Raised beds improve drainage and provide more space for root development.

How to Build Raised Beds Into Hills for Gardening Vegetables

by Rachel Lovejoy

Raised-bed gardening has lots of advantages over traditional vegetable gardening on flat ground, including improving drainage in wet areas. It is also a good alternative in areas where the soil is very dense or rocky or space is at a minimum. While there is some digging involved when you first start out, raking soil into hills is a lot less back-breaking. If you can't or choose not to invest in pre-made raised-bed frames, building raised hills for growing vegetables is the way to go and can be accomplished in relatively little time with basic gardening tools.

Measure the area of your finished garden hill and add about 12 inches to those dimensions on all sides. Stake the outer edges of the space on all sides and run string between them.

Work in from the outer edge of the staked area, as the extra 12 inches provide the soil for the bed and constitute part of the space between them if you are building more than one.

Prepare the entire area by digging the soil down to at least 12 inches deep and removing all rocks, dead vegetation and other debris. Turn the clumps over several times and shake as much soil out of them as you can. Discard thick root sections that are free of soil.

Work the soil with the spade and the hoe until it is loose and fluffy, and rake smooth.

Remove the soil with the spade around the 12 outer inches, creating a trench, and transfer it onto the center of the bed. Aim for a height of at least 6 inches between the bottom of the trench and the finished top of the hill.

Repeat Step 4 until you have transferred all the soil from the trench and deposited it as evenly as possible across the top of the hill. Rake the soil from the outer edges of the hill in until it is smooth, and level gently at the edges of the hill.

Line the trench with a two to 3-inch-deep layer of hay or straw to control weeds and minimize compacting the soil.

Items you will need

  • Measuring tape
  • Stakes
  • String
  • Garden spade
  • Hoe
  • Flat rake
  • Hay or straw


  • If you want to build several raised beds in an area, be sure to allow the same amount of space on all sides. While a single 12-inch-wide trench is suitable for one hill, it may not provide enough space between two hills, particularly if you are growing vegetables that spread, such as cucumbers or squash (Cucurbitaceae). If you are building more than one hill at the same time, this means leaving 24 inches of space between them and using the soil from that area to increase the height of the beds.


  • Heavy rains may cause some erosion around the edges of your raised hills. You can minimize any potential damage by planting at least 6 inches in from the edges. If your soil is fluffy and porous and drains well, the trenches should be able to handle most of the run-off without causing too much damage.

About the Author

Rachel Lovejoy has been writing professionally since 1990 and currently writes a weekly column entitled "From the Urban Wilderness" for the Journal Tribune in Biddeford, Maine, as well as short novellas for Amazon Kindle. Lovejoy graduated from the University of Southern Maine in 1996 with a Bachelor of Arts in English.

Photo Credits

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