If you have a heavy clay soil, you may find it easier to grow your vegetables in raised beds. Not only does the soil drain freely, but it also warms up faster in spring.
When to Start: fall, late winter or early spring
At Its Best: summer
Time to Complete: 1 day
Mark out lines on the ground where the lumber will rest, then use a sharp shovel to cut out the outline of your bed, all the way around. If positioning the bed on an area of lawn, ease the spade between sod and soil, and lift off the grass, which you can then use elsewhere in the garden.
Set the first layer of lumber in position. Remove or add soil until they're level. Check the levels along and diagonally across the lumber. For a perfect square or rectangle, have the lumber pre-cut at a timber yard.
Use a rubber mallet to adjust the position of the wood pieces so they butt up and align neatly at the corners. Drill two holes on one side of each corner, and secure the joint using long, heavy-duty coach screws. Check that all pieces are firmly joined together.
The next layer of timbers simply sit on top of the first. Arrange the pieces so that the joints at the four corners are staggered to give the structure extra strength and stability. Check all levels before screwing the lumber in place.
Fill with garden topsoil or soil-based compost. Water it well and leave to settle for a few days, after which you can sow seeds or plant directly.
Excerpted from How to Grow Practically Everything
© 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited