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How to Build a Raised Garden Bed

how to build a raised garden bed

Remember Joe's new hobby?

He spent last weekend building 3 raised garden beds. The space he's always used for a garden has fairly poor soil and lacks the bright sunlight to really produce.

To remedy those problems, he decided to build 3 raised garden beds. He placed them in a sunny spot in our yard, and he filled them with high-quality top soil.

He says he's building more raised beds next year if these work out like he hopes.

How to Build a Raised Garden Bed

Materials for one 4-foot by 8-foot raised garden bed

  • For the sides – The hardware store sold pressure-treated 2x12s in 16-foot and 12-foot lengths. Joe asked them to cut the 16-foot planks in half, and the 12-foot planks into three 4-foot sections. (This was necessary, as he couldn't have gotten the full length boards home in his little car.)
  • For the joints – One pressure-treated 8-foot 2×4 that Joe cut himself into four 17-inch pieces (with some leftover).
  • Circular saw
  • Drill with 7/64″ drill bit
  • Square
  • 3-inch drywall screws

how to build a raised garden bed

To Assemble a Raised Garden Bed

1. For each of the 17-inch sections of 2×4, use the square and the circular saw to mark and cut a 45-degree angle on one end. These will be attached to the corners of the raised bed, and they will anchor the bed into the ground.

raised garden beds

2. In order to prevent the wood splitting during construction, pre-drill holes into the sides and anchors.

3. Match up the 2×4 so that its longest side is even with the cut end of one of the 4-foot 2×12 segments. Using a 7/64″ drill bit, pre-drill pilot holes roughly one inch from the top and one inch from the bottom.

(I hope Joe didn't pre-drill holes into our deck. Tell your husband to do the drilling in the yard or something.)

building a raised vegetable garden

4. After the holes are pre-drilled, put the screws into the holes. You will need 2 screws for each corner.building a raised garden how to plan a vegetable garden

5. Repeat at both ends of both 4-foot 2×12 segments.

how to build a raised bed how to build a raised vegetable garden

You're almost done! The last step is to put the box together.

6. Line up one 8-foot segment with one 4-foot segment. Pre-drill two holes from the 8-foot segment into the end of the 4-foot segment, roughly two inches from the top and bottom of the board. (Make sure they are at a different level than your earlier screws; you don't want one to run into the other.)

7. Drill the screws into the holes.

predrill holes for raised garden bed

8. Once you have the long pieces attached to the short piece, pre-drill 2 more holes from the long piece into the vertical anchors to add more support to the whole thing. So that the holes don't run into screws you've already placed, drill them 3 inches up and 3 inches down from the ends of the 2×12.

9. Put the screws into the holes.

how to build a raised bed

10. Repeat the same procedure at the other end of the 2×12.

building a raised garden bed almost done

11. Next, Joe stood the whole thing up with the 8-foot 2×12 on the ground and the short pieces sticking up in the air. Repeat steps 6 through 10 to attach the second long piece.

how to build a raised garden raised beds how to build a raised garden bed joints

That's it! Your raised bed is finished!

building a raised garden bed

To Place the Raised Bed

  1. Decide where you want the bed to sit. Joe wanted ours at the highest in our yard so that it would get full sun almost all of the day.
  2. Dig holes to sink the anchors down into the ground. You don't want your masterpiece to blow away in strong summer winds.
  3. Level the ground as needed.
  4. If there are weeds or grass under the bed, cover it with non-glossy cardboard and a couple of layers of newspaper to kill the vegetation.
  5. Fill with soil. Each of Joe's beds took about 1 1/3 cubic yards of screened top soil to fill. He probably could have used a bit more, maybe 1 1/2 cubic yards.

Raised Garden Bed Cost Estimate

In the interest of full disclosure, this was an anti-frugal project.

The wood for 3 raised garden boxes cost about $150, and the 4 cubic yards of top soil they required to fill cost another $150. That's before we bought seeds and plants.

On the other hand, these will last a long, long time, and they will improve the quality of our Joe's garden bounty dramatically.

Joe's Money Saving Tip

If your soil is decent (ours isn't), you could use something less than 12-inch-wide planks. Depending on your soil, you may be happy with 2x10s or 2x6s or even smaller. He used 2x12s because he wanted to add a full foot of good soil on top of our not-so-great clay.

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© 2010 – 2018, Tara Ziegmont. All rights reserved.

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30 thoughts on “How to Build a Raised Garden Bed”

  1. Did he include any landscaping plastic under the soil? We're building our raised beds and can't decide if we should use it or not.

    • He lined the bottom with newspaper and cardboard whick kills the grass and weeds. You can use landscape fabric but the grass sometimes pokes through. Or you can just till up the land under the raised bed, but you can still get weeds coming up. Newspaper blocks all vegetation from coming up through the good potting soil.

      • That newspaper and cardboard sounds like a good idea and economical instead of landscaping plastic, I am getting ready to start a raised garden, myself. Just don’t do not know what to plant just yet. I live in New Orleans and it is about 105 degrees in the shade (that’s including the heat index). It really don’t get that cold here in the winter but still I don’t know what types of plants to sow for the upcoming fall and winter seasons. any suggestions? I was thinking somewhere along the lines of peas, beans, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, onions, some greens (cabbage, collards, mustards, turnips), some herbs (basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage), and some hot peppers (jalapeno, habanero, and even some ghost peppers). is there anything I forgot or should omit or any other suggestions?

        • Kraft paper! No inks, no chemicals, and tough as nails.

          I’d never have a garden without chives. And marigolds to annoy the bugs.

          Cheers.

  2. We just made raised beds for your yard, too!
    They are not as elaborate as yours.
    My hubby has the same hobby as yours, LOL!

    If you'd like to read about our adventure, it's here:
    http://goodbyehousehellohome.blogspot.com/2010/

    I was surprised that the dirt would cost as much as the beds, but it did!

    I was glad to read about your adventures!
    Thanks for sharing them!
    How are your plants coming along?
    Ours are still bitty.
    Blessings as you make your home today!

  3. Thanks for sharing! I was totally a slacker this year and spring sprung right up on me! So maybe next year. Glad to know how much it cost!

  4. Thanks so much for this tutorial. I have a garden, but I was thinking about doing some raised beds as well maybe for herbs or strawberries…It looks great.

    I am partying with you tonight. Stop by if you have a chance.

  5. Loving this! We are in the process of plotting out a space for our own raised beds. Thank you for sharing. I arrived from Today's Creative Blog.

  6. We have done this for 7 years in our backyard. I love them, but Mr. Right hates to make repairs on them. You might want to coat these with some clear coat, as the wood does rot. We noticed significant rot in the 6th year – and we used outdoor dec boards that are treated. Also, FYI, no anchors are needed, as once the dirt is in the box, those babies aren't going anywhere! There will be no blowing whatsoever of that wood once in place!

  7. I would not put in plastic, as drainage is important for these boxes. I've been doing these for over 7 years and found that a layer of old newspapers to keep weeds at bay is all you need.

  8. You really shouldn't used pressure treated wood as it is treated with chemicals that can leach into the soil. Redwood or cedar are naturally rot resistant so they work great. If you do go with the pressure treated, line it with a plastic liner so you don't get the chemicals. We just built 2 out of redwood!

  9. As a woodworker, I’m going to be building some raised gardens for myself. I sware I’m trying not to get too technical here, it’s just my nature. I was going to cut two 45 degree angles on my “vertical stakes”, if you will, to form a center point on the stakes. But when I saw this design, I realized one cut would probably be better. Except I would flip the stakes opposite from the way it was done here. I think pounding them in the ground with the 45 degree cuts facing the outside would pull the sides in, preventing them from potentially pushing the side joints apart. I’m probably thinking about it too much, as it probably doesn’t matter, but does it sound logical?

      • Just curious as the why you used pressure treated wood and what kind of pressure treated wood you used? Most (not all) pressure treated wood has chemicals in it and I would not want the chemicals leaching into the food that we eat! Some people may not know this! Hoping the wood use in this application and everyone else used was safe!

  10. NEVER use any wood near food that has been pressure-treated or even clear-coated or painted. NEVER. NEVER. Use only clean, rot-resistant natural wood. DON’T line the bed’s bottom with anything but one of the kraft papers, newspaper in a pinch.

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  12. According to this article from University of Missouri Extension Office:

    “Pressure-treated lumber uses CCA (chromated copper arsenate) or ACA (ammoniacal copper arsenate) as a preservative. However, studies done by Texas A&M Agricultural Extension Service showed insignificant movement of these compounds into surrounding soil. Pressure-treated lumber has no proven effect on plant growth or food safety.”

    But, this is all a moot point because arsenic has not been used to treat lumber for residential use (with the exception of some woods for marine purposes) since December 31 2003.

    So the admittedly small risk, associated with using treated wood before that date to construct raised vegetable garden beds and frames have been further removed with the elimination of arsenic in the treating process.

    According to Becky Wern, Master Gardener with the Duvall County Agricultural Extension Service and the University of Florida:

    Today’s pressure treated lumber “is safe to use around children and animals and for gardens with edibles.”

    Also according to The National Gardening Association:

    There\’s still a lot of controvery about using treated wood for vegetable gardens. There was a time when pressure treated lumber contained arsenic (CCA) and was not considered safe for use in raised vegetable gardens because the arsenic leached out into the soil. The newest method for treating wood is Micronized Copper Quaternary (MCQ).

    It is chemically different than the old CCA treatments. It is made of tiny (micro) particles of copper. These particles are forced into the wood cells or pores during the pressure cycle. Once in, they stay in, also forming a barrier keeping in the quaternary. The leaching of chemicals out of MCQ is practically non-existent and using the treated lumber for a vegetable bed is safe because the chemicals do not leach out into the soil.

    However if you’re still worried then don’t used treated wood to frame your raised vegetable gardens, it’s that simple. Or line the inside with heavy plastic (but then I’m sure some will worry about the plastic “leaching” stuff into the soil) or line the sides with rock or some other material.

    • Thank you for posting this. We’re building ours today and everyone’s warnings had me a little uneasy until I came along your post.

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