Raised beds on balconies are quite a new trend. It was never meant for the balcony but only for gardeners with land to grow their vegetables. However, mini raised beds are quite a revolutionary idea for balcony spaces for practicing proven gardening techniques like crop rotation, intercropping, poly crop, etc.
As we already know, the most important constraint when it comes to balconies is space. Raised beds increase the growing space as they can accommodate more amount plants which individual pots cannot. I don’t want to get limited by the fact that I don’t have enough space towards the path of self-sustainability. Therefore, we build two mini raised beds for my balcony space this year.
On my journey to sustainable living, we decided to make our own raised rather than buying a ready-made one. This saves us almost 50% of the money and also customizes it to our space. What is the fun of buying a ready-made product, when you can DIY it?
But if you want to buy raised beds, there are several options available in the market. I suggest you be selective about the material used to make the raised bed. Choose an option that is environmentally friendly and also doesn’t harm the vegetables/soil you are using. Raised beds made from wood, plastic, stone, concrete, terracotta are all available in the market in different sizes.
Make a Plan
Before building the raised bed, it is important to have a plan. I went ahead and decided where I want to keep the raised bed and measured the space out.
My balcony is west facing and receives a lot of light in the summer. But since it is shaded, only the outer portion receives a good amount of light. In order to ensure that the plants receive the maximum amount of light, they are kept at the height of the railing, so that they don’t get shaded by it.
Thus I decided to keep the first raised bed close to the railing at a height same as that of the railing. The second bed will be a shorter one which will not have the height of the railing. Since I have familiarised myself with the lighting conditions in my balcony, I know where the shorter one can be placed so that it receives maximum sunlight.
Before buying the materials, make a plan for the raised bed with full measurements. Also, decide on the material with which you want to make the raised bed. We decided to make raised bed with spruce wood. Pine, Douglasie wood are all other good options for a raised bed. These wood types are relatively durable and resistant to sun and rain exposure.
A pdf document with full measurements that we used for making the raised bed can be downloaded here, if it helps. 🙂
Shop the Materials
Once we have fixed the plan and list of materials to buy, we went to the hardware store or ‘Baumarkt’. We decided to use spruce wood in glued wood form and in square wood form for the sides and legs respectively. (Leimholz Fichte/ Kantholz Fichte). The measurements, plan, and a checklist of materials are provided in a PDF document, which you can download here.
Since we are beginners in woodworking and we do not have the appropriate tools to cut wood, we got it cut to the required measurements from the hardware store itself. Most of the stores provide this service which eases our job. The hard part is actually done!
Apart from the materials, we also need some tools like drill, electric screwdriver, screws which are all listed in the downloadable PDF.
Since it was cold in April, we had to make the raised bed indoors. A step-by-step guide on how to build a raised bed is also provided as a free downloadable PDF. While screwing the wood, make sure to pre-drill the holes before inserting the screws. Otherwise, the wood might tear apart. With the right tools, woodworking is fun.
I painted the raised bed with wood stain in ‘Chest nut’ color. This gives extra protection for the wood and the color makes it aesthetically pleasing. For the base of the raised bed, I choose equal-length woodblocks. They are screwed in and attached with gaps between them. This will ensure drainage and airflow. Drainage is very important for a raised bed to prevent plants from having wet feet and rotting.
To make the raised bed mobile, we decided to place furniture wheels underneath each leg. This will surely come in handy in a small balcony space especially to practice crop rotation. More on that coming later. 🙂
Lining up the Raised Bed
To get more years out of the raised bed, it is important to cover the inner sides with fleece material. If soil is directly filled into the raised bed, the moisture can damage the wood. Lining up a raised bed can also give better water retention. Since the raised bed is made of wood, it can let water out easily (just like terracotta) damaging the wood in the long run and also for us having to water the plants more often. Lining up with a plastic fleece can retain moisture better in the raised bed, thus less consumption of water.
Do not use PVC for wrapping the wood, as it is not ideal for growing plants and can eventually leach chemicals into the soil. We chose the bubble wrap ( Noppenfolie) made out of HDPE material, which is (from my research) garden-friendly. I lined up the fleece using a wood stapler.
Drainage for Raised Bed
Drainage hole is very important for plants so that their roots don’t clog in water. Since there is no clear picture as to how the drainage should be provided, we decided to do it in our own way. Since raised balcony garden is relatively a new topic, there is no one method to give drainage in raised beds. There is a fleece that allows water to pass through which can be placed at the bottom.
What we did was use the same waterproof bubble wrap in the basement. For drainage, we cut this fleece and covered it with a mesh net so that only water passes through it.
We are planning to place a bucket underneath to collect excess water. This excess water can be used to water other plants. This is our solution to provide drainage. I am not sure if this is the ideal solution. If you have a better solution, kindly let me know so that I can do it better the next time. 🙂
I am so happy with how the raised bed turned out. I will soon do another post/video on how to fill the raised bed in an economic way. So stay tuned for that.
Hope we got you into the thought of keeping a raised bed in your own balcony garden. Do share with me how it goes.
A video describing the whole process of building a raised bed is available on my channel. Check it out 🙂