First & foremost, my raised garden beds form the foundation & principal structure of the yard; to date, I’ve bought SIXTEEN of them, ALL from Amazon!! They were super easy to build (less than 30 minutes) & come in all different sizes ~ including these cool three-tiered shapes, which I used for my “Veggie Garden” (I’ll show this garden below).
- Next up, my absolute favorite purchase has been a gorgeous outdoor fountain: the birds play in it every day, my puppy loves to nap by it, & the lovely sound drowns out the voice of my upper neighbor (I used to be able to hear every word of her phone calls)!
- So far, I’ve bought about six Adirondack chairs ~ & the ones purchased on Amazon were the easiest to put together; there’s virtually no set-up.
- A rattan outdoor couch looks great on the new deck, & creates a wonderful conversation area; this beautiful teak console table is set up directly behind it, giving guests a place to set glasses, etc.
- Two colorful outdoor umbrellas add instant color to the yard; I especially love the yellow one ~ it instantly “wakes up” the whole yard.
- I’ve used aged, 50-gallon wine barrels to plant some of my largest trees: a gorgeous Akebono tree, native willow, two peach trees, & two Magnolia trees. The beauty of planting large trees in a container is that it limits their size ~ particularly important if you don’t want your trees to grow over 15 feet or so (your neighbors will thank you).
How to Create a Raised Veggie Garden
This section includes photos of one of my final frontiers: the left side of the yard, which isn’t really visible from most of the house (though it is visible from the master bedroom). I waited to create this area because it just wasn’t a top priority, & I decided to make this my “Veggie Garden,” as vegetables aren’t always the most attractive plants! But I do love the tall, three-tiered beds for this garden ~ they add instant height to the yard, & are attractive even without plants in them.
“Before” Photos of Veggie Garden
This fun & comfy hammock sits behind my “Veggie Garden,” almost totally private from the house ~ & these are the three turquoise bird baths you see in my yard; to date, they’ve NEVER blown over, which is kind of crazy for how light they are!
The Slow Evolution of My Garden…
In this final section, I won’t show as many of the pretty “After” photos ~ but I will show how I slowly evolved the shape & design of the garden over the course of a year. When you look at gardens like Misha’s from Farmluxe, it’s easy to get a bit discouraged: but keep in mind, she bought an existing farm & garden, with loads of good soil & existing beds. Creating a garden from scratch is a whole other ball game, & it’s perfectly fine to let things slowly evolve as your time & budget allow.
Bottom Line: Take time letting your yard evolve & grow. There’s no rush! Gardens are an ever-changing, living, breathing thing ~ once you have your initial structure down, you can breathe a sigh of relief! From then on, it’s just fun…
How to Create a Gorgeous Raised Bed Garden
Whew!! It was almost as much work writing this article as it was to create this garden! Ha ~ thanks for taking a tour of our massive backyard adventure…I’ve made sure to include links all throughout the article to the exact items I’ve purchased to help create it. If you’ve got any questions about the garden, please ask me in the comments below & I’ll do my best to answer!
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