Building Raised Beds

There are a variety of reasons to build raised garden beds, from poor soil to creating a more orderly garden space. This is a guide about building raised beds.

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I live in Tahiti and we have a lot of rain year-round. This can be a problem when it comes to planting flowers or plants in your garden. Therefore, I decided to raise my flower beds so when it rains the water doesn't flood my plants. finished rock wall around flower bed

Unfortunately, when the water drains from the garden it started to erode the dirt in my flower beds and they started to crumble and wash away. In order to stop the erosion and the dirt from washing away, I needed to find a solution for this problem.

I have a river that runs in front of my home. I gathered the rocks from the riverbed and brought them into the garden. I used the rocks to start building a barrier for my flower beds.

Materials needed:

  • small to medium sized rocks
  • wheelbarrow
  • small hand shovel
  • large shovel
  • dirt

Start by digging a small trench along the line of your flower bed. Place a row of medium sized rocks in the trench. Repairing Your Flower Beds

Afterwards, fill the back side of the trench and rocks with dirt. You'll need to pack the dirt down around the rocks to hold them in place.

Continue adding rocks and dirt as you build your rock wall. You're basically stacking the rocks on top of each other. You'll need to find a rock that fits well on top of the bottom rock. Adding dirt to the back of the rocks holds them in place and supports the rock wall. Furthermore, it fills and replaces the dirt in your flower bed that has washed away from the rain. Repairing Your Flower Beds

I continued adding rocks and dirt until I had made a nice rock wall that would protect my plants. Now when it rains the dirt in my flower beds is protected and no longer erodes or washes away. Furthermore, the rock wall flower beds add to the natural look of the garden. Repairing Your Flower Beds Repairing Your Flower Beds

My garden is tropical and has a lot of flowers and plants. I keep the center of the yard open for the animals and walking around. Here on the islands, it's better to have a gravel yard than a yard with a lawn. Around my garden I have different areas that I have built raised rock flower beds.

Repairing Your Flower Beds
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    Raised Garden BedThere are several advantages to using raised beds when gardening. They provide excellent drainage, warm soil earlier in the spring, prevent soil compaction, maximize yields in a minimum amount of space, and for gardeners with limited mobility, they can be built to any height. Perhaps best of all, raised beds also keep your garden looking neat and tidy.

    Gathering Your Supplies

    Materials you will need:
    • Rot-resistant lumber in 4-foot, 8-foot, or 12-foot lengths (Use lumber that is 12 inches wide and 2 inches thick. Redwood and cedar are both naturally rot-resistant and, depending on the conditions, can last for up to 10-15 years before decaying. Avoid using pressure-treated wood or wood treated with water-repellant preservatives, especially if you're planting edible plants. These contain toxic chemicals that may inhibit plant growth and contaminate the soil.)

    • 1 lb. box of 2 1/2-inch or 3-inch galvanized nails

    • Hammer

    • Optional: Chicken wire/hardware cloth & staple gun (to deter rodents)

    Determining Size

    Length & Width: A convenient size is 4 x 4-foot box, because lumber is readily available in 4-foot lengths. This also allows you easy access to the center of your beds from either side. Set the beds end to end to create larger gardens (4 x 8-foot or 4 x 12-foot, etc.) or arrange them in interesting patterns. If you are planting vegetables, building 3 to 4 raised beds of this size will allow for adequate crop rotation. If the bed will be positioned against a wall or fence (accessible only by three sides), limit the width to 2-3 feet so you can easily reach the plants growing in back.

    Depth: Most plants need at least a 6-12 inch root zone, so your boxes should be at least 12 inches deep to allow plenty of room for roots. Using 12-inch wide lumber to construct the boxes makes this easy.

    Constructing the Box

    Construct your beds on a firm, flat surface (e.g. driveway, patio, or garage floor). Set the boards up on their sides and nail the ends together to create a box. Use 4 to 5 nails on each board in an off-set pattern to help prevent the wood from splitting. If you're doing this project alone, it's helpful to brace one board against a wall to hold it steady while you pound in the nails.

    Optional: If you line the bottom of a raised bed with chicken wire, you can easily control gophers and other marauding rodents. Cut a piece of chicken wire/hardware cloth so it's a few inches larger than the inside dimensions of your box. Lay the wire inside of the box. Bend the excess wire up the inside walls and use a staple gun to attach it securely it to the box.

    Tips for Positioning the Box

    • Once constructed, have someone help you carry the beds to the desired location and set them on top of the ground.

    • If necessary, dig the sides of the beds into the ground so the top of the bed is level on all sides.

    • If your beds are rectangular rather than square, you'll maximize sunlight by positioning them so that the long side runs north to south.

    • A 3 foot aisle between beds and other structures will accommodate wheelbarrows and lawn mowers.

    Preparing the Box for Planting

    Use a sharp spade to loosen up the top few inches of soil at the bottom of the box. This will help ensure good drainage. Fill the beds with equal parts of compost, topsoil, and well-rotted manure. Water well. Allow a few days to a week for settling to occur and add extra soil if necessary.

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    I want to build a raised vegetable box in my yard, but have dogs next door and because my yard runs on an angle all their urine runs through my yard. Will my vegetables be afflicted by that? How do I get rid of the smell?

      AnswerWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

      This year I want to try raised beds in my garden, but I don't want to spend any money on purchasing the wood necessary to make them, plus all the work involved. So I came up with this idea - why not use cardboard boxes from the grocery stores?

      CommentMoreRead More...Was this helpful?Helpful? Yes

      Two Completed Garden BedsWe were able to put these two 4 foot square raised garden beds together this weekend. It was an easy project for the kids to help with; and they will be able to plant whatever they want in them this spring.

      The best part about assembling them in this way is that there is no real need for precision. If you drill the holes off by a bit or a couple of the boards aren't exactly 4 feet long, it isn't a big deal. The bed will still be plenty stable and hold enough dirt to make a great garden plot.

      Making the garden beds 4 feet square would work well for anyone utilizing the square foot gardening method. They are easy to reach across and tall enough that they are more comfortable to work in than a shorter bed.

      Supplies

      This is what you will need to put together one 4x4 foot garden bed.
      • 8 2x10 (inch) boards cut to 4 feet long
      • 4 4x4 (inch) boards but to 2 feet long
      • 32 3.5 inch deck screws
      • 32 1/4 inch washers
      • 1/2 gallon of wood stain (1 gallon was enough to stain 2 beds)
      • drill and drill bits
      • measuring tape
      • pencil
      Garden Bed Supplies

      Total spent for 4 garden beds:

      • $16.08  16 4x4s, cut to 2 feet in length
      • $81.76  32 2x10s, cut to 4 feet in length
      • $29.98  5lb box of 3.5 inch deck crews
      • $18.90  6 packages of 25 count washers
      • $56.96  2 gallons of Minwax wood stain
      • $3.97  1 wide paint brush

      Total = $207.65 or $51.91 per garden bed

      Instructions:

      1. Cut your boards down to the proper length. The 4x4s are 24 inches and the 2x10s are 48 inches.
      2. I bought the lumber at Home Depot, and they will cut it down to size for free. They used to charge $1 per cut, but seem to have stopped doing that. I am not sure if that is a national policy or just local, but it sure saved me a lot of time and money.
      3. The longer boards tend to be cheaper per linear foot. So, for the 2x10s we purchased 12 foot boards and had them cut into thirds, making them all basically 4 feet long.


        Thrifty Tip: Check the bargain wood bin that is usually back by the cutting center. We found a bunch of four foot pressure treated 4x4s, that they were just getting ready to mark as discounted. They marked each as $4.01 then cut them down into the 2 foot sections we needed.

        When I got to the cashier though, I noticed the 8 foot pressure treat 4x4s were $7.97 each, thus making my wood from the bargain bin more expensive. It was only $.04 a board, but I still asked the cashier how something from the bargain bin would cost more. She agreed with me and cut the price to $2.01 each. So all told, I got sixteen 2 foot long pressure treated 4x4s for about a dollar a piece ($16.08). Now that's a bargain!

      4. Measure 2 inches in from one end of the board on all of the 2x10s and mark them there. This is where the screws will line up with the center of the 4x4s from the end of the 2x10.
      5. Marking Board at 2 Inches

      6. Measure 3.5 inches in from the opposite end on all of the 2x10s and mark them there. This is where the screws will line up with the center of the 4x4s when it is butted up against the other 2x10.
      7. Marking Board at 3.5 Inches

      8. At the 2 inch and 3.5 inch marks, measure across the board and mark it at 3 inches and 7 inches on both ends.
      9. Marking Board at 3 Inches Marking Board at 7 Inches

      10. Pre-drill the 4 marked spots on each board with a bit slightly smaller than the diameter of the screws you will be using.
      11. Drilling Holes

      12. At each of the 4 holes, use a 3/4 inch boring bit to create a counter sink for the washer and screw head.
      13. Drilling Counter Sink Close up of Counter Sink

      14. Stain the 2x10s with a wood sealant. Be sure to soak the screw holes and end of the boards well. I like the natural wood look so I used a light stain to bring out the natural color of the douglas fir panels. This step is not 100% necessary, but it will make your garden bed last much longer.
      15. Staining Wood Panels of Garden Bed

      16. When the stain has had a chance to soak in on the first side, flip the board over and stain the second side.
      17. Boy Helping Stain Panels

      18. Since I had managed to get pressure treated 4x4s, I only stained the cut ends on those boards. So if you have regular 4x4s, you should stain those at this time as well.
      19. Stained Panels Drying

      20. Once the stain is dry, you are ready to assemble. These beds will be heavy, so assembling them near their final destination will save you some backache.
      21. Two Stained Boards Drying

      22. Start by putting whatever is the ugliest end (there is always an ugly end) of one of the 4x4s facing upward, as this is the part that will be in the ground and not visible later.
      23. Next, line up the end of the 2x10 with the holes drilled at two inches in and square it up with the edges of the 4x4. The easiest way to do this is to lay the two 4x4s on the ground and then lay the 2x10 on top of it.
      24. Lining up End of Board

      25. Drive the screw, with washer, into the 4x4 through the holes you pre-drilled.
      26. Drilling First Panel

      27. Putting together all four corners as pictured below was easiest and fastest way we found to put these beds together.
      28. Assembled First Corner

      29. Once you have all the 4x4s attached so they are flush on the end of the 2x10s, the 3.5 inch ends will all line up with the 4x4 on the other side. Assemble the 4 pieces into a square and you are done with the hard part.
      30. First Level of Panels

      31. To add stability to the structure, you can offset the first board of the second level. This way, the end with the holes drilled at two inches lines up with the edge of a 4x4 that was attached at 3.5 inches on the first level. However, it is plenty sturdy if you don't wish to offset them. See photo below.
      32. Attaching Second Level on Panels

      33. Once all the boards are attached, flip it over and you are ready to put it in place!
      34. One Completed Garden Bed

      We purchased enough lumber to put four of these beds in our front yard. As you can see, the first two came together very easily in 1 day. I will write an update next week when I have them all ready to fill with soil.

      Two Completed Garden Beds

      By Jess from Hillsboro, OR

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      If your ground is solid rock, the best way to raise veggies is in a raised bed. My husband built a raised bed garden this year. The "blocks that hold the garden together are, believe it or not, Styrofoam. This was salvaged from boat docks a few years ago when they banned its use in the local lakes.

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      How I made a raised garden out of cardboard boxes, a tub from an old washer and some lumber on top of my driveway. I had to haul in a pick-up load of dirt. Then I build a 4x6 foot box. I have 12 tomatoes, 10 potatoes, strawberries, corn, squash, watermelons, sweet peas, onions and cucumbers. There is also one hanging tomato I wanted to try.

      The potatoes are in Eggo boxes lined with garbage bags. The white cylinder is an old window shade to encase the tomatoes. Trying to keep the birds and squirrels out. The silver metal tub is the inside of an old washing machine.

      By Leonard the Bull from Moorpark, CA

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      Small raised garden beds save energy, water, and growing medium! Looking for ways to conserve energy and not dig more than I have to, I covered a large rectangular area with old garden cloth, large pieces of corrugated cardboard, etc.

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      I'd like to see some pictures of various raised veggie garden beds you have made from recycled wood or other recycled items. The ones I see in books and on line aren't recycled items (but rather made of recycled materials).

      What I have made works, but is rather "ugly". I don't want to buy the beds, or buy the materials, but am hoping to repurpose items already here on the farm, trying to be thrifty!

      So, I am hoping some of you can give me some good ideas! I plan on going 100% raised bed gardening this year for my veggies.

      Hardiness Zone: 5a

      By April from NW MO

      AnswerWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

      Hi April, we were lucky enough to have old rainwater tanks on our farm that were rusted out on the bottom. My husband cuts off the top and bottom, then cut them in two, he puts poly pipe slit down the middle and attaches it to the rough edges with cable ties after drilling hole all around the edge. All my beds are raised now the more tanks we find the better.Hope you have these galvanized tanks in the USA like we have here in Australia. Happy hunting gail

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      My husband and I are looking for a platform bed. Does anyone has a good suggestion? Where can we find a good deal on a good quality platform bed? Thanks.

      Peggy from Mcallen, TX

      AnswerWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

      babbles5,

      We'd love to see photos of the furniture you've crafted. :)

      Marz

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      Easy Raised BedIf you're short on space or the soil in your area is riddled by sand or clay, building raised beds may be the best solution to your gardening woes. You'll trade the time, money and effort required amending poor quality soil for maximum yields in a minimum amount of space.

      Small Spaces with Big Advantages

      Once built, raised beds don't compact as easy as conventional garden beds so they are easy to work by hand and never require tilling. In the spring, they warm up more quickly than regular garden soil, which is a real advantage for cold climate gardeners. Pests can be spot treated and fertilizers applied only where you need them, saving time, money and resources. Beds built tall enough reduce attack and damage by moles, rabbits and other small animals. If your building beds from the ground up, you can experiment with soils and plants not normally suited to your soil.

      Building Your Beds

      Raised beds easily adapt to any site and can be constructed in any size or shape-triangles, rectangles-even arches. The most important consideration is to construct beds to a height and width comfortable for working. The taller the bed, the more materials and dirt you'll need to construct it. Construct the beds to a width that allows you to reach halfway across them from each side. Most people can easily reach across 3 feet so a six-foot bed works well.

      Three Easy Options

      There are several ways to construct raised beds, but before you begin, make sure to remove any weeds or sod from the site you select. It can be helpful to place a barrier like plastic landscape edging around the inside perimeter of the bed to prevent grass from encroaching in the future.

      Mounding:

      To create raised beds from already existing beds, simply loosen up the soil and heap compost and other organic matter on top. Rake it all together to create a mound. If your soil is poor add in some purchased topsoil and amend it as needed.

      Tilling and Hilling:

      Till up your garden site to a depth of 6-8 inches. Mark off areas designated for raised beds with rope or stakes, making sure to leave space for pathways. Now dig down the pathway areas and use that dirt to mound up the beds. If you live in a dry, windy climate, try creating sunken beds-beds dug down lower than the pathways. These beds will protect seedlings from wind and hold on to moisture more efficiently.

      Bag 'O Soil Method:

      This is a really fast and easy way to make raised beds. Purchase a large bag of topsoil (50lb bags work great) and lay it out flat and unopened in the area you've prepared for your beds. With a sharp knife or scissors, cut open and removed the topside of the plastic bag. Mix in a little compost and you have a ready-made bed for planting! Leave the bottom portion of the plastic bag in place to kill off any weeds. Punch a few holes in it for drainage, and simply remove it at the end of the season to prepare for next years crops. Easy!

      Choosing Materials for Framing

      Bricks, rocks and stone pavers all work well for framing raised beds. Wood works well, but will eventually rot. Cedar and redwood are naturally less resistant to rotting than most other wood and will hold up the longest. Pressure-treated or chemically treated woods are rot resistant, but should not be used around beds containing food crops because their arsenic based toxins may leach into the soil. Old railroad ties are also suitable, but newer ties may leach creosote, which is harmful to plants.

      No matter what method you choose to build them, or the shape or materials you use to frame them, raised bed gardening offers you space and crop versatility in a minimal amount of space.

      CommentMoreRead More...Was this helpful?Helpful? Yes

      I have read how straw bales are used to build a raised garden. I was wondering if straw could be used to line the bottom of a wood build raised garden? I was thinking that the straw would decompose and provide nutrients for the soil as well as help to maintain moisture. Please help out.

      By Faye B.

      AnswerWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

      That would depend on what kind of straw you're using and what kind of plants you're going to put in. Pine straw (needles) are acidic. The straw that's left over from cutting hay is full of seeds. Also, as the straw breaks down the level of your soil will drop.

      ReplyWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

      I am looking for an economical way to edge my raised beds. I have a large garden and lumber is just way too expensive to do all of the beds. Any ideas?

      Hardiness Zone: 6a

      By Heidi from PA

      AnswerWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

      I have used 8x8x16 cinder blocks as the edging for my raised beds. I do "nail" them down with rebar so they don't shift. If you get a sale, they aren't too expensive, or check around colleges when school gets out and pick 'em up for free when the students leave them behind.

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      This idea is very old, my grandmother used to have straw bale gardens. It was great for her not to have to stoop over to pick and weed her garden.

      Straw Bales For Gardening

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      I would like to use all the rocks that seem to grow here to good use. Instead of buying wood to make raised beds in the garden I would like to try building it with the stones. The previous owner left three bags of quick-crete, so I was hoping to use that. Will I have to wash all the rocks first? Do I have to put down a layer of sand before I even start? How long will it have to 'set' before I put in the dirt?
      Has anyone tried this before, and what worked and what didn't.

      Any knowledge would be greatly appreciated.

      AnswerWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

      I have a small hand book, stone gardens. You are more than welcome to it. Let me know, I will mail it to you.

      ReplyWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes
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      We made a 30x20 foot garden in our back yard with plastic and cement blocks. You do not have to remove grass. Put down plastic or a thick layer of news papers, and place cement blocks on top around the edge of the space.

      CommentMoreRead More...Was this helpful?Helpful? Yes

      Can you turn an old fridge into a raised veggie bed? I would need to put drainage holes in the back and lay it back on ground. What are potential hazards?

      By Bec B

      AnswerWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

      Refrigerators are an environmental hazard that need to be specially disposed of, so turning one into a veggie bed isn't a good idea I'm afraid. Depending on the age of the fridge it might contain CFC's, mercury, and other baddies. Even newer ones have things you wouldn't want leaking into the soil. Better to see your fridge properly recycled. There are plenty of ways to make raised beds from reclaimed materials that would be a safer bet. Good luck with your garden!

      ReplyWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes
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