The garden built in this episode is the new home garden set for our show. We’re very excited to finally have a home base garden that we can use to grow lots of organic produce, flowers and herbs. In addition, we plan on using this space year round, to test the hardiness of various crops, as well as disease resistance, varietal options, and various gardening techniques. This is an all-organic garden and we’ll share with you what works, what doesn’t and the challenges as well as the successes we have along the way. Our goal is to help make you a better gardener, while seeing that environmentally responsible choices can still yield a thriving garden and bountiful harvest.

How to install a new gardenGarden Details

The overall dimension of the garden is 74 x 40 feet. The wood chosen for the 16 raised beds is untreated cedar, chosen for its naturaldurability and consistent shape. We purchased 96 6×6 inch timbers, each 16 feet long. This was calculated to produce the least amount of waste and minimize the required cuts. Each bed is stacked 3 timbers high, making the beds 18 inches tall. To accommodate the maximum growing space with adequate room between beds for our cameras and equipment, there is 4 feet between each bed and 6 feet between the outer beds and the fence. The dimensions of each bed are 12 feet by 4 feet with the exception of the four beds that parallel the length of the fence. They are each 12 by 3 feet to make this design and spacing work with the required spacing between beds and fence.

How to install drip irrigationIrrigation

Each bed has drip irrigation delivered from an in-ground system that was installed for this garden before the soil was added to the beds.  For maximum efficiency and to minimize water use, the irrigation is on a solar-powered, locally monitored in real-time, which overrides the programs if conditions don’t require supplemental irrigation.

The Soil

The soil making up each beds comes from 60% composted top soil, 20% Certified Compost, and 20% composted manure, sourced directly from the animals on our farm: horses, goats and chickens. Read Joe’s blog on herbicides in manure for the backstory on what happened from that manure once the plants went in. It’s not good!

Installing a fenceThe Fence

The fence is split rail cedar with 4 self-closing gates. To prevent small critters from accessing the garden, the interior is lined with black, vinyl coated 1 x 2 galvanized fencing, buried several inches into the ground. The fence height along the top rail is four feet. Although this may pose a future concern to deer intrusion, time will tell. Through the first full season, we not had a single deer intrusion, even though they are all around this property.

Our theory for the success so far and the plan when we decided on just four feet high was two fold. First, the design of the garden within the fence is rather cramped and doesn’t allow for much landing space (which they greatly prefer) should they consider jumping into it. The bed layout may also add to the perception that this is a confined space. Since deer have poor depth perception, they may also find this configuration a bit difficult to judge. Our second theory adding to the deer-free success so far, is that each bed received a light application of an organic nitrogen source, using Milorganite. Although not marketed as a deer-repellent, it has been shown to have repelling properties in university studies. See the link below.

Other links you might find helpful:

Joe’s “must-read” blog post on Compost Confidential regarding Herbicides in Manure : Get the sad backstory on what happened after planting. Don’t let this happen to you!

Detailed PDF Plans for Building the Raised Beds plus the Raised Bed Diagram (compliments of Fiskars)

To access the article for the two-line fence to control deer, click here

The source for soil and Certified Compost in the garden beds: Smith Garden

The source for our cedar timbers: Thomas Lumber Co.

Our Fence Installer: North Atlanta Fence 

Our Irrigation Provider: RainMaker 

UGA Article on Milorganite results at reducing deer browsing.

Recipe: Summer Zucchini Salad with a Shallot Caper Vinaigrette


Growing A Greener World is a national gardening series on Public Television that features organic gardening, green living and farm to table cooking. Each episode focuses on compelling and inspirational people making a difference through gardening. This gardening series covers everything from edible gardening and sustainable agriculture to seasonal cooking and preserving the harvest.

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  1. John says

    Love the site, and all the information. Thank you for providing this to us…one quick question, after you build the beds, and put down landscape fabric, do you cut through the fabric underneath the beds to expose the ground soil to the raised bed soil? Or do you build the beds on top of the landscape fabric to keep a natural barrier between the two soil types?

    Thanks for your help.


    • says

      Hey John. Thanks for the kind words.
      In my beds, I don’t add any landscape fabric. First, you don’t need it to block weeds. The soil on top from your beds will prevent weeds growing at ground level in your beds.
      Fabric also clogs from tiny soil particles eventually. This will hinder drainage. Not good!
      If you still want to use fabric, I would cut holes so drainage will still happen and allow roots to go deeper if they want to get into the native soil.
      But again, in a raised bed, you just don’t need it at all. Save the money and the time, and future frustration. Good luck!

  2. says

    It’s really a great and useful piece of information. I am
    happy that you just shared this helpful information with us.
    Please keep us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Rocco Perciballi says

    Why did you use all 4″x4″x16′ cedar? Would it not be less work to use mostly 4″x4″ x12′ so no cutting is needed and then 4″x4″x8′ for the ends cut in half.

    Also did you use white cedar or red cedar? Is one better than the other?

    Thanks Rocco

    • says

      Hi Rocco. We used 16′ 6×6 cedar timbers based on availability and what was requested by the engineers helping me build the beds. It may have also been a cost issue. I don’t which would be more efficient but I’m sure they had their reasons. I think the cedar we used was red cedar but again, it was based on what was available. Not sure I was ever given the option between red and white.

  4. Stuart Onsrud says

    I really enjoyed the raised bed episode. What was the cost for the garden as I am considering doing one similar to that. Also do you have the amount and type of plants used as well as pictures of the garden after they have grown?

    • says

      Hi Stuart. The cost of the garden was about $10,000 for the wood for the raised beds. I used 96, 16′ 6×6 cedar timbers. I did get a discount but not that much. I think I got a wholesale price. But by knowing what I used, you shop this price to find the best deal. The fence was about $4500. The soil was donated but I think it costs about $26/cubic yard. I used about 30 yards to fill the beds.
      To cut costs, I considered only using two tiers of timbers, That would instantly cut the cost by 1/3. You could also use 4×4 timbers but I think 6×6 makes a much sturdier bed. Also, I used cedar; very expensive but untreated and beautiful in the garden. There are much cheaper options here.
      So this was a large, but one time investment. I expect this garden to still be here and producing long after I’m gone!
      We have many pictures of the garden in production. The best place to find this is to browse our Facebook page; Check the Photos tab there.

  5. Lee says

    We simply use a tight string for deer control around our gardens. You can even string along your tree line to break up their path…we’ve been doing it for years and have great success

    • says

      It’s surprising how a simple system like this can and does work. It’s similar to the two-line system being tested and used in university studies. Although nothing is guaranteed, it’s nice to know something this simple can be effective. Thanks for sharing Lee.

  6. says

    Dear Joe

    Thank you for the very informative show.
    We just prepared a 40×25 area for our vegetable garden in NE Pennsylvania and we are planning to build our vegetable garden.
    Do you see a great disadvantage of building 12″ beds using 3 stacked 4x4s instead of the 18″ beds using 3 stacked 6x6s?
    If we use the 4x4s do I have to drill roles to place the rebar and metal spikes to prevent it from breaking the 4×4’s? Any other important hints on hardware/technique used when using 4×4″? We plan to go no longer than 4″x8′ beds.
    Thank you very much!

    • says

      Hey Sergio. You should have no problem with the 3 stack 4×4’s. But I would reinforce them by drilling down with rebar and into the stacks to lock the joints in place with long screws. I think what we used was called “lock-tight”. They were 12″. We needed an impact drill to drive them all the way in. But I do think it’s important to use the rebar in the first course and galvanized spikes in the 2nd and 3rd layer to keep the wood from bowing under pressure from the water and soil within the beds. Good luck!

  7. kevin thalmann says

    Hi Joe,
    I only recently saw the episode on raised beds, and it got me hooked on setting up my garden that way.
    I’ll likely do one about 22×25 or thereabouts. The spot I have in mind is full sun but on grass. If I do 18″ high beds would you bother digging up the grass or build the timbers right on top of it? Not easy to dig up, plus would invite weeds. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

    • says

      Plant straight over the grass Kevin. Absolutely no need to dig up the grass. The level of soil and lack of sunlight will kill the grass as it breaks down naturally.

  8. Jeanette Alley says

    I’m interested in starting a garden this year. We have a couple of raised beds in our yard that have well established weeds with lots of thick deep roots . Is there an easy way to get rid of these established weeds and still have a successful garden or is it better to start over?

    The other problem we have is raccoons and possums. How do we keep these critters out of our garden? Our neighbor has been trying to catch the raccoons to no avail so they can be relocated because they have been causing a lot of problems in the neighborhood.

    Any ideas you can share would be greatly appreciated.


    • says

      Smothering the weeds with several inches of soil (6 inches or more) should kill them eventually by denying them the light they need to grow. That’s the easy and effective route. Herbicide is easy but not my method of weed control. Otherwise, you have to dig them out. Not easy but 100% effective.

      For critter control, the only effective way is a physical barrier, such as a fence. You’ll also need to dig the bottom down into the ground to prevent the opossums and other burrowing critters from digging under your fence. Raccoons are another story though. They can climb over anything. It is unlikely that you will have a garden that is completely enclosed. So set traps in the fenced in area and relocate the coons elsewhere if necessary. My method of choice is to plant enough for you and the coons. I’ve never had much, if any problem with raccoons so I’d share the bounty or trap and relocate. Not much else you can do.

  9. Christine says

    Couldn’t get the video to down load. Would watch some of it and then it would stop. Tried 3 different times. Stopped at different times.

  10. Sherry Thompson says

    Interesting episode. Are you finding the raised beds dry out quicker than an in-ground bed? Summers in Nashville can be quite hot and many experienced gardeners here say that you will have to water anything raised or confined in a pot much more often.

    • says

      Hi Sherry. It is a fact that containers dry out much quicker since the entire soil surface is exposed to the elements by thin plastic, or moisture wicking terra cotta in many cases. However, raised beds typically don’t dry out as quickly as containers due to the volume of soil around the roots, the thickness of the wood and more. Mulch on top also helps slow down the evaporative effects even more. Yet, even the best raised beds will tend to dry out quicker than in ground beds. That’s why it’s so important to improve the soil so that you create an environment full of organic matter that helps to retain moisture while allow it to drain sufficiently as well. And that’s the key! In ground beds, although better at retaining moisture, are far worse when it comes to adequate drainage. The risk of drowning your plants is therefore greater in the ground than in raised beds. That’s why I prefer raised beds as it provides the best of both worlds: a lower risk of saturated soil yet amendments that help keep it from drying out too quickly. And the taller the beds, the better chance moisture is retained deeper into them.

  11. Radha Vaidyanathan says

    I was fascinated by this episode of how you built the raised beds for gardening vegetables. I would really like to see all the beds filled with all different kinds of vegetable plants. Will you be incorporating flower plants too or is this an exclusively vegetable garden?

    Very educational episode and I look forward to many more.
    I tried Nathan Lane’s recipe and it turned out delicious! I will be growing some this summer so I can enjoy having this salad.

    Thank you for a wonderful episode!

  12. says

    The links for what follows lead to blank PDF documents. Could I please get what was offered on your website?

    “Detailed PDF Plans for Building the Raised Beds plus the Raised Bed Diagram (compliments of Fiskars)”

    Also, thank you for the useful information.

    • Sarah says

      Hey Jan,

      Sorry that the links didn’t work when you tried to access them. We have adjusted them, so they should work properly now.

  13. Donna says

    Hi Joe, Love your new garden! We have our own raised vegetable beds and have been enjoying them for several years now. I have a question regarding keeping the weeds at bay between the raised beds … we recently put down black weed paper and topped it with small pebbles. However, I still see some weeds coming up. What did you use and how did you apply it around and in-between your beds? Any advice at how I can control the weeds? Thanks.

    • says

      Hi Donna. Glad you love my new garden. I do too and we’re finding it really useful for all we want to do as we trial new plants and varieties and experiment with different techniques while sharing them with our audience.
      Regarding the weeds between my beds, I’ve had very little problem with that so far. The biggest thing I’ve done to help with weeds is the 3-4 inch layer of mulch I added over the bare soil right after the beds were installed. That was a huge help. I suspect the weeds you are getting are mostly from seeds blown in or deposited by birds, etc. We will always have those to contend with. However, if it were me, I would tackle your weeds one of two ways: either hand pull when able, or utilize a propane flame device to briefly burn the weed. If you’re not familiar with them, they are marketed as “flame weeders” or “propane weeders”. I have one and its a nice way to selectively kill weeds without the use of chemicals. We also did a segment on one of our recent episodes on this. It’s in episode 410, Weedless Gardening. Here’s the link if you’d like to see more on this. Good luck!

  14. Lor says

    Why vinyl coated fencing? Vinyl is not sustainable, natural nor “green” (except maybe in color). In my experience with coated fencing or other outdoor pieces, sunlight breaks down the vinyl coating and it becomes little pieces of vinyl that then either have to be laboriously collected, or they wash into the streams and oceans, becoming one more pollutant derived from a chemically manufactured petroleum base.

    • says

      Valid question Lor. But honestly, that thought didn’t cross my mind because I have not had that experience of it breaking down, so that wasn’t an issue for me in my consideration. I’m not a fan of vinyl or plastic either but I do appreciate the heads up and I will now be giving this some thought if I’m faced with having to deal with the problem you mention. Good thing time is on my side. It’s a conundrum to be sure though. Thanks for the heads up.

    • says

      I think the longer the beds, the thicker the wood needs to be for stability and to prevent outward bowing from the pressure created by the weight of the soil and water within the beds. But that’s assuming one continuous lenght. At 25’though, I’m sure you will be butting up lengths anyway, so not as critical as having one super long piece I suppose.

  15. says


    Great gardening show – I especially enjoyed ep. 406 on building raised beds. I’m starting a similar, but much smaller project.

    My question is, why did you use 6X6 vs. 4X4 timbers? Was it for more stability and durability than 4X4’s? I was thinking of using 4X4’s stacked 4 or 5 high.

    • says

      Hi Dave. I chose 6×6 because I really like the beefiness of the timbers in a raised bed. Since I plan on this being a one-time investment, I decided to go for it and invest the extra money. I did consider 4×4, which would have been fine, but I also like not having more than 3 layers for stability while still getting 18″ of height. And another bonus of the 6×6 timbers–they make a great place to sit in comfort. Also, since this was a rather large garden project, the larger scale of the bigger timbers I think works well for aesthetics in this TV Garden also. Finally, I fell in love with this bed design using 6×6 timbers when I started designing large community gardens around the country and Canada for Fiskars. After building 14 such gardens over several years, I knew that if I was ever going to have a large raised bed garden, I wanted those identical beds in my garden. So there you have it. More than you wanted to know but that is why. Thanks for your kind words about the show also. Good luck with whatever you do.

  16. Margaret Greybeck says

    Since this is an edible garden;
    Grow raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries, or currants in a 12″ W x 6″, or 12″H by the length of fence bed just outside the fence (be sure the ribe variety has thorns). This should restrict the runner roots to the bed and also would grow a prickly deterrent which would give you and the deer a tasty treat. This could be a win win, if you like to see the deer and don’t mind sharing just those berries outside the fence, as they will not push through the ribes.

  17. says

    HI Joe: Looks like a great garden to experiment and try different things. Plus you will get a good yield of tasty and healthy vegetables. Next year you should have a garden tour so interested people can see first hand how things are going.

    Have a great day,
    john Williams

    • says

      Thanks John. I do plan on having times where people can come by and see the garden. I have always intended this to be a teaching garden so anyone who wants to learn more is welcome. By next spring, I intend to not only open the garden to all visitors but create open days where I will teach from the garden. I love to teach and look forward to having my garden as the platform. Come down and see me!

  18. says

    I love how neat & tidy your garden has turned out. I think the reason that you had no deer is because of your closely planted raised beds and a small fence around the perimeter. You are confusing the deer. Especially if you put up some vertical trellising. The deer do not have a easy jump into the garden area without maybe breaking a leg. I have done a similar method using a short 4′ fence with wooden pallets (which they won’t walk on) around the perimeter of my garden and teepee trellising for some extra height in the garden. They do not have an area to EASILY jump into. This is the third year of keeping the deer out of my garden. Thank you for having an EXCELLENT gardening website. Smiles, Lark

    • says

      Thanks Lark. I totally agree with your theory. Thanks for your kind words and good to know you are three-years into a deer free garden. I’ll keep everyone posted and be the first to admit if it doesn’t work. But I do feel for the reasons you’ve mentioned, at least so far, all is well here.

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