Martha Stewart Living, May 1999
Before laying out your beds, sketch your plans on paper. Decide which vegetables you'd like to plant and where, the size of the beds, and the overall pattern of the garden.
Use graph paper and plan to scale, keeping in mind the mature size of the vegetables you've chosen. Let one square equal a specific unit -- for example, 1 foot -- in the garden. It's much easier to adjust and change your plans while they're on paper, and your sketch will also be a helpful reference as you work.
To make raised beds, mark off the bed layout with surveyor's string and bamboo stakes. Make sure the beds are not wider than 36 to 40 inches, which should enable you to comfortably reach the middle from either side.
Using a shovel, carve out a series of lowered paths around the staked-off areas, mounding the soil onto the beds; then use a rake to level the soil.
Because vegetables have more particular needs than other plants, your site must satisfy them to produce a bountiful harvest. Most vegetables require deep, well-drained, fertile soil; a level site; and at least six hours of full sun daily. Raised beds are wonderful for growing vegetables: They encourage good drainage and thereby discourage disease and the suffocation of root systems. Plus, they provide loose, well-aerated soil, which warms up more quickly than it would in regular beds -- and warmth is very important for growing vegetables.