How to Build a Raised Bed Garden - for Beginners, by Beginners
It's official. David and I are now full fledged vegetable gardeners. We've expanded our garden A LOT since the original tour I took y'all on last time. In addition to our planting table we've added in two raised bed gardens + some container gardens holding tomatoes, potatoes, and mint. I guess you could say we've caught the gardening bug (cue cheesy drum roll).
We were nervous about upping our gardening game, but honestly raised bed gardening doesn't have to be as intimidating as it seems. We are complete beginners and built ours using only a few basic building materials. No crazy power tools or elaborate building guides are required should you want to take this project on yourself. In fact, creating this raised bed garden is so easy you could even build it with a toddler (we did!) and the feeling you get when you harvest your first veggie is priceless.
To give you a sense of scope, this was the space in our backyard before we built our raised bed gardens:
And this was after:
I want to reiterate again we used NO crazy power tools to build our two raised bed gardens and the total cost came out to $157.09 (minus tax + soil). You can definitely build these cheaper, but we opted for some higher quality materials so hopefully our raised beds will last longer. The total time it took us to build was about two days - we are beginners after all - but if you have some natural crafting abilities I see no reason why you couldn't knock this out in an afternoon.
If this sounds like the kind of project you'd like to take on, below is a step-by-step guide on how we built ours.
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(Makes 2 4X4 garden boxes)
- Deckmate #10 - 3 inch ceramic deck screws - $9.37 for 1lb box (66 screws)
- hand saw - $0 because we already had on hand
- 2 2X4 - 8ft premium S4S cedar plank (for the joiners) - $7.57 each
- 8 2X6 - 8ft Rough Green Western Red Cedar Lumber (for the side planks) - $14.95 each
- Landscape fabric (weed barrier) - $12.98
- Power drill - $0 because we already had on hand
A word of caution about lumber: If you decide to build a raised bed garden, make sure the lumber you use is not pressure treated or coated with any stains as this could cause chemicals to leach into your soil and ultimately your veggies!
STEP ONE: MEASURE
- Measure and mark with a pencil the midway point of each of your 2X6 8ft cedar planks. You should end up with 16 2X6 4ft planks. These will form the sides of your raised bed gardens.
- Measure and mark each of your 2X4 8ft cedar planks in 12 inch increments. These will be the joiners for your side planks and you should end up with 8 total. You want them to measure 12 inches because that will be the height of the 2 2X6 4ft planks you'll stack on top of each other to form the sides of your raised bed.
STEP TWO: CUT
Using a hand saw, or whatever tool you are most comfortable with, cut each of your cedar planks along your measured lines.
STEP THREE: SECURE
Once you've cut each of your planks, then you are ready to form the frame of your raised bed garden box. Begin by first securing the bottom planks to the joiners followed by the top planks (see pictures below). To make assembly easier, we pre-drilled holes before screwing in the deck screws, but it's not required.
A word of advice: to end up with a perfect square, make sure the planks are not overlapping in an alternating pattern. For instance. Sides A & C should both be secured on the outer short edge of the joiners and sides B & D should be secured to the outer long edges of the joiners.
STEP FOUR: LINE
You can either place your completed raised bed planter frame directly on top of the grass in your desired location OR you can dig the grass up. We decided to dig ours up. After that, we lined it with a special weed barrier. It still allows water to drain, but it will prevent any unwanted weed growth from underneath the bed. Also, depending on what you are growing, you can line your box with metal wiring to prevent gophers or any other rodents from tunneling underneath your bed and eating your veggies from below.
To line your raised bed, simply roll out the landscape fabric over your frame and cut it to fit. We left ours a bit long up the sides to make sure there were no gaps where weeds could come through. There is no need to secure it because the weight of the dirt will hold it in place once added.
STEP FIVE: FILL
Once you've got your raised beds built, placed, and lined you are ready for the next to last step - filling with dirt! There are a number of great organic soils on the market or you can even make your own. Originally, we started out using the Nature's Care Organic Raised Bed soil mix, but have since switched to the all natural raised bed and potting soil mix by Kellog. It's organic and relatively affordable compared to other brands with similar claims. So far we've loved it and have grown some really tasty veggies.
STEP SIX: PLANT
If you've made it this far, congratulations! You are now ready for the really fun stuff - planting your veggies! We started off with some peppers, but eventually added spinach, turnips, onions, carrots, and cucumbers. You can plant almost anything in a raised bed, although I wouldn't recommend planting mint (it acts like a really invasive weed) or tomatoes (they need space to grow a deep root system). You can learn more about what types of veggies to plant here.
Also fun to check out: why there is no such thing as having a "green thumb" + how to homestead without a farm.