Self-Maintaining Raised Beds

Self maintaining raised beds perfect for busy gardeners and for decreasing hours of additional labor.

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What in the world is a self-maintaining raised bed?  Well, I’m about to share the beauty and simplicity of taller raised beds.

Towards the end of March, I mentioned in my newsletter that Robert accepted an opportunity to work on cargo planes.

I was going with him and our first tiny house property at Quail Grove was being listed for sale.

Temperatures were pretty cool and right before we left, I decided to shrink the garden into three raised beds.  These beds are 23 inches high, measuring 2 ft. x 4 ft. and filled to the top.

You can get an idea of what these beds looked like in March right here.


After being gone for over 4 weeks, we returned the first part of May.

I wasn’t sure what to expect…

I had been tracking the weather during our departure and felt confident I would be greeted with healthy raised beds.


Friends, it was better than I expected.  It was an amazing sight; zero weeds and my plants were doing great.

I owe this success to Startle Garden because these smaller and taller raised beds made all the difference.


The soil was moist and the one thing that did require my attention included topping off the two beds I installed prior to leaving.



These new beds packed down about 3 – 4 inches.

I was expecting this because I used a lot of natural material in between each layer of soil; this is how I establish all my raised beds….


Soil settling was easy to fix especially since I had leftover dirt from breaking down beds in March.


I spent an afternoon moving soil…  Wow, did I ever get a workout moving that dirt…

At Quail Grove, I’m gardening in Blackland prairie clay, an experience of a lifetime y’all and eventually I figured it out.


I’ve been amending this material since we arrived in 2017 and three years later it’s looking sweet…

Get my some of my amending clay soil tips here.



I also did a little transplanting because some of my herbs came back with me for my travel garden.


Almost all of these plants were originally propagated from our farm.

Which means when it comes time to sell this property, I’ll  take these plants with us.  I only had to drive by our farm one time to realize that leaving plants behind when you sell a home is a big mistake.


During this entire process of topping off, I was taking notes on how moist the soil remained between rainfall…

I give thanks to that Blackland prairie clay because it definitely helps maintain moisture in these taller raised beds.


If you want to decrease gardening hours of maintenance, these beds can help do that when the soil is established correctly.

You can learn how to do just that with my book Startle Garden Now. 


As I was moving dirt, I was also emptying lower raised beds made from 2 x 8 ft. boards.

Two ended up in the burn pile and this smaller 2 x 6 ft. frame was placed in the corner where I transplanted 2 lantana plants and a drift rose bush.


This shorter raised bed was established the same as the others and in a few weeks, I’m positive it will need topping off.

At our next visit, I’ll paint, stain and possibly include new garden flair.


Before we left, the final step was to make sure each bed was watered really well.

Nature will take care of the rest while we’re gone as it normally rains about once a week until we get into the hotter months of July and August.


My plan is to continue sharing these updates after each visit so you can experience the beauty of low maintenance gardening.


To recap on planting – these beds are currently filled with perennial herbs, drift roses, variety of lilies and a few annuals.

In the past I’ve successfully grown a variety of herbs, berries, vegetables and cut flowers in these same beds.

For taller plants I like to grow in shorter frames, about 1.5 ft. tall because it makes harvesting easier and viewing pleasing to the eye.


Self-maintaining raised beds is focused on allowing nature to work for you.  This garden is a gem, requiring very little of my attention.

If you’re seeking to grow in a small or large space, it’s my hope you consider Startle Garden.


Thanks for joining me and hope your day is amazing.

Smiles and Sunshine, Carole West



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  1. daisy says:

    Everything looks fresh as a daisy! I decided against trying to fight our heavy clay soil and use mostly raised beds. Sure makes it easier. Less time weeding and much easier on the body.
    Safe travels…

    1. Carole West says:

      I thought about just buying soil in the beginning because yes it would make it easier. But I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to learn more about this land and must say even though it was hard work it was worth it.

  2. Lynn says:

    Wow! We’ve had raised veg garden beds, but I really like the height of yours! And I really appreciate the water conservation your startle gardens provide. Welcome home! Though it sounds like you are gone again!!!

    1. Carole West says:

      Hey Lynn,
      The height is pretty fabulous and the key is to leave the bottom open to the ground. We are back on the road, near the Louisiana border. Love it down here the people are so friendly.
      You’ll have to find a spot to try one of these beds to see what you think. A friend today shared a picture of a brick tall raised bed… They were pretty and have me making new plans for the future. Have a great week – Carole

  3. Jemma says:

    You are really on to something! Your raised gardens look amazing!
    This is also a perfect solution for vacationers. I remember when we lived in Texas trying to come up with watering systems for our gardens while we went on little trips. Most of the time they didn’t work, so I just had to get my mind wrapped around the fact that I was going to loose a large percentage of my crops.
    We are really struggling up here with cold weather. We have been covering the peonies and roses every night. Then we got a late snow storm and it froze my tulips that were just about to burst with blooms.
    Very frustrating situation right now.
    Thanks for the great tips.

    1. Carole West says:

      Thank you Jemma –
      When I started these beds at the farm I did a lot of experimenting and then continuing here at Quail Grove was really the ultimate test because this soil is so different.
      Almost sticky feeling at times if you can imagine…

      When I drive around the county and see people gardening straight in the ground all I can think of is the additional labor because eventually their gardens die out around July and August when mine is still going strong.

      The weather has been strange here, was 48 the other night and 80 during the day. Maybe this means we’ll have a later fall?
      Just make the most of what you can and I find burlap to be helpful during weird weather…

      Hugs- Carole

  4. Patti says:

    Your garden do look great! A little work up front really pays off. Definitely take them with you. My first home with kids where I feel in love with gardening all kinds of plants was ruined with the new owners after we sold it. If I had known I would have taken them with me or at least offered them to my garden friends. Live and learn, huh.

    1. Carole West says:

      I remember you mentioning that when we were getting ready to sell our farm. That’s when I thought, I’d just propagate. It was a good idea because as you can see the results were awesome. But leaving all those others behind…what a waste… When the time comes to permanently leave here, I’m going transplant everything (take with me) empty beds, leave a copy of my book and fill these beds with new seed. The lessons we learn through live experiences is valuable…

  5. Christine says:

    Your gardens look great, Carole! I was hoping I could get in the gardens and start planting this weekend but the temperatures dropped and we had frost and even snow! Thank goodness for container gardening!! Happy Monday!

    1. Carole West says:

      This weather is crazy – looks like a late planting season across the board for most areas. The herbs I have in my travel garden are moving forward with new growth but at a very slow pace.

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