Gardening for Life!

Sample Garden Bed Construction

Model A: Mounded beds with edging (sod stays in place)

This model of garden construction can give a structured appearance to create a beautiful food forest style garden using permaculture methods.   Residents may choose this garden bed construction style because they dislike the look of wooden raised beds in rows.  The edging around the mounded soil is appealing to residents who are concerned about a garden being disorderly in a residential neighbourhood due to soil erosion and lack of garden rental bed boundaries.Call Alberta One Call to get map of buried utilities.  Place garden beds well away from buried utility lines

To build one of these gardens, you need to:

  • Mark out the boundaries of the entire garden.
  • Plan and invite residents to a sheet mulching party.
  • Sheet mulching makes a weed barrier of heavy corrugated cardboard or multiple layers of newspapers overlapped and sprayed with water.
  • Layer on straw, soil and compost over entire site. Do not use animal manures!
  • Layer on pathway material according to measurements on the garden drawing.
  • Place garden edging and secure into ground firmly.
  • Move soil into areas within the edging
  • Complete the layer of pathway materials
  • Label garden beds
  • Assemble a container food garden near the water source, accessible pathway,  parking and seating area.  Use large containers that are 22 to 24 inches high for accessible gardening from lawn chairs and wheelchairs.
Model B:  Raised Wooden Garden Beds (sod removed)

Based on the the example of the South Garden: Community Crop Society, this model incorporates low-rise wooden raised beds with tarpaulin under footpaths and removal of sod.

  • Call Alberta One Call in advance.
  • Arrange order of wood cut to specific lengths, garden mix soil and footpath materials.
  • Construct the wooden frames for the garden beds ahead of the build day.
  • Purchase weed barrier material.
  • Book a bobcat and trained operator.
  • Mark out the perimeter of the garden.
  • Rent a sod cutter and remove sod.  
  • Consider berm gardens made out of sod turned upside down, covered with  loam and planted with perennials.
  • Have lots of strong volunteers to build the berm gardens.
  • Order extra soil to cover the berm gardens.
  • Place very large tarpaulins or nonwoven landscape weed barrier fabric on the ground with overlaps.  Secure into the ground.
  • Construct wooden garden beds with screws and braces for corners and mid-sections.
  • Place the completed garden beds according to the garden drawing measurements.
  • Measuring carefully so footpath areas are wide enough for a wheel barrow to travel and for two gardeners to be comfortable working at beds on either side of a footpath.
  • Cut the tarpaulin within the beds in an X, bring it up and staple to the inside of the bed to protect the wood from moisture and to permit drainage to the ground below within the garden bed.
  • Set up the accessible gardening areas so that a gardener in a wheelchair, walker, scooter or lawn chair can move and turn around easily to get water, tools and supplies.
  • Accessible pathway material here needs to be firm so wheels can roll easily.  You may wish to use tamped down powdered rock Trail Mix over a bed of weed barrier and gravel for drainage. (Woodchip mulch is not satisfactory for accessible footpaths.)
  • Fill garden beds with loam that has 50% compost.
  • Place a minimum of four inches wood chip mulch on pathways between garden beds.  Each year this will be added to because the wood chip mulch will break down naturally.
Wicking Beds (with sod in place or on asphalt or in ground)

Wicking  beds are becoming a popular choice for community gardeners.because they conserve water and do not have to be watered as often as ordinary raised garden beds. 

Instructions, Photos and Diagrams

"From the Bottom Up: a DIY Guide to Wicking Beds" (with photos)  by Rob Avis, Verge Permaculture
in Permaculture News: from The Permaculture Research Institute of Australia

How -To Videos

Food is Free Project: How to Build a Raised Wicking Bed (from wooden pallets) 10:27 minutes

Wicking Beds: Sustainable Gardening Australia  6:49 minutes


How to Make a Wicking Bed Container Food Garden From a Wine Barrel with Steve Batley, landscape architect and permaculture designer. Randwick City Council   29:56 minutes