How To: Build A Raised Bed Vegetable Garden

Raised garden beds are all the rage right now. However, buying store bought kits can prove pricey! This post will show you how to fully make planter boxes for around $25 in materials. So why not build your own?

One of the benefits of a raised bed is the fact that the soil warms up sooner than in ground beds, allowing for an earlier growing season. It is also easy to add a plastic sheet tenting over the top, to create a greenhouse, extending the season even further. It helps keep out garden pests like rabbits, weeds, and prevents being trampled by pets and kids. Finally, it makes it easier to work since the gardener doesn’t need to bend over as far to work it.

The materials used in these raised bed have certain requirements, particularly if you plan on growing vegetables in them. The materials need to stand up to the elements since they will be outside. That limits us to plastics, or element resistant woods like pressure treated, or redwood or cedar.

The kits sold at retail stores are typically recycled plastic, but plastic is not readily available to consumers to work with as a base material.  That leaves woods.

While pressure treated wood might be the most rot resistant, you probably don’t want to use it anywhere near something you plan on eating. This wood is heavily treated with noxious chemicals like formaldehyde. These chemicals are so strong that you can not use regular or galvanized screws or nails because the chemicals will eat through them.

So that leaves redwood and cedar. These woods are naturally rot resistant. Redwood is somewhat harder to come by and tends to be fairly expensive. But cedar is cheap and easy to come by, in the form of fence pickets.

Materials Needed for two 3′ x 6′ boxes (18 square feet of garden):

  • 10 Cedar Picket Fence Planks 5.5″ wide
  • 1 4×4 Cedar Fence Corner Post
  • Vinyl covered exterior deck screws

Cost:

Materials $25, Soil & Compost Mix $100 (appox.)

Time Investment:

5 hours

How To:

Start by doing the box ends:

  • Take 3 pickets and cut in half , and cut the 4×4 post into two 16.5″ pieces
  •  Lay the two post pieces horizontally on the floor, and lay the pickets on top of them, side to side.
  • Screw the pickets into the post. Use clamps to tightly hold the pickets together, to minimize any gap between the boards.

Now you’re going to make the long sides:

  • Tilt the ends up on their side, and place them appx. 6′ apart
  • Set 3, full length pickets on top of the sides, and screw them into the post (using clamps!)
  • Flip the box over and do the other side the same way

Optional:

  • Take one extra picket, and cut into 4 pieces, 16.5″ long
  • Place the boards as a support in the middle of the long sides, using a sandwich method of one on each side. (This will help prevent the boards from bowing outwards with the weight of the dirt.)
  • Sand and seal (on the outside only)
  • To keep pets or rodents out, you may want to purchase fencing to go around the top. We suggest this inexpensive kind from Origin.

Tips:

  • Cedar is not the easiest wood to work with. It is very soft, so it is very easy to cut, in fact, too easy. It can easily split or let screws pull through. Drill pilot holes for every single screw..  If the picket does start to split, you can drill a hole at the end of the split to stop the split from going further and put screws on either side of the split to hold the the halves together.
  • Use vinyl covered exterior deck screws, since these are cheaper than stainless screws, but won’t leave stains like galvanized ones.
  • These pickets will be very splintery. You can sand them, but unless you paint them or seal them, they will splinter up again. You won’t want to paint them if you are growing vegetables in the beds. You could sand and seal the exterior of the boxes and leave the interior of the boxes untreated to cut down on splinters.
  • Use clamps to hold the pickets as close together as possible when you screw them down. This will prevent gaps between the pickets allowing the dirt to leak out.

Placement:

  • When the boxes are placed, you will want to set the box into a trench so it is buried up to about halfway up the bottom picket. This will help prevent the weight of the dirt inside the box from bowing out the sides of the box.
  • Try to level the box out in all four directions, but it isn’t critical to have perfectly level.
  • Once the box is placed, cover the dirt on the inside of the box with chicken wire to keep out burrowing pests. On top of the chicken wire stretch landscape fabric to keep out weeds. There is also landscape fabric that retains water. One drawback to raised beds is they drain very well, which can be a good thing and a bad thing. Retaining as much water as possible in the box is a good thing.

Now it’s time to add the soil, and start growing. The soil will be the most expensive part of this project, and you should check with your local garden store to see what type of soil works best for your specific area.

For more gardening tips, check out this amazing post: Seasonal Guide To Planting Your Vegetable Garden

Photo Credits: The Memoirs of Megan

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Megan

Megan lives in Michigan with her husband, daughter, and son. Her days are spent hanging out and doing family projects on her real-life farm, and spending time on the Great Lakes. She loves swimming, celebrity gossip, University of Michigan and Denver Broncos football, trashy reality TV, and writing. In addition to being a Mommy and self-proclaimed urban-farmer, she owns a photography business located in Southeast Michigan, Memoirs Photography.

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