September 3, 2014

DIY Raised Garden Beds: Your Total Plan for Growing Plants Anywhere

Why Is A Raised Garden Bed Right For You?

Good question!

A raised garden bed extends the planting season, offers versatility to the gardener and helps protect your knees by bringing plants up from a level position on the ground.

Also known as garden boxes, raised garden beds are ideal for growing flowers and vegetables virtually anywhere.

Knowing how to build them, how to use them and how to maximize the rewards you get from them is critical. Luckily, it’s fairly simple to do ALL this; both to build a “do it yourself” (DIY) raised garden bed, and to maximze its growing portential.

7 Key Benefits to Raised Garden Beds / Garden Boxes

As easy as they are to position and use, raised garden beds can do a great deal for the user. The following are 7 reasons why you should consider a raised garden bed…

raised garden beds design

  1. They provide good drainage to your plants. This keeps plants healthy.
  2. They prevent the soil from compacting too much, therefore encouraging the growth of roots.
  3. Raised garden beds also keep pathway weeds from entering into the soil, therefore reducing the amount of work you need to do to keep weeds out of your garden.
  4. They allow you to add the type of soil you want, including organic soil and compost soil, without having roots enter into deeper, less healthy soil.
  5. It is easier for many people to tend to plants in a raised garden bed than on a flat surface. You can sit on the edge and weed the garden bed.
  6. The garden’s bedsides create a barrier from many pests. With added fencing along the top, you can even keep out the deer and larger animals.
  7. They are incredibly versatile. When you build raised garden beds, you do so in the size, shape and overall structure right for your space.

For many people, this type of gardening is the best possible solution because it creates a surface that is ideal for planting and makes the gardener’s job far easier. If you think garden beds like these are going to be a good fit for you, the first step is selecting a place to put your bed and understanding how to build a garden box like this. However, before you proceed any further, it’s best a get a more complete understanding of the garden box…

What Is A Raised Garden Bed, Exactly?

Before you select any materials or head out into the yard to get the soil tended, you will first need to understand what makes up a raised garden bed. Generally, the most basic box is a garden planter. It contains elevated sides that allow the box to extend a foot, two feet or more up off the ground. You can design these to be several feet high, which allows you to have more elevation from the colder ground, pests and improved height for ease of clearing.

Most raised garden beds have an open bottom. Instead of building a base or a total box with a bottom, you can build just the exterior walls. This allows your plants to reach deeper and to access the nutrient rich soil under the actual mound of soil you will fill the box with.

On the other hand, it is also possible to create a slatted bottom, which creates more structure. If you add a semi permeable cloth barrier to the base, this will allow for drainage while still allowing soil to remain in place in the box. It is most common, though, to have open bottoms with raised garden beds.

Now that you have a better idea of what a raised garden bed is, let’s get down to business….

Questions or comments? Contact us!

How To Build A Raised Garden Bed: A DIY Step-By-Step Guide

How to Build a Raised Garden Bed

Now that you understand the benefits offered by using a raised garden bed, the next step is to build one.  This article provides a complete DIY (do it yourself) guide; we’ll show you exactly how to build a raised garden bed!

You can go about the process numerous ways. However, there is one thing that must be done properly in order to ensure the bed is going to perform properly for you.

Choosing The Best Spot For Your Garden Bed

One of the most important things you need to decide on before even reaching for a hammer or a saw is the location of yor raisded garden bed. The location matters because it gives the user the ability to control the overall results of using the garden bed. Here are some tips for choosing a location.

  • Ensure it gets at least eight hours of sunlight per day. If you decide to have plants that require more sunlight than this, ensure you provide a location that gives it.
  • Avoid placing the raised garden bed too close to the home. You do not want drainage problems near the foundation of your home throughout this process.
  • Choose a  position on the top of a the highest point of land if possible. You want to ensure that excess water can easily drain from under the bed and away from it. This reduces the risk of dealing with pooling water.
  • Choose a location that is flat or close to it. That will save you some digging and help you to have an even place to start overall. Remember, building on a hill works, but build with that hill on an even surface.

The right location really will make for the best raised garden beds. Take your time in choosing the most ideal place for your bed!

Building A 3 by 6 Raised Garden Bed: A Do It Yourself Guide

Supplies You’ll Need:

raised garden bed designs

Click image for TONS of landscaping ideas!

  • Lumber of your choice (consider options above) Start with 2 by 6′s for the best results.
  • A saw to cut lumber to size
  • Use 3.5 inch #10 coated deck screws to hold the wood into place. You will need a total 24 in total.
  • A level
  • A mallet or hammer
  • A screwdriver or drill
  • Square

Note: You will need more wood if you decide to add cross support beams to the garden bed. If you are using at least 2 by 4 lumber, though, in a 3 by 6 framing, it is unlikely you will need to add this to your structure.

With this information selected, you can begin the process of building a raised garden bed. It pays to take the time to choose the right size right now.

The average 3 by 6 foot bed is going to be large enough, generally, to support sprawling tomatoes. However, it is narrow enough that you won’t have a problem reaching into the middle from any of the sides.

As for height, try to build your bed at least one to two feet tall, depending on how much soil you plan to add.

Also, consider building more than one bed rather than just one large bed. By building several smaller beds, you will have no problem rotating crops to ensure the soil’s nutrients are not depleted. At the same time, you will have no problem with bowing of the sides or getting into the middle of it.

Plus, this also reduces the amount of soil you’ll need overall.

The following steps will help you to build a 3 by 6 raised garden. Make adjustments based on the specific needs you have for size.

DIY raised garden bed step 1

Step 1: Find and level the area to ensure you can build a level support system here. If you do not level the ground to start, the actual structure will be uneven, which could cause the entire thing to collapse when you add soil.

DIY raised garden bed step 2

Step 2: Remove any weeds or turf from the location. You want completely to remove any foreign material from the site, including grass. This means removing at least an inch of dirt across the top to remove grass, in most cases. Be sure it is level when complete.

DIY raised garden bed step 3

Step 3: Outline the dimensions and layout of the raised garden bed with string or a chalk line. You will want to bury about half of the first layer of lumber into the soil just enough. This allows for proper drainage but stability.

DIY raised garden bed step 4

Step 4: For added protection, you may want to lay a layer of landscape fabric down at this point. By doing this it will ensure that any grass or other remnants that develop in the soil at this point do not have the ability to grow. Ensure this material extends from the outer edge of the location you plan to build the wooden frame for total protection.

DIY raised garden bed step 5

Step 5: Cut and put together the initial framing. Cut each piece of wood to the proper size, either three feet or six feet depending on the side it will be used on. You need to put two screws into each of the corners to hold them into place. Ensure that each corner is properly squared off before moving forward with the process. Complete the process to complete the initial frame.

DIY raised garden bed step 6

Step 6: Place corner posts into place for stability. To add stability to the entire design, you’ll want to install corner posts. Cut these posts to be just as long as necessary to fit into the corners of the frame. Place the post into the corner as tightly as possible and then pound it into place. You’ll want it to enter into the dirt at least three to four inches. Then, screw the post into the sides of the frame for added support.

DIY raised garden bed step 7

Step 7: Repeat to form another layer around the top. Cut the same length boards and place on top of the existing boards to form a second layer to add height. Be sure to screw together and connect to the corner posts. This should create a nice, tight box shape.

DIY raised garden bed step 8

Step 8: Fill in and trim. The next step is to fill in the garden box with soil. Choose an organic, healthy mixture right for the type of plants you plan to put into it. This will create the ideal bed for growing. Trim off the top of the corner posts as necessary to create an even surface.

DIY raised garden bed step 9

Step 9: Add a top cap railing for support and comfort. Finally, to finish off the raised garden bed build, add a cap to the top of the railing.

To do this, miter lumber at 45 degrees. This will create the cap railing to fit on top. This addition gives you a place to sit while working in the bed, but it also gives you a way to get discourage insects and to keep plants protected when the weather cools.

Need more help? Sometimes it helps to watch some videos – we have a few you can check out here!


Building Tips: How To Build Your Raised Garden Bed Right!

Knowing how to build raised garden beds is a great way to allow your own creativity to make a truly unique piece, or series of pieces in your yard.

Once you know how to build raised garden beds, the only limits to your creation would be financial, space and your preferences or ability. It’s not hard to learn how, but you may need to experiment with a few different designs before you fall in love with one. Although raised garden beds are not necessarily permanent, you may not want to tear down and rebuild new ones each year, so experimenting with them before you fill them with new soil and plants is usually a good idea. Raised garden beds permit someone to grow organic, even if their yard or soil was contaminated previously.

For the purpose of simplicity, there will be a focus in this article on learning how to build raised garden beds from scratch, with the belief that most people could follow the very simple directions that are provided if someone is using the raised garden bed kits.

Start at the Beginning

raised garden beds sampleWhen building something, obviously the beginning is the ground level. That means, quite simply, that you will just need to take a moment to decide where in your yard you would like to build. This will also be a good time to decide what you will be growing, and how much of each item you would like to have. If you are new to gardening, you should make sure that the items you will be planting are going to be compatible with one another. If they are not, then you’ll know you need to build more than one raised garden bed and to plan accordingly. Determining how much sun your plants will need is a good idea, as well as verifying that your garden bed is small enough to lean over it, as opposed to stepping into it.

The first thing to do is “mark” where you plan to build. For this, you will need a weed barrier fabric and NOT, as many people use, black plastic. You can use fabric pins to secure it the ground. The goal with this step is to prevent weeds from sprouting up, which should last at least through the first year.

Conversely, you could also use newspaper or cardboard instead of weed barrier fabric for a similar result.

Building the Actual Raised Garden Bed

Click image for TONS of landscaping ideas!

The actual bed itself can be virtually any size and shape that you like, as long as it is convenient, attractive to you, and it meets your needs. By far, the most common shapes are either square or rectangle. Using 2×6 lumber is a good idea here and if you use wood, cedar or another wood that is resistant to rot, is crucial to long-term plans..

You have a lot of freedom to decide how you will be attaching the pieces. You can create small protuberances and notches that work together, or you could buy a butt joint at most hardware stores for the same purpose. You can put it together and then move it, or you can place it over the weed barrier as you put it together. Take a moment to use a level and make sure that your bed is level. If it’s not, you will have uneven amounts of water in your garden, which could impact what grows.

Anchoring the Frame

To anchor the frame, after you are pleased with its location, you can use garden stakes. If you are in an area that has a lot of wildlife or stray animals, you are likely to need the largest size of garden stakes. Between those stakes, attach adequate levels of deer fencing so that animals can’t snack on your crops.

Last Steps

When you are pleased with the overall appearance and quality of your raised garden bed, it is time to add the soil that you will be using. This soil should be the highest quality possible, and may include compost or manure. This is a personal decision, so you may want to research your different options before settling on one.

Finally, nestle your seeds into their new home, allowing room between plants for future growth. If you are planting more than one item in the raised bed, it would be appropriate to mark in some way what item is planted where.

Knowing how to build raised garden beds is an important step to having a beautiful yard that has the potential to save on groceries. The appearance alone of a well-tended and well-maintained garden bed has been known to improve property values. No-one could argue that a raised garden bed looks harder to build then it is actually is and allows the owner to take credit for their work quickly.

Now that you’ve got the basics down you’re ready to start with your own project – click here for our step by step guide to building a raised garden bed!

Don’t want to build your own? Check out this article on ready made kits!


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