How (and why) to build a Raised Bed

Raised bed gardening has many benefits. Here are a few of the reasons I like this method for most of my gardening.

  • Above and beyond any other reason, your back and knees will thank you. This greatly reduces the bending and kneeling involved with a ground level garden. You can consider the expense of building raised beds as an investment in your health.
  • They help reduce invaders to your garden space. Slugs and other bugs are less likely (still possible) to invade this space. Dogs and other animals are also somewhat blockaded when it’s not at their height. This isn’t to say it’s guaranteed, but it will certainly reduce your garden-space invaders.
  • This method can greatly increase soil drainage, so you aren’t left with a swamp in your garden for days after a heavy rain… or clay soil that just doesn’t soak it up.
  • You control the quality of your soil. No more trying to grow in rocky, clay, dead soil. Instead, build your bed with healthy, fertile soil & regularly amend it with good quality organic matter.
  • Greatly reduced exposure to weeds, grass, and other plants that want to encroach upon your well fed, fertile plot. It’s easier to pull 20 weeds every week than 200.

These are just a few of the myriad of reasons why a raised bed garden can benefit you. So, don’t delay any longer, build one and reap what you sow!

Now, we’ll get down to the how. Let me start by saying, I wanted to do this as cheaply as possible. I was able to procure some left over lumber from a previous building project with no cost other than drag it off and use it. Given the list of materials I used, this saved me about $75 per bed. I’ve got enough wood to build 3 of them. The down side is that some of the boards are a bit warped, so I don’t get a perfect fit, and the boxes aren’t as pretty as they could be. Either way, here are the materials you will need:

  • 1 – 4×4 post, 8′ length. This will cost you around $8 at the lumber yard… or see if you can find scraps for free.
  • 9 – 2×8 lumber, again 8′ length. These run anywhere from $7 for outdoor treated utility grade wood to $20 for cedar, depending on your choice of wood. Your choice.
  • 48 – 4″ deck screws. A small box is cheap, or buy a big tub of them… these things are infinitely useful for so many projects.
  • a roll of landscape fabric.
  • TOOLS: A skill saw, an electric drill with a bit to fit your screws, a measuring tape, and a pencil.

Start by cutting four 20″ pieces from your 4×4 post. There will be a scrap piece left over. Save it in your lumber pile, 4×4 blocks are useful for so many things.

Next, take three of your 2x8s and cut them into 1/2, so you end up with six pieces, each 48″ long.

Wood has been cut to size

Put up your saw and hook up the drill now. Take 2 of your 4×4’s and one of your 4′ end pieces and assemble them as shown below. You’ll make 2 of these.

One end of the bed.

Next, you will use one of your six remaining 8′ pieces and attach a side. Get someone to help you hold it up if you need a hand, but you can probably do it solo. Notice which way it overlaps the end.

Proceed by then attaching the other end. and finally the last side on the bottom row.

After you get the first row assembled, this is a good time to make sure the box is exactly where you want it. It will just get heavier from here. I decided, for my purposes, 32″ space between each box was an adequate walk space, while not wasting too much ground. Get someone to help you move it if necessary… you don’t want to hurt yourself.

Once in it’s final resting place, make sure it’s reasonably square, then proceed to stack on the remaining boards and attach them one at a time.

The final step is to put landscape fabric underneath the finished box. Be sure to leave a generous overlap in the center. Grass is very determined to find it’s way through. Your final result should look like this.

The finished bed, landscape clothed and ready for soil

The final task is to fill’r’up. I opted to fill the first 7 to 10″ of the box with earth that was taken from a hill on the property. It is heavy clay content earth and not very organic-matter dense, but it’s just filler. I then proceeded to add another 8-10″ of quality, organic rich garden soil. I think it took me 4 or 5 of the 2 cubic foot bags to get a good, deep bed on top, suitable for anything I’m going to grow.

Good luck with your project, big or small!

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