Monday, May 20, 2019

How to Build Iris Beds

By Dennis Berry

Had some people, especially those in the Iris community, interested in how I put together the raised beds for Kim. Over the next week I’ll try to post the process of building this next set of beds. Over the weekend Kim and I discussed what she wanted and what I could fit and used marker paint to lay out the beds and paths. Didn’t get any pictures of that. The rain washed most of it away. Today I tilled the first bed for ease of digging and extra drainage. Didn’t till the whole area so I could still back the truck up to the new bed to offload dirt and sand. Monday I’ll start digging in the base blocks.

Next steps to how I build Kim’s raised beds. I lay out the first corner with mason’s twine. The yellow line is just a reference line. The red line is leveled and what I use to get the bed straight and level. This is the important one since we have no level land here in East Tennessee. A block at each end of the line tells me the height. I have had to back fill the low end on a couple beds to keep the opposite end from being underground. Next dig the trench for the block and start laying in. I do use a small level two ways across the blocks as I work to keep them level, tapping them in with a rubber mallet. Mostly though just line up the tops of the blocks with line. No mortar is used between blocks. Their held in with back filled dirt and the topping pavers. This bed is about 20 foot long and took me about two and a half hours to lay out and dig in the first side and ends.

Today, finish other side of bed. Rake the inside level and sweep top of blocks. We use construction adhesive to glue down the cap bricks. I like to wait at least a day before filling the bed to allow the adhesive time to set up. Caps on the beds we did two years ago are still still sticking well. Occasional problem where I got the glue a little thin or clip a corner with the wheel barrow. Simple fix to glue back down. Till next area and repeat the process. It will be a couple days before I fill these beds. Need to make a Lowe’s run tomorrow for supplies.

Rinse and repeat. Bed L2 done.

Bed L1 is now done and ready for planting. Had a couple of days off from bed building. We had a storm blow through and the dirt was too wet to work. Also had to make a supply run and spent Sunday visiting with my Mom and Dad. Filled the bed with topsoil and sand and then ran the tiller through it to mix well. Included a picture of the soil and sand we use. The topsoil you can get at Walmart. Lowe’s can get it also if you order a large enough quantity. We buy ours by the pallet. Walk into Lowe’s and order 10 pallets and they are glad to help. We use construction sand because it’s been washed so it has much less salt in it. Thank you to Mark Bolling for the help this morning. Always good to have friends that are thick skulled enough to volunteer to help you move 40lb bags of dirt and 50lb bags of sand. We’re now out of dirt so tomorrow it’s back to digging in bricks.

Construction of beds L1 through L4 is complete. A surprise to no one here, we need to buy more dirt. That means I get a coupled days off from building. This weekend we’ll go pick up another pallet of topsoil and begin filling these beds first of next week. Just in time as the guest irises that are scheduled to go in these beds should start arriving any time now.

Editors’ Note: We would like to thank Dennis Berry for permission to use his “how to” posts and images that first appeared on Facebook’s Iris Lovers. Dennis with his partner Kim Bowman, own and operate Dancing Dragons Iris Gardens 504 S. Jackson St., Morristown, TN  37813. Phone 423-300-1541. Their website is and they will start to take new orders in the spring. One of the goals of their garden is to preserve irises hybridized by people in Region 7, AIS, Kentucky and Tennessee.


  1. Thank you for this fantastic tutorial on how to build an iris bed. Your end result looks great, and will be a wonderful setting for all of your guest irises.

  2. Really great to see something like this being built!!! Thanks for that.

    Will be be treated to follow-up's (planting/growing/flowering) by any chance?


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