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How to build a raised bed garden

How to build a raised bed garden

Raised bed gardening has many advantages:

  1. They provide more efficient draining reducing the risk of water pooling in your soil and rotting your roots.
  2. It is easier on your back and knees. Being higher off the ground you don't have to bend over as far to reach your plants. As long as you don't make your bed too wide you should be able to reach to the middle while sitting on the side edges.
  3. The soil will also warm up earlier in a raised bed allowing you to extend your growing season.
  4. Less risk of soil compaction. With your beds a maximum of 4ft wide, you've eliminated the need to walk around in your bed leaving the soil loose.

There are a few cons to consider:

  1. There is typically more up-front cost due to the materials required to build one.
  2. They can require more planning as a result of restricted space (especially when dealing with plants that spread out more).
  3. They may require more watering due to more drainage. I added a drip irrigation system to mine

Be sure to consider all the pros and cons before starting your garden. Some developments will not allow you to till up your ground for a garden but may allow containers or raised beds. If you are in a development, make sure you know if there are any restrictions. If a raised bed is not for you and you wish to get your ground ready for a garden, please check out this post to learn more.

 

Materials needed for a 4'x10' bed:

 

Tools needed:

 

Step 1: Stake out where you want your new bed to go. I made mine 4x10'. Using string and a can of spray paint I marked out the edges of my new  bed. Doing this will cut down on the amount of digging required as you'll see below.

Step 2. Cut 3 of the 2x4x8 boards in half to create 6 - 4ft (approx)  boards (the 4th board will be used for stakes later).

Step 3. Screw 2 - 2x4x10 and 2 - 2x4x4 boards together using the deck screws to make the first layer.

Step 4. Once the first layer has been built, lay it down inside the area you marked with your spray paint.

Step 5. Use a level to see what sides are higher than the others. Move the first layer out of the way and dig on the sides that were too high just enough to get it level. It's better to dig out the high areas than to raise the low areas (leaving a gap underneath). You will eventually end up losing dirt this way. You do not need to dig out the whole area of the bed. Just dig right along the spray paint line 1 shovel width until your first layer is level.

Step 6. Once all sides are level, build 2 more layers just like the other and lay them on top of the first layer.

Step 7: Cut the final 2x4x8 board into 6 equal lengths (15-16 in approx). On one end of each piece, cut angles to create a point making it easier to drive into the ground.

Step 8: Drive stakes into the ground in each corner (keeping the stacked boards as vertically level as possible). Also drive a stake in the middle of both 10ft runs.

Step 9: Now at each stake drive a deck screw or two into each board. Your bed is now secure!

Step 10: Cut strips of the plastic sheeting approximately 12 inches wide. Staple these to the inside of your bed. Using a utility knife, cut the excess from the top.

Step 11: You are now ready to start filling in your bed. You can have dirt/compost delivered from your local garden center or you could buy bags from Lowe's or Home Depot. I've done both in the past. In this example I had a pile of dirt and compost in my back yard that I was able to used to fill the bed about 3/4 of the way.

The remainder I filled in with dirt from our local home improvement store. If you are trying to cut down on cost, you can buy a bale of straw to fill up the bottom half of your bed. I did this in two other beds I built the next spring. It's a cheap way to fill up that space and is biodegradable and will decompose over the first year. You'll need to add more dirt/compost the second year, but it does help to cut down on the initial cost.

Step 12: Finally, I took the last 2x4x10 to create a nice ledge for sitting on next to my patio. You can create a ledge on all sides if you feel led. I made this my last step to keep it clean while filling in the dirt. You may also want to apply some kind of protective cover to the bed when you are done like Thompson's Water Seal.