Raised garden beds are attractive, friendly on your back, and give you more control over the soil (and weeds) in your garden, but buying them at the store can be costly. Build your own raised garden bed for a fraction of the cost with this step-by-step guide.
Choosing a size for your raised garden bed
The first thing you'll want to do when planning your raised garden is to determine the size of bed you want to build. Typically raised garden beds are about 3 to 4 feet wide and 6 to 8 feet long.
A bigger box will allow more room for spacing vegetables out that need a larger root system. Take a look at your space, considering your growing needs and plan out the size and placement of your boxes on paper before building.
As far as height goes, if you build a box closer to the ground (1 ft or shorter), you won't have to buy as much soil to fill it. However you'll also run a high risk of weeds invading your box, and the back saving power of the garden box won't be as wonderful
On the other hand if you opt for building a taller bed, you'll pay more in soil costs, but it'll be easier to keep out weeds.
The garden boxes below are 3 ft X 6ft X 18 in boxes, as this gives us plenty of room to grow most or our veggies, and allows for better weed control. Plus, we just like the look of them!
The guide below is for a raised garden bed that fits these dimensions. If you want to build your bed a different size, you'll just want to tweak your cut sizes and board width as needed!
For each raised garden bed you build, you'll need:
- Six 2X6X10ft board of pressure treated lumbar, cedar, or another rot-resistant wood**
- One 2X4X12 ft board of pressure treated lumbar, cedar, or another rot-resistant wood**
- One Box of 3" Stainless Steel Screws
- Landscape fabric (optional)
- Miter Saw (you could use a hand saw too)
**Pressure treated lumbar is cheaper and will likely last longer outside, however there is the risk of the chemical treatment seeping into your soil. If you want to avoid this, you can line your garden boxes before filing them with soil OR you can research rot-resistant woods like cedar. These will cost you more money, and still may not last as long as pressure treated wood.
First things first, you'll want to make your cuts. If you plan to make more than one box, we highly recommend batching them and building them altogether. We were able to build five in about 2 hours. To do this, simply take the cut list below and multiply it by the number of beds you're building.
Take Your 2 X 6 X 10 ft boards and...
- Cut six 6ft long boards
- With the leftover pieces, cut six 3 ft long boards
Using your 2 X 4 X 12 ft board...
- Cut into eight 18 inch long pieces. These will serve to connect the side boards.
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Assembling your raised garden bed
First, assemble the long side of the raised garden bed. Attach three 2 X 6 X 6ft boards by screwing a 18 inch 2X4 piece into all three boards, one at both ends of the side and one in the middle.
Make sure the 2X4 connector pieces sit flush with the top and bottom of the side.
Repeat this step again for the second long side of your bed.
If you're building multiple beds, assemble all of your long sides before moving on.
Now, it's time to assemble the short 3 ft side. Attach three 2 X 6 X 3ft boards by screwing an 18 inch 2X4 into each board running up and down the center of the side.
Repeat this on the other short side (or sides if building multiple)
Finally, attach the long and short sides by screwing from the outside of the short side into the end connecting board on the long side. See video above for a visual.
In total, these garden boxes cost us about $65 a piece at the time. Depending on what wood you choose and what lumbar prices are, they will probably cost between $65-100 each. This is far better than similar ones selling for $250 - 450 retail!
Prepare your raised garden bed for planting
To get your raised garden bed ready for planting, make sure you find somewhere in full sun with good flood drainage to place it.
Mark out the area where you're going to put your bed, and scrape up any grass or weeds with a shovel. Till the ground and consider placing landscape fabric underneath your raised garden bed, especially if you built a taller bed like ours.
Finally, fill your bed with a high quality gardening soil and garden toner like this one. You can also buy garden soil in bulk from your local dirt supplier. You'll need to order in cubic yards. Conveniently, these garden boxes take one cubic yard of soil to fill!
How to involve kids in this build
At Dwell Well Family, we're all about integrating kids into everyday activities like work, and home projects. These raised garden beds were fun to build, and easy to involve the kids with. Here are some simple ways even younger kids can be involved:
- Make a drawing of the beds and dimensions before building. Help your kids understand the measurements of the box.
- Measure cuts with your kids, and have children make a mark on the wood at the correct length.
- Ask an older child to hand your screws when you're assembling, or to stack wood cuts in piles of similar length.
- Once the beds are built, consider buying your children a child-sized shovel to help with filling the beds.
- Talk about how plants needs nutrients from the soil as you mix in your garden toner.
The options are endless, but the important part is that children see they are important members of your family team and not just a nuisance to getting things done. We know we know, it's certainly faster to put on a show for them while you work (and we've done that), but how cool will it be when ten years from now, they're doing the building?
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