Sumo Gardener

50+ DIY Tips for Building & Growing Garden Beds

You are growing the garden all by yourself? You are craving for exercising your brain muscle with some hands-on experience? You can’t wait to turn your small yard into the garden in your fantasy?

Then this DIY project is what you are looking for! With the raised garden bed, you are no longer freaking out with the contaminated soil, the pest invasion, the inordinate amount of weeding and the unaesthetic appearance of the garden. Many problems can be solved with only one bed.

Yes, after considering all the benefits, hesitate no more and dig into doing a raised garden bed yourself. To save more time and effort, let’s take a brief look through our article below. You won’t get disappointed with the valuable information from the top experts all around the world.

With this fall, you will get yourself a decent project and something to share with the whole family. We have compiled dozens of tips from green thumb experts and enthusiasts for the beginners or even experienced gardeners about DIY raised garden beds.

Here are some questions we crave for answers:

1. What are the best vegetables to plant in a raised garden bed? 2. How do I stop weeds from growing up into raised flower beds? 3. How to water raised garden beds? 4. How close to grow plants in a raised bed? 5.When Should We Apply Compost: Spring or Fall?

We’ve made a summary list of answers. They are all so detailed answers which will satisfy your curiosity about a DIY raised garden bed. Let’s dive in the information with…

50+ Experts Share Their Experiences About DIY Raised Garden Beds

Aussie Green Thumb

Lorri Hopkins

@Aussie Green Thumb

Lorri Hopkins of Aussie Green Thumb

Lorri Hopkins of Aussie Green Thumb

Raised beds are one of the most reliable ways to grow any produce at home, and allow gardeners to bypass problematic soils entirely. Still, there are some important tips to turn your overgrown plot into a weed-free oasis before you start.

Firstly, consider the depth of the roots of your worst offending weeds. Most annual and perennial weeds will struggle to resurface from a depth of 15cm or more, and even the most stubborn can struggle to find the light under a foot of soil.

For that reason, I always suggest using 1ft wide timbers, metal sheets, or even plastic edging and burying it half in the ground, and half out. That way, once your bed has established, there’s no way for weeds to get in from outside, and weeding will be limited to pulling up self-seeded annuals before they have a chance to root.

To eradicate tough weeds, dig down 15cm before you lay your bed, and two sheets of cardboard across the whole base, wetting it thoroughly to create a natural weed mat, which will decompose over the next 18 months). After that, just fill the bed with weed-free soil, compost and/or manure, and you can immediately plant into it!

Johanna Silver

Johanna Silver


DIY Raised Beds - SUnset

Source: Sunset

This monthly lifestyle magazine focuses on homes, cooking, gardening and travel. It’s ranked 67 in top 100 U.S. Magazines by Circulation in 2016. It recommends using con heart for the side and end boards of the bed.

This material is resistant to rot, which can be ordered to cut to the desired lengths in the lumberyard. No skill saw, hand saw or table saw. No wasting time and effort. By applying this tip, the DIY project is a lot easier and more applicable.




DIY Raised Garden Beds - Lowes

Sources: Lowe's

This trusted retailer provides some insights about making the perfect garden bed. These are some down-to-earth tips needed to be noted down immediately. Otherwise, you will regret later on.

Firstly, when building a raised garden bed, check whether the material is rot-resistant wood such as black locust, teak, ipe and etc…. If the answer is no, before adding the soil, staple heavy-duty plastic along the inner side of your bed.

Secondly, while filling the bed with soil and plants, pay special attention to the plan roots. If you use container plants, loosen up the root ball. Doing this can promote good nutrient absorption.

fiona gilsenan

Fiona Gilsenan


Diy raised garden beds - Popularmechanics

Source: Popularmechanics

This magazine is for engineers, investors, coders, thinkers, makers and DIYers. Its unique desire to understand How the World Works draw an audience of 10 million+ consumers.

Inside this article, the idea with greenhouse effect is absolutely stunning. Never before had I fully aware of the fact that with only some hoops and a cover, the growing season can be extended. This system also retain moisture, protect plants from birds or insects.

Cover with polyethylene in early spring or fall. The plastic sheeting help the plants grow much faster and return higher yields. However, laying this sheet won’t be appropriate with cooler regions and crops in the cool seasons.




DIY Raised Garden Beds - Almanac

Source: Almanac

If you are a famer, you must have heard about the weather prediction of this publication. All walks of life read it, from gardening tips to holiday lists (and of course, weather forecasts), for information and even entertainment.

There are many materials can be reused for the DIY project. However, choosing the right one will benefit your crop and save your effort. When doing some objects yourself, you surely consider the financial savings. But don’t earn yourself trouble when you have to redo it the second time because of insufficient knowledge.

In the article, they mention concrete blocks or bricks as material. But this will gradually increase the soil pH. Even railroad ties are made use of yet without much approval.

Though the very old ones may be fine, newer ties use creosote-treated timber, which is toxic.

Click to Tweet




DIY Raised Garden Beds - DIYNetwork

Source: DIYNetwork

This channel covers thousands of do-it-yourself projects, expert advice, how-to video and images which is currently in more than 53 million homes.

You should have enough tools for the comfort of a DIY project: collecting leaves and lightweight debris leaf rakes, heavy-duty bow rake or cutting out weeds hoe. Find out your need, and take advantage of these tools to make the job easier.

Chris love Julia

Chris & Julia - Founder of ChrisLovesJulia


DIY Raised Garden Beds with ChrisLoveJulia

Source: ChrisLoveJulia

Subjectively, at least being 9 inches high would ensure enough soil depth for your plant.

It’s really about soil depth and what your vegetables need to choose the suitable veggies to grow. Corn, for example, needs a bit more space.

If you plant corn in a raised garden bed, then you want the bottom of the garden bed to be open to the soil below, so the vegetables can draw more nutrients. Smaller things tend to do better if it’s a closed-bottom garden bed.

Also read: When is Corn Ready to Pick?

Cedar is most common and naturally weather proof, but a lot of people use pressure-treated wood now as well. The FDA has approved it for use, but some people still don’t like the idea of the chemicals used to treat the wood.

You can put landscape fabric in the bottom for weed control. But airborne seeds always find their way to soil, so you’ll likely just need to do some weeding every so often.

You can put plants in shot of an automatic sprinkler, run a drip line (more work but most efficient), or water by hand with a hose or watering can.

The spacing between plants is the same as if they’re in the ground. It varies by what is planted.

Chris love Julia

Marielle - Founder of LadyMarielle


Raised Garden Beds for the summer - LadyMarielle

Source: ladymarielle

These answers are given by Marielle’s hubby, a raised bed expert!

The perfect height is 30 inches

The best veggies to grow would be based on where you are due to climate. But generally speaking, don't plant anything that would be out of reach once they are fully grown such as corn. Good veggies to plant: tomatoes, peppers, salad, zucchini, cucumbers.

You would have to pick the weed out. Because they are at your waist level, they are much easier to weed out.

Never water during sunlight (at dawn is best). Water daily if it doesn't rain.

Based on the vegetable, the plant spacing is different. Some you can plant close together while others have to be further apart. For example, zucchini has to be at least 20 inches apart while peppers only need to be 6 inches apart.

Bonus: You can reuse the same soil every year but just be sure to add some compost and to turn the dirt.

Chris love Julia

Karen Frost


As far as I am aware you can grow any vegetables in a raised bed, but remember potatoes will need to be earthed up. I have grown carrots, runner beans, beetroot and onions to name a few. 

Root vegetables are very good to grow as you can control the quality of compost and soil. As in a ground level garden you just have to keep an eye out for weeds. 

A watering can or hose, as you would water a garden, can be used for watering the raised garden bed.

The space between plants is exactly the same spacing as you would in a garden. The plants need room to grow. A raised bed is a garden but not at ground level, so there is less bending involved. (Depending on the height).

Chris love Julia

Liz Martin - Founder of TheCapeCoop


DIY Raised Garden Beds - TheCapeCoop

Source: TheCapeCoop

You can pretty much grow anything in raised beds if they are big enough, I have grown large plants like tomatoes, pumpkins, corn, sunflowers, even berry bushes.

If you are planning to grow pumpkins, it is essential to learn it's fertilization requirements. You can put down weed fabric at the bottom of the bed before you add the soil, but weeds will always find a way.

I like to use straw or mulch to block weeds, but I don't think there is a way to totally eliminate weeds when gardening.

Watering raised beds is just like watering a regular garden, you can either use a sprinkler or use soaker hoses. Raised beds do tend to dry out faster than traditional gardening so you might have to water more frequently.

You would want to follow the plant spacing for whatever variety of plant you are growing (info on spacing can be found on the back of the seed packet or plant label). Just like traditional "in ground" gardening, you can choose to do square foot gardening grids or plant in rows.

You can garden in raised beds pretty much the same way you garden in the ground, but the advantages are less weeds and you have more control over the soil quality!

DIY Raised garden beds - Delia

Source: deliacreates

It really depends on where you live. Your best bet is to consult a local plant nursery. Their employees are usually very knowledgeable and happy to help.

You can plant almost any kind of annual vegetable as far as I know. Just be careful when planting carrots, and be sure you have enough depth for the variety you are planting. I always buy seeds for shorter carrots, since my beds are only a foot tall.

I just have to pull the weeds throughout the growing season because I don't want chemicals in my food. When the growing season is done, you can place a layer of newspaper and/or clean cardboard on top of the beds to prevent them from getting overrun by weeds. As an added bonus, the paper will break down over time into a compost.

I just water them almost daily with a hose. It depends on the needs of the plants. You can install a drip system, but we only do that with our permanent landscaping, so that I have the flexibility to change up our beds between seasons and even several times in one season (for lettuce and short lived crops)

The space also depends on what you are growing. Your seed packets will indicate spacing. I will add though, that when squash seeds say something like three seeds per hill. You can totally just designate a corner of a bed as a hill. The leaves will spill over the side into your yard, but it should be plenty of space, root wise

Chris love Julia

Sky Nursery


DIY Raised Garden Beds - SkyNursery

Source: SkyNursery

Any vegetables can be planted in a raised bed, depending on your own preferences and room. If it's a fairly shallow one, however, that's not open to the ground beneath, avoid vegetables with extensive or deep root systems - most root vegetables and indeterminate tomatoes, for instance.

You can't effectively control weed growth. A raised bed that's deep enough (generally, over a foot) you can either put a deep layer of cardboard/newspaper at the base, or even a formal weed barrier.

That should stop most weed roots from growing up into your new bed. However, you can't use that in shallower beds (the barrier needs to be deep enough down that it doesn't restrict the root growth of your own plants - see above!), and nothing will prevent the growth of weeds whose seeds drift in. So weeding will still need to occur.

Same as you water any other bed. If you just have one, hand water with a hose or watering can. If you have a lot of beds, it might be worthwhile to construct a drip irrigation system.

If you have a lot of sun and are willing to fertilize and water heavily, you can use the recommendations for square foot gardening. I have mound-style long raised beds at my p-patch and use the recommendations on the seed packet.

I do rows across the raised bed, and use the spacing between rows and between plants in the rows that the seed packet recommends for that variety.

Chris love Julia

Randy - Founder of ResolutionGardens

DIY Raised Garden Beds - ResolutionGardens

Source: ResolutionGardens

Knowing what to plant when for your area is Randy's First Rule of Gardening! So what's best to plant is what is in season. A raised bed can be any material and any size as long as it's at least a foot deep of good soil. Any veggie in the season will grow well in a raised bed, though some take up a lot of space and aren't great for smaller containers.

Every county has a Planting Calendar through the Agricultural Extension Service and Master Gardener program for your state.

We remove all the grass/weeds to 8" deep under our raised beds with a mattock/grub hoe/pick-axe before setting up the raised bed. You can also add a few layers of cardboard to suppress weeds, especially if you have Bermuda grass.

I prefer new gardeners water by hand with a watering can to promote daily attendance in the garden and learning the habits of watchfulness that makes good gardening.

Watering with a can is the best pace to allow water to absorb deep into the soil. Hoses run too fast, so I recommend making three laps with a nice gentle shower nozzle if you have to use one.

Do a search for a plant spacing chart, follow the spacing guides on the seed package or plant tag. Over-crowding your plants is hard to avoid because you want to get the most you can in your limited space and when you plant baby plants or seeds things look very spacious. Each veggie has a different average mature size to work from.

Books or websites on Square Foot Gardening give good introductions to the principles of maximizing your planting space without over-crowding, though I tell folks to take some of the string-grids and precision measuring to the inch with a big block of salt.

Chris love Julia

Erin Reed - Scraps of Reflection


There is no 100% way of keeping weeds or even grass out of your raised beds, a little elbow grease and minimal pulling 2 to 3 times a weeks helps it all very manageable.

My husband and I hooked up a drip and spray irrigation system to our outside water faucet, we turn it on as needed for 10 minutes at a time to spray each bed. We use the one your get at the big box outdoor stores, easy to set up and replace if it gets damaged.

I use the spacing rules for each plant as it dictates on the seeds. I also crop rotate my beds, so if I plant potatoes in the bed bed one season, I will plant peppers in the same bed next season to change it up.

We also have our own vermicompost (worm compost) and mulch system in our backyard, so we let one bed rest and each season to restock the nutrients with the mulch and vermicompost.

Chris love Julia

Pam - Creator of


You can put mulch down between the plants. Pull weeds when they are small. My husband put in a drip irrigation system to water. Planting vegetables depends on the vegetables. Some require 12", some 18", some less.


Sabrina - Founder of Sabrina's Organizing


Tomatoes (especially Plum tomatoes) work awesome in a raised bed. They particularly like the highest part of a raised bed. It helps them with root growth. String beans like the lower raised bed area.

I like to place the Peppermint or spearmint in its terracotta pot, in the center of the raised bed. I found it helps keep away the critters. Spinach and Swiss Chard grow nicely on the lowest raised bed.I found that weeding is always necessary. But, I do find that if the plant grows pretty big, weeds can’t survive. Like with my tomato plants, there is very rarely any weeds.

I have a rain barrel nearby and use a large watering can to water the raised bed. I did run the water hose into the garden but found that it didn’t work the best so I removed it and decided to do the old fashion way. I find that the higher the raised bed the more it holds the soil moist. So I don’t need to water much if there was a pretty good rainfall once or twice a week.I

found that 6-8 inches apart work nicely. They fill up and don’t allow a lot of weeds to grow. I like to place them in a zig-zag pattern to allow me to fit a few more on each level. Hope this helps.


Lee - Founder of LadyLeesHome


DIY Raised Beds from LadyLeesHome

I keep weeds out of raised beds or any other garden location by using mulch. I've used a lot of straw mulch in the past and now I am using wood chips since there is a local tree company that gives them to me for free.

We as gardeners are about to receive a very valuable gift from nature in the next few weeks and that is fall leaves. They are fabulous for mulch, mold, or compost. I wrote a post about how to use them, you can view it here:

Another post you might like to read is my 22 crops to grow in a small garden. I list my favorite vegetables to grow in the small garden. You can read it here:

This past year I also used fish fertilizer that I got from Amazon. It seems to work great too.

When Should We Apply Compost: Spring or Fall?

In the spring you should test your soil levels, and add fertilizer to balance the soil levels, along with peat moss. In the fall you should add manure or compost. That gives it all winter to break down and enrich the soil.


Unfortunately, the answer is "it depends." Generally, we'd recommend top-dressing your beds with about 2" of compost or worm castings before you plant. For us, that means at least twice a year since we grow year round. However, we do organic no-till and some of our soil is built up to the point that we don't have to add compost that often - maybe just once a year or so. The other consideration is whether the plants you're putting in are "heavy feeders." Beefsteak tomatoes, squash, corn, broccoli, etc - all those plants require very fertile soil, so it's a good idea to add compost before seeding or transplanting your heavy feeders in order to get optimal production from happy, healthy plants.


Geoff Hodge from GardenForumHorticulture

If the soil in the bed hasn’t been improved and it is heavy clay, it would probably be best to do it in spring; it allows the cold weather to get at the soil to help break it down into more friable particles.

If the soil is a lighter/sandy soil, it would be better to do it in the autumn (fall), as it will help insulate the soil and reduce the amount of nutrients leached out of the soil by winter rain.

Why not do it at both times!? That’s if you have enough compost and you do it early enough in spring, so as not to interfere with sowing/planting


C.L. Fornari from GardenLady


You can add compost whenever you get around to it. Compost can either be dug into raised beds (spring or fall) or spread on the top at any time. Spreading it on the top amends the soil like Mother Nature does it, from the top down. Those who practice no-till gardening spread it on the top. Those who till the soil usually dig it in.


Derek Markham from NaturalPapa

I prefer to add compost in the fall, which gives the soil all winter to let the microbes, fungi, and other life feed on it and fully integrate it. It also gives the compost time to finish or to mellow it out if it hasn't been fully broken down. Spring is also a good time to add finished compost, especially right before transplanting into the garden.


Lori Elliott from OurHeritageOfHealth

I apply the compost to my garden in the spring when I'm preparing the soil for planting because that allows the plants to have access to the nutrients in the compost when they are growing.


Brenna Turner from LifeAfterLaundry

I think either is probably fine. We have done both. You are helping the ground no matter what. BUT, what I always do is add a little compost around the plant I’m planting or dig out a little hole for compost and seeds. I do this every time I plant something no matter the time of year.


Susannah from HealthyGreenSavvy

My understanding is that fall is preferable, as you're giving less-finished compost time to break down further so it can provide the most nutrients to your plants. However, if you have well-aged compost or are using a bagged product, I've seen advice to mix it in anytime you're planting a new crop to give your soil a nutrient boost. So as you turn in your spinach when it's done and go to plant your carrots, for example, a good scoop of compost can help replenish the soil.


Carol Speake from TheGardeningCook

Compost can be added any time of the year. If you add it in the spring it will help with watering issues caused during the hot weather and will control weeds. You can add it in the fall too, but it rains (or snows) a lot during the winter but weeds are not growing then and water control is not an issue.


Christy Wilhelmi from Gardenerd


We garden year-round here in Southern California, so we amend soils in the spring before planting warm-season crops, and again in fall before planting cool-season crops. We also add compost mid-season to help boost soil vitality because our soils don't rest over winter.


Susan Vinskofski from LearningAndYearning


There’s no one right answer to your question. Either spring or fall is just fine. Because we use a lot of mulch and add that in the fall to protect the garden over the winter, we add compost (or manure) first, and then the mulch. So, for us, fall is the best time. It would be just as fine to add compost in the hole as you are planting the spring. The important thing is that you add it, and not worry so much about when.


Joe DiDominica from DeesNursery


You can really add compost anytime. Organic matter is key to a healthy soil and the benefits are sometimes something you can't see. Organic matter from compost helps build the soil so it can retain moisture, hold nutrients, attract earthworms (natural aerators) and increase microbial activity.

It really comes down to the composition of the compost. If it is compost that has fully broken down, springtime is fine. Whereas anything that will need to still break down should be applied in the fall when the garden is put to bed for the winter.


Nikki Fotheringham from GreenMoxie


I would say both in the fall and the spring, although for different things. In the fall, it is good to provide your garden with food that will help to fortify the roots through the winter. Here bone meal works really well to encourage root growth. An 0-20- phosphorous fertilizer is best for perennials which is low in nitrates. Lawns love a fertilizer which is rich in phosphorous, potassium and nitrogen. If you prefer to fertilize naturally, use your fall leaves to mulch garden beds and mow over the leaves on your grass rather than raking them up. Fall leaves provide a wonderful source of nutrients.

In the spring, everything could use a little food and you can fertilize your garden with a 10-10-10 fertilizer which provides phosphorous, potassium and nitrogen in equal parts. Be careful not to over-fertilize as you want to maintain a healthy natural balance of soil organisms. For natural fertilization, use kitchen scraps to create rich, natural fertilizer that you can use on your garden beds, veggies and lawn. You can make your own compost bins very simply and cheaply using the methods outlined here:


Lawrence Winterburn from GardenStructure


My master gardeners apply compost spring and fall. Never enough well-aged compost!


Rick Pudwell from Memphis Botanic Garden


If the compost is finished, in other words the organic matter is well decomposed and it is no longer warm to touch, you can apply it spring or fall. If you are making a new bed in the fall and have compost that is not totally finished, especially if it contains animal manure it would be fine to apply in the fall. Time and microbes in the soil will take care of it by time you plant in the spring.


On the very wet coast one would do a compost application in the Spring since a Fall application would result in considerable run off of precious nutrients over the winter months. Usually in Canada with small scale gardening / farming- a fall application would only be done if the beds were covered in thick black plastic to protect the nutrient load.

What that would do is mean that in the Spring, the silage tarp would warm the soil and a direct sowing could take place with an already nutrient applied soil base. So what I would say is common practice is compost in the Spring. Nutrient loss is the main reason why one would add that nutrition closer to the time when the first sowing or transplanting takes place.

I am afraid there is no one perfect answer to your question which is probably why you have had trouble finding one. It really depends on your location and also what you are planning to plant in your garden. As long as you are using finished compost (so the materials are no longer actively decomposing and giving off heat) - you can add it to your garden at any time. It also depends on your soil needs. You want to add it add it to improve nutrient content and your soil structure- so you just need to add it as needed.

It is probably easiest to work it into your garden a couple of weeks before you plan to plant your new crops in the fall, spring (once soil is thawed) and even before summer. You want to add in such a way to keep soil disturbance to a minimum.

If you really want to dig deep into composting - I would recommend you check out Cornell University's Composting page at:


Paul Wheaton from Rich Soil


If your question is about when to add compost as a mulch, the answer is the same as when to mulch. For cold loving plants like rhubarb, add mulch in the spring - this helps to keep the cold in. For warm loving plants, add mulch anytime in the summer - to hold the warmth in.

If your question is about working the compost into the soil, then I would only do that if starting with lifeless dirt. Because every time you till the soil, you lose 30% of your organic matter. This means that for good soil, you would be replacing organic matter with organic matter. It would be better, with soil, to use the compost as a mulch.

I thoroughly wish to discourage anybody from using any commercial compost. It all contains persistent herbicides. All. Most commercial compost won't kill your garden, but stunt your garden with the persistent herbicides while simultaneously boosting your garden with composty goodness. So when it comes to compost, only use home made compost.

And on that note, as bizarre as this sounds, I wish to discourage people from making compost. Consider that what we seek is to build soil: organic matter (carbon) and nutrients (especially nitrogen). To make compost, we start with a pile of raw material that shrinks down to just 5% of the original size.

Where did the rest of it go? Carbon and nitrogen went into the atmosphere instead of in our soil. Ruth Stout provided us with a solution 60 years ago: put your compostables under your mulch right in the garden. It will compost slower, but still aerobically. Give the earthworms and other critters the opportunity to take the carbon and nitrogen deep into the soil and, best of all, there is no longer a need to turn a compost pile. More for the soil and less work!

I add compost to my beds in the Spring. Then it's available to help fertilize the plants. I add a mulch of leaves, straw, or black plastic to the empty beds in the winter to minimize weeds and nutrient leaching from rain.


Kathy and Steve from The Garden Glove


We actually recommend adding compost in both spring and fall! Compost breaks down over time adding valuable nutrients to the soil. It adds a natural fertilizer in the spring, and enriches the soil texture for spring growth. In the fall, it can also add a layer of mulch to protect the roots of the plants from cold. In addition, a fall compost layer contuse to break down over winter, giving the plants an early spring boost the next season!


Charles Dowding from CharlesDowding


The beauty of compost is that it has many qualities apart from the plant food it contains. All those amazing microbes that bring soil to life!

Compost's nutrients are not soluble in water, so you can spread it in fall, then have a peaceful winter knowing that your soil is mulched/covered. Plus that the soil organisms have food when they need it, during any mild weather, and when soil starts to warm up in the spring.

I find it works well to apply compost once a year, before Christmas, and I do not spread any more compost when planting second crops in the summer, after clearing early potatoes, carrots, salads and beets. The summer plantings grow abundantly because the soil is well fed for a whole year, from spreading compost just once in autumn. Any depth from one to two inches.

You can also spread compost in the spring, if you did not in autumn. So there are plenty of options.

Just leave it on the surface as a mulch. This copies how nature works, with soil organisms coming up to feed near the surface, aerating soil in the process, and therefore no till with surface compost is best for improving soil fertility. In dry climates, you may also want to apply mulches such as straw and hay.


The most appropriate time for composting is the fall season as it does amazing things for your garden. If you are trying to have a perfect nutrients balance in place, apply compost in the fall, let it sit and decompose during the winter, and then it will be ready to grow during the spring.

Compost breaks down slowly over time which helps in providing a long, gradual supply of nutrients in contrast to a more potent but shorter-lived nutrition provided by chemical fertilizers.

It is also advisable to add compost before you mulch as it helps in retaining water, supporting healthy plant growth, and fighting diseases, pests and other stresses faced by plants.


Craig LeHoullier from CraigLehoullier


That's an interesting question - let's think out loud together on this.

Compost is magic to gardens - depending upon how well matured it is, it can add micronutrients and various levels of the essential nutrients for plants - Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium - at low but helpful levels. Mostly it improves the structure of the soil by helping it to both drain well, but retain important moisture. It is great stuff.

If the compost isn't totally composted and still a bit "hot" (depends upon what the component parts are and how long it has been composting), working it in in the fall is a good idea. If it is well composted, adding in the spring will ensure that all of the good things in the compost in terms of nutrients will be there and available for the plants that will be going in at or around the same time - adding in the fall risks that some of that would be lost over the winter.


Ted Smith from DiyLawntime

If our garden has adequate microbial activity then even composting materials will break down through the winter however that also means that the microbes have used some of that food source.

So you can put in materials such as leaves in the winter to give the microbes food but it is good idea to have fresh compost in the spring.

The key is understanding microbes that actually break down minerals and feed the plant in the symbiotic relationship for photosynthesis from the plant.

The material you put on your raised beds in the spring that is called compost should be fresh and not have any parent material visible in example you shouldn't be able to see straw or wood chips in good truly composted material.

A real we like to use in the Master Gardeners program is your compost should have the color of a Hershey's chocolate bar and should be slightly moist with a good earthy smell.


You should apply it at both times


Gloria Zobrist from PlantAmnesty


PlantAmnesty has an article on mulching on our website

The long and short of this article is any time is good, so long as you've already weeded, twice, before applying it, but that isn't the case for compost.

When I think of compost, I think of it as feeding something right when it's ready to grow and needs the most food. So, spring is the time to add compost for spring and summer vegetables. If you're growing a fall or winter vegetable garden, you would want to put the compost in the fall. Putting compost into beds that don't have plants that are actively getting ready to grow will simply leach into the soil and into the waterways and break down before your garden is ready to grow again. Many experts are of the opinion that we over fertilize/compost our beds, so it's a good idea to get a soil test every couple of years to see where you need to make adjustments.

In addition, different vegetables have different needs, so it's smart to plant things in your beds with similar needs if you're going to use a "one compost fits all" approach.

There are many resources on compost application, and there's event a Master Composter certification that Seattle Tilth offers.

This book may be helpful to you: Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades and also this Maritime Northwest Garden Guide.

You might also want to reach out to someone at Seattle Tilth ( They would have more information on vegetable/raised beds than we do.

WSU also has some really great resources and of course, Master Gardeners.


Check out my gardening book on Amazon too.

I honestly, add compost just about any time I want to. I live in zone 7 so it wouldn't do much good to add it in winter. I top off new plants with it, add compost when I sow seeds in spring and start old container gardens in spring before I replant. You could put it in the garden in fall and let it soak into the soil over winter too. I guess my favorite time to top off spaces with compost would be spring so plants can benefit all through the growing season. Tilling compost into a new garden bed is a must!

Typically, if introducing compost into your garden, fall would be ideal. The nutrients will be released and the soil will be ready for spring planting. Also, you are able to use less decomposed material as it will break down over the next several months. If applying during spring, it would be more of a mulch or finer material.


Ladd Smith from In Harmony

Compost can be added either fall or spring to garden beds. As long as some compost can be added on a regular basis, the time of year does not matter much. I personally like putting compost down in fall because there is less activity in the garden (compared to spring), the compost can get settled and then the beds are ready in spring.


Mary Jo Palmer from SamBridge


In my opinion it's best in the fall if you plan on planting early crops like peas. Also by turning over the soil in the fall, freezing can eliminate some annual seeds that might have overwintered.

Any time is a good time to add compost. I supposed preferred would be in fall, where it would have time to get to work in time for spring. If creating a new bed, a situation where compost is of great benefit if soil quality is poor, fall is the best time, then the bed can sit through winter and be planted for the first time in spring.

But adding compost in the spring doesn’t hurt, isn’t “wrong,” and certainly cannot do any damage. Additionally, it’s good to have compost around all during the gardening season. Adding compost to a hole where you’ve just dug something up, adding a little compost to a planting hole when planting annuals and perennials if soil is poor is always good.

Topdressing a vegetable garden with an inch or two of compost in late fall, after harvest and clean-up, is another good thing to do. Just don’t till it in with a rototiller, or even a spade. Topdress soil every fall with compost, it works its way in.


In general in our climate, applications of compost to your raised bed can and should be done both in the spring and the fall.

Spring applications should ideally be made several weeks or more prior to planting out, by putting 2-3" over the entire bed, and then spading in thoroughly before planting.

Fall applications should be done after cleaning up at the end of the season, and can be applied at a heavier rate. Freeze/thaw cycles will help incorporate the compost over the winter, and the final working into the soil will happen with your spring spading. 


Yvonne Savio from Gardening In LA

At my Pasadena, Southern California garden, where I garden all year long, I apply compost any time and everytime!

Constantly adding compost is always a boon to soil microorganisms, keeping them well-fed and supplied with goodies for them to decompose for the plants' benefit. After the first incorporation into garden soil when I'm first preparing a bed, I continue by adding to beds as mulch. This way, it benefits the soil in the five main ways -- moderating soil temperatures, reducing watering quantity, lessening erosion, deterring weeds, and ultimately providing nutrition to the plants' roots as it decomposes.

You can add compost in both spring and fall, but generally spring is best as it's when most succulents will begin actively growing. There are some succulents that tend to grow in the cooler months, in which case a fall fertilizer helps as well.


Paul Hacholski from Lurveys

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Raised garden beds as with all other garden beds benefit from Compost ( Mushroom, Cotton Burr, Purple Cow, Peat, your own compost bin material) in fall in spring and any time the ground is not frozen.

Adding layers to a raised bed in fall is what nature does with leaves, sticks, and other organic matter which decompose into compost. All of this percolates nutrients completely into the soil all winter and will be available for plants to take up in Spring.

Composting in Spring can be done but only when soil temperatures are 50 degrees, and now all the nutrients are on top of your raised bed where you will be planting instead of nutrition throughout the bed so roots can spread down an around picking it up. Composting in Summer will help with weed control, moisture retention,and uniform soil temperature.


Jason from Stutzmans

I believe compost can be added either time. Fall applications are good for treating a garden or bed and working it in then. This gives it time to breakdown and have nutrients and soil improvement ready for spring planting.

Spring applications will still improve soil tilth and improve moisture retention in sandy soil and open up heavier soils. It may just take a little longer for the nutritional benefits to kick in.

Often times using in spring in conjunction with planting is the only chance to introduce compost deeper into the soil around perennial or woody plantings. Specifically in raised annual/vegetable beds treating the whole thing in fall would be ideal, But if you didn’t still do it in spring. Clear as mud right? This is probably why you found conflicting web info as there is no “wrong” time just more or less ideal times.


A nutrient-rich mulch, such as aged compost, manure or leaf mold and be applied to flower beds in the fall or spring (after plants have started to break dormancy). Mulch should not cover the plants or be built up on the stems.

Ether will work but fall is better.It is more to do with fresh manure, as in fresh from livestock. You not want fresh manure laid down heavy in the spring. It will ty up all the nitrogen in the soil and starve the plant for a couple of months and then slowly make it available, as the fresh manure turns to compost in the soil. It then releases all it’s nutrient’ back to the soil and then the plants. It’s like don’t eat heavy meal before a hard work out.


Briscoe from Growers Exchange


Compost can be added as a soil amendment in early spring, before temps get hot. I do not know any definitive source on this topic, but I have not disturbed soil once the growing season begins. So early March to early April is a good time to work beds in spring.

Preparing beds in fall is over all the best time in my opinion. Compost is also used as a mulch/top dressing and can be used to smother small weeds during the growing season. Once the season is over this sheet compost should be dug into the soil. This doesn't sound like much, but generally avoid digging compost into soil during hot months and just before them.


Kenneth Point from Veggie Gardening Tips


If it is properly composted and matured the compost can be applied at any time but I believe that you would get the most benefit from applying it during the spring when the plants and soil organisms are actively growing. If the compost is not fully broken down and well-aged then I would apply it in the fall when it can serve as a garden mulch and protect the soil, give the organic matter more time to further break down over the winter, and also allow the earthworm population to use and distribute it within the soil.

It would be worth doing in the autumn really - giving it a chance to break down over the autumn and winter ready for planting in the spring.

However doing it in Spring wouldn’t do any harm, but the plants will not benefit as much


Fall is the best time to add compost to a vegetable garden to give time for the compost to decompose, add nutrients and integrate into the soil over the winter.

But, if you missed that opportunity in the Fall, we suggest adding compost to the garden a few weeks before you plant in Spring. When it's time to plant, be sure to work the compost fully into the soil.


Kayla-Jane Barrie from SheridanNurseries

Starting a compost pile is as simple as collecting plant debris and raked leaves. Once you have your pile, you then want to add ‘brown’ (carbon-rich) materials such as dried leaves, and ‘green’ (nitrogen-rich) materials such as grass clippings or weeds. Turn your pile regularly throughout the season for rich compost that will be ready to be added to your gardens next spring.

Avoid adding greasy or fatty foods to your compost such as cheese, meats, and fried foods; this will cause issues, as these materials don’t break down naturally.Your garden can benefit from compost because it is high in organic matter, which acts like a sponge that holds onto nutrients longer. Typically, mineral based soils don’t retain very many nutrients, that’s why plants in clay soil usually have lime green or yellow stripped leaves.

Micro-organisms, such as fungi or bacteria, live in compost. When you add compost to soil the beneficial organisms help plants reach more nutrients. It’s a symbiotic relationship; the plants offer protection in exchange for nutrients to grow stronger.


Mr. Sandro Cafolla from WildFlowers

It depends on what compost and where you live and on what plants on sandy soils in dry places compost is best applied in autumn, giving time for it to break down slowly in cool weather.

Yes certain compost is best applied in hot places in spring as it will mulch the plant /soil and protect it from direct hot sunlight in colder climates on wetter less drained soil, spring is ideal for both green and fibrous compost as it protects the soil yet carbon rich tough composts need autumn application as it takes both summer and winter to break them down.

Where slugs are a problem, Autumn may be best, clearing it away for the growing season not to harbour slugs and snailsyet slugs and snails are great when green manure is turned into the soil to make compost, in spring and autumn.

Trees make leaf litter in Autumn, but its only early spring in the woods that the leaf litter turns to compost, before next season when its turned mostly carbon the question 'When Should We Apply Compost: Spring or Fall?

I would hope this question is answered all over the world, with the words, who cares?, not another blogger, filling the web with meaningless words.'if gardeners have enough time to ponder when they should apply compost,we should first apply compost and then ponder, at any time of year. Compost toilets are ideal for this.

For while not suitable for all plants, compost of any type if used correctly is suitable for all soils bar use in specialist areas such as wildflower meadows and alpine gardens, and especially, compost is needed in areas of intensive horticulture, high yield and crop areas, most especially need compost all year around.

Soil on a global scale is lacking humus and minerals, one of the world major problems is soil deterioration, farmers now use green manure crops to introduce compost to help feed the world.


Spring or fall is fine to add compost. Typically we add compost in the spring right before we plan to plant. We do this more often in the spring so that the compost nutrients are most fresh and less likely to have leached out over the winter.

I would suggest that you compost in fall as I always have good results when I do so.

It is really awesome that you are getting into composting. As you can imagine, this is a topic that is near and dear to many of our hearts. I know that my family has a small compost pile in the back yard 🙂 I have included two articles we wrote about composting that should help you with that researching.


Susan Huff from TheSoulfulSeed

Compost sure ALL - add anytime

I only garden in compost so that I know I will have great results. Everyone should compost. It is the gift of life - soil, earth, food, stewardship of the earth!

We actually practice Permaculture Gardening, as outlined in this post:

As you'll see in the post, with permaculture gardening you add compost all year round. We usually mix it in directly with the soil in late winter/early spring. But we also have "worm tower" buckets spread throughout our gardens.

So every month or so we'll take all our composted fruits and veggie scraps as well as shredded paper and divide it up amongst our worm towers. The worms eat the compost, then act as a natural fertilizer for your garden beds. And at the end of the year you have this really black, rich goop left over that you mix into your soil.

We top dress many of the beds in the spring with a layer of compost, and many of them again in the fall with a layer of compost. When making any new beds, we mix compost into the existing soil.


It is quite a tricky topic because it can depend on the quality of the existing soil and the climate. However, in general, applying compost in the fall is always a good idea and lets it get settled in to your soil. Applying compost again in the spring a couple of weeks before planting is also a good idea.


Elvis Meisters from ForGardening


You definitely should add compost in autumn AND fall but that, of course, depends on the country where you are living. If you live in a colder climate, then I would add compost at fall, so in the winter under the snow, the compost will do its job. But if you live in a warmer climate, then it would be better at spring, because microbes will be most active then. If you have warm climate all year round, then it does not matter when you add compost but it definitely should be before you plant something. For myself, as I'm living in a colder climate, I would add compost at fall, mix it in the soil and cover the soil with mulch or grass. So after winter, I will have rich soil, ready to plant. Also, you can add compost almost monthly. Small amounts and mix it in the soil it will be better for plants and soil than using chemicals or bio-spray stuff for better growing.

For most gardeners the compost should be added right before planting plants, so the soil and the plants will get the most minerals out of the compost and your plants will grow rich in vitamins and size 🙂


Helen from Crocus


There are no hard and fast rules here I'm afraid. A mulch could be applied twice a year if your soil is low in nutrients (with spring and autumn being the optimum times), but if it is only applied just once a year, then it would be best done in autumn on lighter soils, and spring on heavier soils.


The best time of year to add compost to your soil is in the spring, at the start of the new growing season.

Fall seems to be when I have the most finished compost, so fall is when most of it goes into the garden beds! But I’ve been known to add compost to my garden any time of year.

Each fall I empty the finished compost from the compost bins. The garden beds get a 1” thick top dressing of compost after harvest, followed by a blanket of shredded leaves. In the springtime, the leaves are pulled back from the compost to reveal a nutritious planting surface. If I do have finished compost in the spring, I will place it on the raised beds as they are planted out.I never till in the compost; it just goes on the surface of the soil. Using it as a mulch in the spring seems to keep weeds down while adding a nutritious boost. You can even add a mulch of finished compost to your raised beds a few times throughout the growing season! It’ll provide nutrients while discouraging weed growth.


Henry from Boundary Garlic

It depends on where you are. If you get a lot of moisture over the winter fall spread compost could lose its nutrients through leaching.

In drier areas spreading in the fall would be fine. Under either conditions spring spreading is fine.


Liz Ridgway from Denys & Fielding


It’s just my personal opinion, but I always think about adding compost to the garden in terms of what you are asking the garden to do. For example, if you think about all the energy plants and flowers have to take up to produce new buds and blooms, some extra goodness in Spring is ideal. It’s a bit like attempting to run a marathon without eating and training properly beforehand. Those flowers need some serious carbo loading!

In my mind, the same logic goes for Autumn, rather than feeding the plants, many of which are calling it a day by that point, mulching - adding a protective layer of leaf mould, farmyard mature/organic matter/whatever you have is helping plants to recover from the summer activity and get a good rest over the winter. So, rather than thinking about the task, think about the outcome you are trying to achieve. Does that help?


Lyn Bagnall from AussieOrganicGardening

As far as I am aware, there is no particular season to add compost to garden beds. I add compost whenever I am preparing beds for planting – whether it’s spring, autumn or even in winter if I’m preparing a bed for spring planting. I don’t usually prepare beds in summer because it is too hot and beds lose moisture too quickly when the soil is loosened. However, as you have used the word ‘fall’ rather than ‘autumn’, you may not live in Australia and may live somewhere where winter preparation of garden beds is unsuitable.

Compost can be applied throughout the year. It is not a concentrated fertilizer so there is no concern for burning plants. In my opinion it is good to apply a good layer of well aged compost in the Spring when planting and again when you put the garden to bed for the Winter. No matter when you apply the compost the goal is to improve soil life and not so much about fertilizing plants.


Diane MacEachern from Big Green Purse


It depends somewhat on the garden soil. If the soil contains a lot of clay or sand or just isn't that rich, I add it spring and fall until the soil improves. I'll add some in the spring about two weeks before I plant so nutrients are ready for the seeds or seedlings. I may also add it in the fall when I've cleaned up the garden to build the soil all winter long. If the garden soil is in good shape, I'll "side dress" after planting seedlings and sprinkle compost on top of the soil to act as a natural fertilizer and booster for the plants.


Shannon Cowan from EarthEasy


With respect to your question about when to add compost to your garden, there is no one right answer. When you amend with compost will depend on where your garden is located geographically and how far along your compost is towards being finished. For example, if you live in a very cold climate, there is less benefit to adding compost in the late fall because your compost will remain dormant for much of the winter. Adding in the spring would therefore give you the same result. If you live in a hotter climate, adding compost in the fall would continue to add nutrients to your garden providing the conditions are met to continue the decomposition process. In summary, there really is no wrong time to add finished compost--your garden will benefit from it eventually.

I think it depends on the soil.

I'm no expert but Charles Dowding (of No-Dig gardening fame) puts compost on in autumn and feels that that is fine if the soil is rich in micro-organisms which are able to take in nutrients from the compost and hold them in their bodies over winter.

Otherwise, in a poorer soil, the compost breaks down and there are low levels of micro-organisms and nothing growing to take up the nutrients, so they are liable to leach out of the soil in rainwater (and can then pollute natural waterways). I suppose the drainage characteristics of the site must play a part in how much leaching occurs too.

That's as far as my present understanding goes anyway! I grow perennial vegetables and find that the need to feed the garden is considerably reduced - see here.


Kevin Jacobs from AGardenForTheHouse


Compost can be applied to a raised bed (or any bed) whenever it is needed. In fall, I use shredded leaves to top off the beds in my Kitchen Garden. The leaves turn into compost as they break down over winter/early spring. No need to buy fresh soil in spring! More details here: Why I Save My Autumn Leaves.


Jane Harries from WappenHam

I think do both! First to feed the soil and secondly as a mulch to deter annual weeds. Don't put manure on unless it's well-rotted ie for 6 months or more.


Jessica from DesignersSweetSpot


I use compost mostly during the spring. When used as a mulch it keeps weeds from growing throughout the garden season. You can use it in the fall, but as the plants are going dormant, there really isn't much benefit from using it.

Actually in the fall is the best time so it can sit and not be too hot for the new smaller plantings. Then fluff and plant in the spring. That said, we constantly add compost to every new landscape and new planter boxes/containers throughout the year. AOL,INC. mainly uses a Pro Gro product called “clay buster”. We rototill into the native soil to amend. It is 50% pumice and 50% dairy organic life compost. Pro Gro has several different blends for each specific gardening needs.


Emily McCrary from House Method


You can add compost to your garden at any time! Plants love it in all seasons! If the question is whether spring or fall is better, we recommend the fall. Think of it as a layer of protection for soil and root systems, which tend to lose nutrients in rain and snow. Not only this, adding compost in the fall means healthier, more robust soil come springtime as the compost breaks down during the colder months.


Robert Robillard from A Concord Carpenter

You can add compost anytime


Matthew Andrus from Arbor Jet


Most compost has very little nutritional value (compared to fertilizers) , but I find that the microorganisms are really what is encouraging long-term benefits. Before the organisms can form a mutually beneficial relationship with the plant they need time to become established and reproduce. This is exactly why I choose to add larger quantities of compost in the fall and add smaller quantities, such as topdressing, during the growing season. If your goal is to add some nutritional value & microorganisms to your soil then this can be done at any time.

Yes we grow an no dig garden and apply mulch about every year, depending on how the garden is. The best time to apply mulch is in the fall or early spring. Again, it depends on where you live and the situation. We use wood chips because of our dry climate, in rainy areas it is better to use compost. We also often end up applying the mulch in early spring because winter comes so sudden. Gardening usually does not happen by set rules, It is a natural process that is depended on weather conditions and abilities.

Here is the blog post you might be referring to:


You can add compost both spring and/or fall. If you grow both cold season and warm season plants, it is good to do it twice.And depending on how much organic matter your soil have, you can do it once or twice a year.


Leo López from Compost Pedallers

I don’t have a lot of experience gardening but I do know that both seasons are optimal for using it. When the temperature starts dropping (autumn), if you lay compost and a a layer of leaves or straw, this will provide some thermal isolation that will protect the roots in the soil.

If applied during summer it will dry the soil and if applied during winter the cold temperature will render it useless.

You can add compost to an outdoor garden in either spring or fall, or really any time you want. There's no bad time to add more of the good stuff, as long as you're not getting in the plants way, you should be ok.

It depends on where you live. In warm year round growing areas compost should be added regularly, monthly even. In cold areas compost should definitely be added in the spring for the new growing season, but it can also be added in fall in a thick layer and then mulched over to prepare the beds for winter. It really just depends on where you live, soil type, and other factors of the sort.

So my final answer would be yes, add as much compost as you have available whenever you have it available. It can only help the garden any time of year.

We find it best to apply compost in the spring, as we're preparing the beds for planting

Applying compost right before planting is best, otherwise you're likely to have it disappear in the soil before it's much use to your plants.

On the type of plants. Vegetable, fruiting shrub, fruit tree, ornamentals, annuals , perennials etc.....Each has different needs at different times and quantity.If this space is being tended to for the first time and you want to keep it simple, add compost and other minerals at the beginning. Then add nutrients as required by the particular plant(s) throughout the year. Some will only require spring and fall, others need it monthly or quarterly. Just research the plant on some forum discussions or any university agriculture extension program.

La Fin

Hooray, you’ve gone this far.

Hope these useful tips can help you make your raised garden bed without much difficulty.

Otherwise, list out other obstacles you’ve met during doing this project.Would love to hear what you think.Your opinions are so important to me!

Let me know in the comments below!

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About the Author Ann Katelyn

I'm Ann Katelyn, Creator and Chief Author of Sumo Gardener. Since I was a child I've always been fascinated with plants and gardens, and as an adult this has developed into my most loved hobby. I have dedicated most of my life to gardening and started Sumo Gardener as a way to express my knowledge about gardening with the hope of helping other people's gardens thrive.

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1 comment
Jose Jithin says October 9, 2020

Nice post and awesome diy raised garden beds. Thanks for sharing.

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