Building Wood Raised Bed Vegetable Gardens

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Updated Spring 2011: So I’m getting ready to plant our raised bed vegetable gardens again this year. This will be the 3rd season with these and they have been wonderful. If you’re going to build raised bed gardens be sure to pay special attention to my warning below about using pressure treated lumber. DO NOT USE PT Lumber! Good luck!

Raised Bed Vegetable Gardens

raised bed vegetable garden boxes 300x300 Building Wood Raised Bed Vegetable GardensWe love fresh vegetables so we wanted to plant a small garden. Instead of planting a really large garden we decided to plant several smaller raised bed vegetable gardens.

I decided that I wanted to try using raised bed vegetable gardens instead of just planting in the ground. The reason for this is two fold; first the soil in our back yard is only a few inches deep followed by clean beach like sand, and secondly this approach will allow better access between plants for weeding and harvesting.

Raised Bed Design

raised bed sketch 300x250 Building Wood Raised Bed Vegetable GardensAfter reading several sites on raised bed vegetable gardens we decided to make three gardens 10 ft long by 5 ft wide. The 5 ft dimension allows easy access to reach into the beds without having to crawl into them.  This will give us 150 sq. ft. of planting area which is similar in size to our previous garden.

I decided to build the boxes out of 1×10 cedar with 2×2 posts in the corners to secure it to the ground. I chose cedar because of it’s natural resistance to decay when exposed to the elements. It’s worth pointing out that it’s not a good idea to use pressure treated wood for vegetable gardens as you run the risk of contamination from the preservatives in the wood.

Construction & Assembly

garden bed corner 150x150 Building Wood Raised Bed Vegetable GardensThese raised bed garden boxes are really easy to do and require basic tools. This project took me about 3 hours from start to finish.

First I used my sliding miter saw to cut the cedar boards to length (you could use a simple hand saw to cum them). Then I pre-drilled three holes in each board then screwed them together using 2-inch long stainless steel screws. Stainless steel hardware is the best product to use with cedar (galvanized will stain). I screwed the entire box together before going to the next step.

leveling garden bed 150x150 Building Wood Raised Bed Vegetable GardensNext I drove 2×2 corner posts into the ground several feet at each corner using a sledge hammer. Once the corner posts are installed I used a long builders level to level the box. Start at the highest grade level and screw the box to the corner post. Then work your way around the box leveling and screwing the box to the posts. You may need to fill in some extra soil on the outside of the box in areas where the grade falls away from the bottom of the box.

Finally I cut off any extra length in the corner posts so they were flush with the top of the 1×10′s.

All that’s left to do is fill the boxes with good quality loam (soil) along with some fertilizer and you’re ready to plant the garden. We’ll be planting tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, radishes, peppers, beans, squash and herbs.

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21 Comments »

  • Ian says:

    You’ve done a nice job there. I’m also considering some raised beds, but I’m wondering how deep they actually need to be? The soil here is poor quality, so I’d rather have a reasonable depth raised – but I don’t know much much veg needs.

    Cheers,
    Ian

  • jamie says:

    fyi… due to the harshness of the New England winters & the thawing, some people had warned us that the spring may be rough on the corners of the raised beds. we went w/ metal corners sold by Gardner’s Supply (a super site for any veggie gardner)- you simply buy the appropriate height corners for your boards, slide the boards in & VIOLA!!!
    http://www.gardeners.com/Raised-Bed-Corners/Landscaping_RaisedBeds,11892,default,cp.html

  • Ruth says:

    Do you not need to have a bottom base for the raised bed box? We are about to build one and it seems a bottom is necessary to avoid weeds growing from the existing soil beneath.

  • Jenn says:

    Ian -

    We made raised bed frames in our previous house and are making new ones tomorrow. We’ve made them like the one above using three 2X12X12 boards (one cut in 1/2) and some with 6 4x4X8 landscape timbers (2 cut in 1/2).

    To answer your question directly, you’ll want it 10-12″ deep if you are growing vegetables and are lining your garden with landscape fabric. If you do “lasagna” gardening, or other types where the plants’ roots will go into the ground, then you can go with 8″. I don’t recommend going more shallow than 8″ for vegetables because they need the drainage, or 6″ for flowers because the grass will creep into your frame.

  • Nancy H says:

    You say that you made your bed 5 ft. wide and 10 ft. long, giving you 150 sq. ft. of planting area. Wouldn’t that be 50 sq. ft.? I thought you multiply the length by the width to get the area, but perhaps I am in error.

  • Todd, nice post. timely for me. Thanks

  • Ryan O says:

    I am going to be using cedar to build my raised garden bed. Do I need to treat the wood with a stain or water repellant?

  • VK says:

    Did you dig out the grass before you planted your garden, cuz the grass would come up into your vegeies, Right?

  • clayhalo says:

    My raised bed veggie garden is 20″ deep. I have a terrible gopher problem, so I was wondering whether I could fill the bottom 6″ of the bed with 3/4″ rock as opposed to hardware cloth, which would eventually decompose. I am also wondering whether rocks would be less expensive “filler” than the 50% compost 50% weed-free soil I’d add for the remaining 14″ of the bed’s depth.

  • Russ says:

    Glad you went the high road with your Cedar planks. If you go any taller a stake may be needed in the middle of the long boards to keep them from bowing out. I made a bed 2 years ago from 2×10 and needed the stakes only in the middle.

    I have to comment tho, you are perpetuating the myth about PT lumber. PT is fine for garden beds as long as you choose new construction PT. The Government outlawed CCA, which had Arsnic and Chromium, for any residential (nearly all use actually). Some people think Creosote is still widely used in PT too.
    All the new PT use some form of Sodium Borate or copper. Tests have shown the leaching of the copper is nearly non existent, and even if the little bit leached is a concern one only has to remember that copper is not toxic. I did a ton of research on it before building mine.

    By the way, plastic fencing is nearly useless against gophers down here in Mass… chew right threw it. Chicken wire or hardware cloth are best options. Unless your in a really acid soil or very wet region, the galvanized wire should last a long time under the soil bed.
    Adding any rock under the soil will produce a negative impact on soil drainage – another myth still perpetuated is adding course material in the bottom of containers to aid drainage. It actually results in the soil becoming saturated before draining. Its physics relating to the different densities.

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