Building your raised bed

Insights, materials, building plans, and garden styles for your raised bed. Knowing how much lumber to buy is just the first part, the next is making sure you get the right boards or to realize you don’t want to use lumber at all.

The information below will assist you in building your raised bed garden as well as possibly give you few new tips or tricks. Ensure prior to starting building you have enough space for all the plants you are going to grow. The size of the bed has to be determined prior to cutting a single board. The building plans for the “4′ x 4′ raised bed” can be downloaded in PDF form for offline use if desired.

Materials

Going to buy lumber can be intimidating. Especially if you are not trying to poison the watering hole, so to speak. Certain types of lumber are coated with chemicals that can poison your raised bed.

Avoid using railroad ties or certain pressure treated lumber completely if your garden will be for vegetables or other edible plants.

Avoid using railroad ties as they can be coated with creosote. If you decide to use recycled lumber ensure you know what you are getting, most treated lumber that was manufactured prior to 2003 contains arsenic a carcinogenic. These chemicals can enter the soil and in turn enter the plants. If you are using your raised bed for flowers or other non-edible purposes you need to ensure the chemical will not adversely affect your selected plants or soil qaulity. It is recommended to avoid using these completely if your garden will be for vegetables or other edible plants.

Photo by PhotoMIX Company from Pexels
Purchasable Materials
  • Rot resistant woods
  • Cedar (Expensive but pretty)
  • Redwood (Expensive but pretty)
  • Kits (Most nurseries carry these)
  • Concrete blocks (centers can be filled to give more planting space / expensive)
  • Galvanized Tin (Sharp edges may want to frame in)
Kits come in all shapes and sizes
Raised Bed Garden Kit
Raised Bed Garden Kit
Raised Bed Garden Kit

Think nature

When building a raised bed garden thinking lumber is your only option limits the creative possibilities. Natural materials make for great raised garden bed perimeters, they offer a unique and beautiful look for your landscape. At the same time maybe it will clean up that log pile that has been sitting there for a while.


Photo by Paula from Pexels
Natural Materials
  • Old logs
  • Stones or Rocks

Photo by Paula from Pexels

I would love to hear if you have any suggestions for other natural materials to use for a raised bed garden. Leave a comment below or where you saw this posted to help expand the article.

Fasteners

Ensure you buy stainless steel fasteners, this will prevent most rust and other elemental related issues. If you decided to go the natural route a good clay mixture can help keep your logs and stones from shifting too much. By making sure you use the right fasteners it will prevent a lot of heartache down the road. Imagine it now, its 3 months into the growing season a good rain happens and the side of your raised bed garden pops open with a mountain of dirt and plants. Screw it tight, screw it right.

Tools

I have listed out generic tools required to build a basic raised bed garden. These will get you started, extra’s refers to adding a bird net, mole net, or water irrigation system to your raised bed.

Essential Tools
  • Tape Measure
  • Skill Saw
  • Drill & Adapter for your fasteners
  • Fasteners
  • Level
  • Carpenter’s Square
  • Sledgehammer or other hammer
“Extra’s” Tools

Use hardware fabric to prevent moles and other burrowers from digging up your raised bed garden.

Hardware fabric is great addition to your raised bed garden as it prevents mole and other burrowing animals from entering and destroying your garden. Prior to filling your bed with soil place a sheet of the hardware fabric down ensuring the ends are folding up into the bed. This prevents it from drifting and giving a little digger room to squeeze in.

Tips for building

Building a raised bed garden for the first time can be full of challenges resulting in both victories and defeats. Here a some pointers to keep in mind while your building your dream raised bed garden.

  • Try to have someone there to help you as getting the first few boards together can be tricky.
  • Build it upside down so you do not have to fight balancing the entire thing as you screw it together.
  • Build it on a flat surface, as long as everything remains flat it should come out mostly square.
  • If you don’t have a carpenter’s square use a scrap piece of lumber, the manufactured corners will get you in the ballpark of square.
  • You will want to have stakes or posts at least every 4 feet to prevent bulging.
  • Ensure it is level when placing it in the ground.

Building a 4′ by 4′ raised garden bed

Step by step plans

Below is the material list, cut list, and instructions for building a 4 foot by 4 foot raised garden bed. A downloadable PDF copy is available here.

Material List

Two – 2 x 6 x 8 Cedar boards

One – 2 x 4 x 8 Cedar board

Stainless steel fasteners between 3″ – 5″

Cut List

(a)2x6x8 – 48″ / 48″

(b)2x6x8 – 45″ / 45″

2x4x8 – 18″/18″/18″/18″

Instructions
  1. Cut one 2x6x8 into two 48″ pieces. (front & back)
  2. Cut one 2x6x8 into two 45″ pieces. (ends)
  3. Cut the 2x4x8 into four 18″ pieces. (stakes)
  4. Lay the sides and ends out on a flat surface with the faces of the front and back boards covering the ends of the end boards.
  5. Using two screws/fasteners on each corner, screw through the front and back boards into the end boards.

This is a good point to complete your prep work for the soil. Take the framed raised bed to its location and mark out the area to work your soil. Recommend scraping the grass from the surface and working to a depth of around 12 inches.

  1. Place the bed in its final location.
  2. Ensure the bed is level using a level indicator.
  3. Ensure the bed is square using a carpenter’s square or scrap piece of lumber.
  4. Drive your stakes into each corner of the bed.
    • It is recommended that you have stakes every 4 feet to prevent bulging. A taller bed may require more stakes than that, it is due to the added weight of the soil. Overtime the boards will bend if not supported properly at this stage.
  5. Screw the through the ends into the stakes to secure it in place.
  6. At this point you are ready to fill your bed and get to planting.

Keep an eye out for another article on mixing your soil for raised bed gardens.

Raised bed garden ideas

Using a raised bed really give you quite a lot of room to customize your garden. From size, location, appearance, depth, and just about everything about it. One of the most important things you can pick is the flora. By “designing” your garden it can be a wondrous place to escape to.

While almost everyone has heard of a vegetable garden have you ever thought about planting only miniature plants. This would appear as a fairy garden and since it’s in a raised bed it will be at the perfect height for little eyes.

If you live in an apartment with a larger window or balcony a great way to get some privacy is to plant miniature shrubs and evergreens. These bushy guys will help create a natural fence between your balcony and the busy streets below.

Perhaps you want to go out and grab all of your herbs in one go for your evening meal. You could grow an herbal raised garden bed with thyme, basil, and any other varieties you so desire. Just ensure everyone will get along when they are fully grown. Check a companion chart if you are unsure if plants can go together or not.

Companion Planting Chart for Vegetables

Building a raised bed garden can be fun and exciting, challenging and frustrating. However, the results as your basking in the fruits of your labor will pay off in the end. Decide if a raised bed garden is right for you and just do it. If you get inspired to build a raised bed garden or get helped by this article please let me know.

I am an affiliate and links located throughout the article will provide me with a commission on any purchases made.

Myers Greens LLC

Myers Greens is a nursery located in southwest Iowa. With the main goal of providing top quality microgreens and fresh herbs. Follow the blog to keep up to date on what we are growing.

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Nursery / Growing Operation located in Southwest Iowa.

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