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!

How to Create a Gorgeous Raised Bed Garden, Girl Who Travels the World, Noelle's Garden

This is the “After” of my yard!! It only took about a year’s worth of work : )

And in case you’re wondering….this was the “Before”……

How to Create a Gorgeous Raised Bed Garden, Girl Who Travels the World, Noelle's Garden

The “Before” = about 1/4 acre of hard, dusty DIRT + weeds!! And some plastic that had blown into my yard…

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.

How to Create a Joanna Gaines-Worthy Garden, Girl Who Travels the World

The first time I ever heard of raised garden beds was through Joanna Gaines; she was one of my first major garden influences. I love the symmetry that exists in her garden: the placement of garden beds on either side of the walkway. Symmetry calms the senses, & I’ve used this concept repeatedly in my own garden. Photo courtesy of HGTV.

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.

How to Create a Joanna Gaines-Worthy Garden, Girl Who Travels the World

A great idea is to add a tall trellis or obelisk INSIDE one of your raised beds & plant climbing vines AROUND it, as Joanna Gaines has done here with these hearty purple climbers.

How to Create the Ultimate Raised Bed Garden, Joanna Gaines' Amazing She Shed, How to Create a Joanna Gaines-Worthy Garden, Girl Who Travels the World, Joanna's Garden Shed

Joanna’s elaborate “She Shed” is surrounded by raised beds with colorful snapdragons & abundant veggies. While hers is like a true tiny house, you can create a beautiful shed that’s far less expensive by visiting your local hardware store or looking for shed kits online. Photo courtesy of HGTV.

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….  

How to Create a Gorgeous Raised Bed Garden, Girl Who Travels the World, Misha from Farmluxe

This drone shot of Misha’s garden gives you a great overview of her layout: six pergolas surround & flank two circular firepits ~ plus a central water fountain. Photo courtesy of Farmluxe.

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.

How to Create a Gorgeous Raised Bed Garden, Girl Who Travels the World, Misha from Farmluxe

Meet Misha & her overflowing garden beds! Check out her TV channel at Farmluxe.tv ~ she has several videos on gardening, including tours of her massive farm & how-to videos. Photo courtesy of Farmluxe.

How to Create a Gorgeous Raised Bed Garden, Girl Who Travels the World, Misha from Farmluxe

At night, her farm looks simply magical. While Joanna uses more straight lines & straight walkways in her yard, Misha employs more of a meandering pathway (another hallmark of English cottage-style); I personally prefer the meandering pathway. Photo courtesy of Farmluxe.

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.

How to Create a Gorgeous Raised Bed Garden, Girl Who Travels the World, Misha from Farmluxe

Magic in the fall….there is a beauty to letting certain parts of your yard (further from the house) be a little more “wild.” Photo courtesy of Farmluxe.

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.

How to Create a Raised Bed Garden from Scratch, Girl Who Travels the World

Here’s a reminder of what the yard looked like when we first moved in….a whole lot of NOTHING!

How to Create a Gorgeous Raised Bed Garden, Girl Who Travels the World

This is the original view of yard from the dining patio: my first purchase was three 2X8 raised cedar beds from Amazon. They look a little bare here! And ALL I noticed originally in the yard was my neighbors’ homes & the ugly brown fence (chosen by our lovely HOA ; ).

How to Create a Joanna Gaines-Worthy Garden, Girl Who Travels the World

This was the original view from the master patio, with a few things filled in ~ & the start of my first FIVE raised garden beds. 

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…

How to Create a Gorgeous Raised Bed Garden, Girl Who Travels the World

And this is the “After!” Laying sod (which I originally didn’t want to do) made the yard simply come ALIVE ~ the raised beds stood out more, & it provides a wonderful contrast to all the golden wood chips, which I used to create borders & paths. Turquoise fountains stand behind two of my front beds; while a circular fire pit area, more garden beds, & a row of privacy hedges in the far back started to create the yard’s basic structure…

How to Create an Amazing Red Bed Garden, Girl Who Travels the World

Beautifully-aged wine barrels add a French country touch to the yard, & a FAR easier way to plant trees! All you need to do is plop your tree in the barrel, then fill around with good soil (& here, some pretty annuals for added color).

How to Create an Amazing Red Bed Garden, Girl Who Travels the World

In this photo, you can see how I took a cue from Farmluxe by adding river rock to create new borders along the right fence line; this broke up a sea of wood chips & gave me new places to plant tall native grasses & vines.

How to Create an Amazing Red Bed Garden, Girl Who Travels the World

The garden in winter. All my perennials go dormant in the winter: the evergreen arborvitae trees & wispy Karl Forester grasses form the heart of the winter yard.

“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.

How to Create a Gorgeous Raised Bed Garden, Girl Who Travels the World

“Before.” Right off the house, it was originally dirt + concrete. You stepped down from the house, & as a consequence, lost a lot of the mountain view(s). The sheer white curtains shown here weren’t sturdy enough to withstand the winter winds; the pair I’ll show below is holding up just fine.

How to Create an Amazing Outdoor Room, Girl Who Travels the World

Deck in the process of being built: we chose to use a fir base, & beautiful treated cedar boards from Lowe’s for the finished deck.

“After” Photos of Outdoor Deck

How to Create a Gorgeous Raised Bed Garden, Girl Who Travels the World, Before & After Backyard Photos

In place of dirt & concrete, this beautiful cedar deck essentially created two new outdoor “rooms.” And by raising the deck a foot off the ground, level with the house, the mountain views were enhanced ten-fold…

How to Create a Gorgeous Raised Bed Garden, Girl Who Travels the World

Now, standing on the deck: you get this panoramic view of the mountains.

How to Create a Gorgeous Raised Bed Garden, Girl Who Travels the World

More “After” shots of the deck. I bought white, heavier-duty outdoor curtains from Amazon to create privacy from my upper neighbors. I also love the way they blow gently in the wind (weight them at the bottom if you don’t want them to blow as much).

How to Create a Gorgeous Raised Bed Garden, Girl Who Travels the World

The deck sort of “dropped off” originally & looked unfinished, so I had our landscaper build a 12-foot long raised bed on the end of the deck to “finish” it, & create separation from the master patio. Charlie always helps with new bed plantings!

How to Create a Gorgeous Raised Bed Garden, Girl Who Travels the World

White curtains frame another beautiful Bend sunset on the deck.

How to Create an Amazing Outdoor Room, Girl Who Travels the World

Simply raising the deck allows year-round, magnificent mountain views.

How to Create a Gorgeous Raised Bed Garden, Girl Who Travels the World

White Christmas lights are left up year-round, creating a lovely frame around the patio area.

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

How to Create a Gorgeous Raised Bed Garden, Girl Who Travels the World, Veggie Garden

Veggie Garden “Before,” when it was nothin’ but dirt. It started to take shape after I added an apple tree in the blue pot, & when I bordered my pathway with pavers ~ leaving a wide space on the left to create a vegetable garden.

How to Create a Gorgeous Raised Bed Garden, Girl Who Travels the World, Veggie Garden

Starting to take shape! I laid down fir chips to contrast with all the surrounding wood chips, & the three-tiered beds allow you to plant LOTS of veggies. And yes, that’s Charlie hiding by the bed….just waiting to help out!

“After” Photos….

How to Create a Gorgeous Raised Bed Garden, Girl Who Travels the World, Veggie Garden

One bed down….!! The added height of these raised beds is perfect for placing against a wall or fence ~ I placed climbers in the far back row to climb up & eventually hide the ugly brown fence!

How to Create a Raised Bed Veggie Garden, Girl Who Travels the World

A different view of the “Veggie Garden After” ~ I put fuchsia phlox & a tall lilac right at the corner entrance of the garden to mask any unsightly future veggies! An apple tree flanks this part of the yard on the left, & a stunning Yellow Locust tree sits in a turquoise pot on the right side…which will hopefully block my neighbors eventually.

How to Create a Gorgeous Raised Bed Garden, Girl Who Travels the World, Native Grass Reading Corner

Just to the right of the “Veggie Garden” is one of my favorite summer reading nooks: I used two 4X8 foot cedar beds to create an “L” shape ~ & then I tucked 2 Adirondack chairs into the “L” for a perfect little reading nook. My neighbors can technically see me here, but with tall, native grasses on the left of the chairs: you feel totally protected from any potential prying eyes ; )

How to Create the Ultimate Raised Bed Garden, Girl Who Travels the World

A view of the yard in full summer splendor: you’ve got Asiatic lilies, Russian Sage, dappled willows, peach trees, Jane Magnolia trees, Virginia Creepers & honeysuckles climbing along the wall, all kinds of native grasses, lots of arborvitae, & of course, the yellow umbrella gives it that extra sunny finishing touch.

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.

How to Create a Raised Bed Garden from Scratch, Girl Who Travels the World

This photo shows the very beginnings of the yard’s shape: I started by slowly adding a few pots & a taller raised bed off the master patio (the pretty fountain came later). The yard’s formation started a bit like a puzzle ~ I filled in the outer corners & edges of the yard, before tackling & filling in the large center area.

How to Create a Raised Bed Garden from Scratch, Girl Who Travels the World

I knew I wanted a pathway from the patios all the way to the BACK of the yard, & I knew I wanted it winding ~ not straight: this photo shows the beginnings of that path (that would later be enclosed with pavers from Lowe’s).

How to Create a Raised Bed Garden from Scratch, Girl Who Travels the World

The yard’s shape is becoming more evident. Here, you can see the addition of two larger, 4X8 raised beds behind the original 3 beds ~ & the beginnings of a circular fire pit area. Wood chips in front of the first row of beds were later replaced with grass.

How to Create a Raised Bed Garden from Scratch, Girl Who Travels the World

This turquoise bird bath cost about $35 on Amazon, & somehow the 40 mph winds we experience at times have NEVER knocked it over…which is kind of crazy!! Great investment, & the birds DO love it. You can also see the beginnings of a “Driftwood Garden” in the far back of the yard…

 

How to Create a Raised Bed Garden from Scratch, Girl Who Travels the World

A look back towards the house: I ended up adding 2 concentric rings around the circular area so that trees & tall grasses could be planted around the edges of the future fire pit.

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!

xoxo Noelia

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