Raised beds on slopes: how to do it right

Yards are not created equal. Some are beautifully flat and easy to use, but others may be set on sloping surfaces, either up or down. Without major terraforming, you're stuck in the landscape you have. Thankfully, building a loft bed on a slope is an option, and there are multiple ways to do it!

Depending on the slope on which you wish to place your loft bed, different variations may be required. No matter what you do, you'll have to do some digging and leveling up, but the rewards are worth it.

So let's cover all the essentials you need to build a raised garden bed on a sloping surface. Gardening is possible no matter how your landscape begins, and you'll love being able to plant a garden every spring!

Do loft beds need to be level?

Technically, a loft bed doesn't absolutely need to be level. After all, plants grow naturally on hillsides! However, raised beds can help with many different things.

Watering will be easier on a flat garden bed. Watering on a slope means the top is more likely to dry out before the bottom of the slope. You want your bed to have an even distribution of soil moisture, so a flat bed is best.

Likewise, nutrients dissolved in the water will flow to the lowest point. Having a tiling ensures even distribution of fertilizer and other amendments you add to the soil.

When rain hits non-level raised beds, another thing can be unevenly distributed: your growing medium itself. If you don't level the bed, you could end up with some pretty serious erosion problems.

In the end, it's much easier to work on a level surface. Gardening on slopes can be a challenge at the best of times, so when you have the option to level things up, you should embrace it! Your raised garden bed will perform better overall.

Reinforce steep hillsides

If your hill near your desired bed is a steep incline, it can seem daunting to get everything started. Erosion can be a major factor in severely sloped surfaces as water runs down hillsides and carries dirt and debris. Reinforcing a steep hillside will help you protect the bed from damage and protect the rest of the yard from flooding.

The easiest way to reinforce is to build retaining walls or reinforced fences to block hillsides. This should be done when rain is unlikely to interrupt your work, because then you don't risk erosion halfway through your project!

You'll need to carve it out into the hillside to provide a flat, stepped position for your raised bed. Leave enough room for the raised bed and your intended reinforced wall, and extra space if you want to access the side closest to the reinforced bed. You may need to remove quite a bit of soil to create a flat surface.

Once the soil is in the way, you may need to remove a little more soil to add leveling sand and compact it to make a good foundation for your walls. This is especially true if you're building a concrete wall, as you don't want it to sink into the soil below it! Take the time to make sure it's on an even, firm foundation now, or you'll rebuild it again later.

After the soil has stabilized, it's time to build your wall. Both concrete blocks and wood are options, depending on how steep your grade is. A very steep slope should use concrete blocks, while a shallower slope can be blocked with wood.

A good concrete retaining wall can easily reach a thickness of 24" to 28" to ensure it can take the weight of the hill behind it. Typically, these walls will consist of two layers: one that slopes inward and the other that acts as the front surface you will see. Between the interior walls and the hillside, you'll want to add some gravel to allow excess water to drain and help stabilize the soil.

Wooden retaining walls are usually much thinner, but usually have a moisture barrier directly to the soil, followed by a highly reinforced fence panel. Often, there will also be runners on the fence panels that extend uphill to ensure the fence remains stationary. Reinforced or heavy timber columns will add more stability.

Take the time to plan your retaining wall ahead of time and make sure you leave enough space between the retaining wall and future gardening space. Building a retaining wall can open up quite a bit of space for your future garden!

Terraced Garden

Terrace garden styles can be done with or without raised beds. But for best results, adding some raised structures can really enhance your environment.

Technically, these multi-level plots are another variation of elevated gardens. After all, you're just leveling and stepping on stairs for maximum work area. Something like this can be very effective and necessary when dealing with severely sloped surfaces!

With a terraced garden, you will definitely want to build strong retaining walls to prevent erosion. The weaker side may allow a lot of soil to spill over the edges. This will gradually reduce the amount of good soil in the upper layers and may spill over to the lower layers, so it is important to start right.

Building separate raised beds to hold most of the soil will prevent the erosion problems that come with terraced gardens. You can even use a loft bed with your terraces for a nice, stylish space.

Shallow Gardening

Shallow sloped surfaces are easier to handle and require far less soil to move. For a vegetable garden in a location like this, you'll need to level the sloping surface a little before starting work.

Make sure the surface of your future bed is level, if you want it to be a little more compact, it's packed and all is not going to work. Then it's time to build your bed!

steel frame bed

The kind of galvanized steel garden beds sold through the olle gardening store are a great option for building. Construction of this style of bed is very easy because it is ready to use right out of the box. If you're using one of the 8-in-1 or 6-in-1 beds, build the configuration you want by securing it in the desired shape with the included screws. Fixed size bed pieces are also easy to assemble with screws.

Once your bed is assembled, you need to make sure the bottom of the frame is flush with the ground and the top is level. It's easy if you prepare ahead of time. Otherwise, remove a small amount of soil to level the sides of the bed.

If you have a problem with moles or gophers, put some hardware cloth under your bed to keep them from digging out of your plot. Double-check the level to make sure your bed isn't sloping down, then fill it with a potting mix of your choice and you're good to go!

One final aspect of this bed type: While the planting medium should stop your bed from moving, if you're dealing with a heavily sloping surface, you may want to make sure that due to hillside pressure, the bed has no chance of sliding forward. A sturdy stake made of rebar or wood can help. Tap the stakes into place along the inside of the bed to hold it in place. Wood can deteriorate over time when covered with damp potting mix, so using rebar or other metal stakes is often a better option for years of use.

wooden loft bed

The wooden bed on the slope is also nice. Gardens in this style are more of a custom build than an out-of-the-box project, but it's easy to source wood and screws to assemble them.

As with galvanized garden beds, you'll want to make sure your bed isn't sloping or sitting at an angle. Make the bed on the ground ahead of time.

Most wooden beds are just a box made of planks cut to size. Cedar is one type of furniture in this style because of its longevity, but you can also choose Douglas fir or other woods. Avoid pines, which decompose quickly when exposed to moisture. The garden is always wet!

I prefer 2x6 lumber on the sides of the garden bed, but depending on your design, you may choose other sizes. The benefit of the 2x6 board size is that two of them are stacked one foot high, so it's easy to plan the height you need and buy the lumber. Most people prefer raised beds with sides that are at least 12 inches deep, these parts will work just fine!

4x4 posts are great corner reinforcements. If you want to hold the bed securely in place, you can make the corner posts about 12 inches longer than needed for the height of the side panels, and bury the extra 12 inches in each corner under the ground. This ensures that the frame does not move or deviate from its position.

Once the construction of the box is complete, set it in place and check the level. Adjust the position of the side of the bed to eliminate tilt. As with metal beds, you can use wooden stakes to secure the bed if necessary. Fill in the garden combination of your choice, plant it out, and you'll have a beautiful garden in no time!