Raised bed garden design is not difficult so long as you take into consideration a few important points.
If you need an overview of this gardening technique you can find one at raised bed gardening.
In raised bed garden design, as in life, planning is definitely the key to success!
With this in mind I've put together some tips and ideas to help you create a design that will work.
If you are thinking about designing and building your own raised bed garden, it is worth taking the trouble to plan it all out on paper first.
This will allow you to work out the quantities of materials you will need and to avoid problems during the construction phase.
The key points to take into account are:
Aspect means the orientation of your garden relative to the position of the sun.
South and west facing gardens receive more sun and are generally milder than north and east facing ones.
You will need to take this, and the type of plants you will be growing, into account when positioning your beds.
It is also important to take into account any shady areas caused by existing trees and shrubs, hedges and fences and your own, or neighbouring, buildings.
If you have shady areas you can still have raised beds so long as you plant them with shade tolerant plants (information on shade gardening and suitable plants can be found at gardening in the shade).
This is particularly important in your raised bed garden design.
Make sure that you can easily reach all parts of a raised bed from the sides and remember to make the pathways or other spaces between the beds wide enough for you to move about easily and safely with any gardening equipment you are likely to use.
If wheelchair or walking frame access is important allow pathways of 1.2m (4ft) to give you enough room to manoeuvre safely. The pathways themselves should also have a smooth, level surface of concrete or non-slip paving stones to allow ease of movement.
Raised beds make gardening easier by effectively raising parts of your garden to a convenient working height.
Most people find beds ranging in height from 30cm (1ft) to 75cm (2ft 6in) work well for them. The higher beds can be tended from a sitting position.
The beauty of creating your own raised bed garden design from scratch is that you can tailor the size to your exact requirements.
Tip: if your raised bed garden design includes beds at the higher end of the range, use stronger construction materials and techniques as the weight of contained soil will be that much greater.
A width of 1.2m (4ft) is about right if you can access your raised bed from both sides. Beds that can only be reached from one side will have to be narrower.
Length is more a personal choice and depends on what you want to grow.
In the vegetable garden you are likely to be working more intensively so don't make the beds so long that it becomes frustrating walking round to the other side.
In the ornamental garden this is less of a problem so you can be more flexible about your design.
This is particularly important if you are growing vegetables or other thirsty plants as raised beds tend to be quite free draining.
A handy water supply will make watering less of a chore, although you could also consider installing an irrigation system.
Raised beds can be made from a wide variety of materials to suit both your garden and your budget.
Wood is an excellent material and fits in well with most garden designs. To keep costs down you can use reclaimed timber - just make sure that it hasn't been treated with toxic preservatives which can leach into the soil.
The simplest wooden beds are made from sturdy planks and these should last for several years before they need replacing.
A more permanent solution is to use untreated railway sleepers which look attractive and are solid enough to be stacked quite high without becoming unstable.
Brick, stone and concrete blocks are also excellent materials.
Although more expensive than wood, their strength and durability mean that you can raise your beds to whatever height you want and easily create visually interesting designs including tiers and curves.
Match the brick or stone to your house to create a pleasing unified design. Again, you can save money by using secondhand or reclaimed materials.
If the thought of building your own beds horrifies you, or you just don't have the time, you can now buy ready to use raised bed kits.
These often come in an interlocking modular form allowing you to easily plan and create interesting designs.
They can be made from various grades of timber, or even from recycled plastics that look like wood but are more weather resistant and long lasting.
If you need some ideas to start you off, why not take a look at the tips and sample raised bed garden plans for the ornamental garden and for the raised bed vegetable garden.