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Building Raised Beds against a fence

I am planning to put in some raised beds along a fence line. There are no concrete blocks along the bottom of the fence line and I understand I have to have a wooden border against  the back of the soil in the bed to keep the soil in the bed and stop the fence rotting. Do I need a gap between the wood at the back of the raised bed and the fence? 

Thanks for any help / comments


  • JoeXJoeX Posts: 1,783
    I don’t think you need a gap, but having one you can squeeze down could make maintenance of the bed and the fence easier.  
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,023
    What are you making the beds out of Barbara? 
    If you're making them completely with timber, line them with heavy duty polythene- couple of layers is ideal.  You can put them right up against the fence if you do that.
    Mine are done in various sizes and heights, lined and with a finishing 'edge' round the top. 
    Alternatively - just make the beds four sided - and leave a small gap if you wish. It's a good idea to line the beds anyway, to prevent too much moisture loss. Raised beds tend to drain more quickly, and lose moisture more rapidly. It obviously depends what you want to grow, and what your climate is like.  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • Hi
    I was going to put boards at the back where the fence is and use log roll at the front and sides(first soaked in preservative). I want to try and create a natural looking garden so I can make a curve with the log roll. I was thinking raised beds would be easier as there is no topsoil, so I would have to get rid of some of the existing soil which wont be very good for growing on, and replace it with topsoil. My sunny spot would be in the raised bed so one of the trees would sit within it. I will have to be mindful of the roots. With raised beds I can just put the soil in and its a look I have always liked. I'm in Sussex, the plan for the beds is shrubs and some wildlife friendly plants, plus some my cat will like.  

    I can see why people pay garden designers!

    Thanks for your advice
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,023
    The problem with the logroll stuff is that it's very flimsy Barbara. If you want to make curved beds, it would be better to put cut lengths of timber poles [ heavy duty tree supports would even do ] concreted vertically into the ground. Much stronger, you can vary the height, and it will last a long time.
    If you make them higher than around 9 to 12 inches, you can add a little bracing at the back with battens. Two or three 'logs' at a time won't affect the curves  :)
    It may seem a lot of effort, but I've yet to see any beds edged in logroll that haven't collapsed after a short period of time - even if the beds are only six inches high.
    The bigger the bed, the more likely it is that the planting will gradually distort the edging as it all grows too.
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • Thanks for your advice, its the experience that I lack you see! And having relocated I know no Gardeners to ask advice. 
    Its making me wonder if I should just remove some soil and put some topsoil down instead?  It would seem the most sustainable / long term thing to do. Is it just a question of taking soil down the amenity tip?  Initially I thought making raised beds would be the easiest option, but I am questioning that now. 
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,023
    Is it all just turf you have Barbara? If so, it's quite easy to strip a layer off in a shape you want,  and add some well rotted manure, soil and compost and get it to a nice tilth for planting. You can get manure in bags at G.Centres and DIY stores. You can get a result quite quickly. 
    This 'garden' was just compacted grass on the outside of a little fenced in area of gravel and slabs. I put in a boundary fence and started making a basic border along it. I'm lucky that I can get manure [fresh and well rotted]  from where I work, so I put a load of fresh stuff down and left it to rot and I did that during August/September 2013. By the following spring/summer I'd planted into it, and started on other areas.  :)

    Don't take the turf away - just stack it upside down in a pile somewhere out of the way, and by spring you'll have more topsoil to use,  as the grass will have died off. You can cover it with black plastic too, if you like, to help it along. Old compost bags are ideal.
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • Hmm...sounds like I was trying to make life more difficult and complicated! 
    The turf hasnt been down for even a month so it will be easy to take up. Will I need to take a bit of soil out to dig in the compost and manure?

    Thanks FairyGirl(Godmother)
  • RubytooRubytoo Posts: 1,375
    edited September 2018
    I don't want to put a downer on anything, Fairygirl advice is sound and detailed.
    But i wondered if you meant sub soil removal. New builds are notorious for having rubbish left by builders under a thin layer of topsoil and turf. And if it is a heavy clay though it can be worked and improved, if there is little soil or drainage sometimes it is a good idea to remove some sub and rubbish and replace it. (For example ours you could have made clay pots with, in some parts, we still could).

    Check with your local amenity tip. Yours may be chuck what you like within reason in skip. Ours is now £2.50 per "rubble" sack like the thick blue bags you get on a roll. Approximately around a 25 litre John Innes size bag.
    So if there is a little bit to get rid of you would not need or want a skip or hippo bag, just be warned they don't take rubble/soil at a lot of tips for nowt these days.
    A little investigation so you know what you are dealing with. I did not notice before but Can see in your photo that the back wall with the very high fence has two weep holes? Guessing this is for drainage from higher ground behind.  And where do the garage drains run to, you seem to have two going onto your garden.

    Not sure how long you have been in and really do not want to spoil your joy, just see how it is after a good spell of rain before planning. Hopefully you have good builders who left it nice . And well draining sub.
    Sorry having written all that, you are having raised beds because of it not being good i missed that.
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,023
    Rubytoo said:

    Sorry having written all that, you are having raised beds because of it not being good i missed that.
    Ruby - you're not alone - I do that all the time!  ;)
    I don't think you will Barbara, but it depends how much you dig out, and what the soil is like underneath etc. Anything you add will gradually settle over time too, which is why most gardeners add a bit of mulch or compost on top of beds each year. Just lift some, and take a look. If the soil looks reasonable, isn't waterlogged, or very sandy, or full of stones etc, then you might be fine just to add some decent stuff on top. Give it a good forking in when you're there just to get some air into it and mix everything thoroughly, and when you plant, dig a decent hole and add more compost and a general slow feed. That will give your plants a good start. 

    Ruby is right though - if it's all very new, the soil could be rubbish. New builds are notorious for having all the rubbish dumped in the garden. The ground's compacted and full of all sorts of junk and they just level it a bit, chuck a bit of soil down [if you're lucky] then they turf over that. If it's the last house in a row -that's usually the dumping ground.  It can look great for a few months and then suddenly grass looks awful and the new owners wonder what they've done wrong. It's a problem that we get asked about regularly on the forum. It's often easily fixed, as grass is pretty tough, but sometimes it means removing everything and starting again. It's not quite such an issue when making beds and borders, more so when you want a nice lawn. 

    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • Thank you for your advice Fairygirl and Rubytoo. I feel like I am in a much better place to get started from now. It all makes more sense. I will get out there and start having a look at the soil and get digging. It will definatly need improving as there is no top soil. If its going to compact down over time I don't think I will need to remove too much. From what I can see before the grass went down there wasn't really any rubble and they did break the soil down. They said they rotovated it. 

    Thank you so much both for all your advice.
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