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How to DIY a Raised Garden Bed and Its Benefits

How to DIY a Raised Garden Bed and Its Benefits

A raised garden bed or simply “raised bed” is a large planting container that sits above ground and is filled with soil and plants. It is a box with no bottom or top. A frame that is placed in a sunny spot and filled with good quality soil. 

Raised garden beds are great for growing small plots of veggies and flowers. There are a lot of great reasons to build raised beds that contain and protect your garden soil. 

Benefits of Raised Bed Gardening

01. Less Tilling

Raised garden beds require less tilling than traditional, in-ground beds.  

Instead of digging up a compacted bed year after year, many gardeners add compost and other soil amendments to the top of their elevated beds in fall, then let nature do the rest over the dormant season. This is a good practice for both soil and plants. 

02. Easier on Your Back

Bending, stooping, and kneeling can all take its toll on your back and joints. Raised bed designs come in a variety of heights to make reaching your crops less stressful on your body over time.

By raising the soil level, raised garden beds also reduce back strain when bending over to tend the bed. This is especially helpful for older gardeners or people with bad backs.  

And if the beds are built well, the gardener can sit on the edge of the bed while weeding. For some gardeners this is the biggest benefit of all. 

 

03. Nice to look at

In the backyard or the front, a series of raised planters surrounded by paths looks neat and well-tended all year round.

 

04. Controls Weeds and Keeps out Critters

Raised garden boxes are known to deter rabbits, which will handily nibble in-ground crops growing at eye level. 

They also make it easy to install copper slug fencing and other deterrents around the perimeter.  

If you have weed problems, you can install a weed barrier beneath your bed’s soil at installation time to ensure invasive weeds or tree roots don’t invade the bed. 

 

05. Improves drainage

If your garden soil is normally wet into springtime, elevated beds solve this problem by lifting the soil above ground level and giving your plant roots room to breathe.

 

06. Offers a head start on the growing season

Raised beds filled with nutrient rich, organic soil warm faster in spring due to their elevation away from the cold ground and their improved drainage. In this way, beds built 12 inches deep or more have the added benefit of giving plants a longer growing season.

 

DIY Raised garden bed plans

Building your own elevated garden boxes is a straightforward project for anyone with access to materials, along with the space and skill to assemble the parts. Here are some things to consider before you build your own raised beds. 

Best wood choices 

Cedar is one of the most rot resistant woods available. It is also lightweight enough for one person to handle.  

Black locust and redwood are other options to consider. If these are too expensive in your area, consider using fir or spruce, with the understanding that they will not last as long.  

You can also ask your local lumberyard what they recommend.  

Recycled boards repurposed from other projects are another lower cost option, as long as they are not treated. Avoid pressure treated wood and pressure treated lumber. 

To stain or not to stain 

The woods listed above will last a long time (10-20 years depending on your climate), but they will biodegrade eventually.

To slow this process, you can treat your boards before building your beds, but be sure to use a non-toxic wood treatment that will not leach harmful chemicals into your soil and potentially your plants.  

Avoid buying pressure-treated or stained wood unless it is specifically designed for use in and around garden beds. 

How Tall Should the Bed Be? 

There seems to be different schools of thoughts when it comes to the appropriate or right height for raised garden beds.  

The ideal height for a raised bed is a matter of preference for gardeners. Considerations include the cost of raised beds, the condition of the soil beneath the bed, soil depth requirements for the intended crop, and especially important to mature gardeners, how much bending over you want to do. 

You can build the bed to any desired height up to 36″. The most common height is 11″, which is the height of two stacked 2″ x 6″ boards. If you have good soil beneath the bed, the roots will go down deeper as needed to access more soil and nutrients, so you can even have beds that are only 6″ high. 

If you want a taller bed, remember that as you go taller, the weight of the added soil will add pressure to the sides, and will bow them outward. This is easily prevented by including cross-supports. We recommend using cross-supports in any beds which are taller than 18″, or longer than 6′.  

It is also important to consider the soil depth requirements for the roots of the vegetables you want to plant. Depending on the soil conditions beneath your bed, you may want to build the sides of your bed higher for certain crops.  

How Wide and Long Should the DIY Raised Garden Bed Be? 

I like a raised bed width between 2-4 feet. The width should not be wider than 4′ across. This is because it is easy to reach the center of the bed from either side. 

It is important to keep the width this narrow to avoid having to step on the bed since this would compress the soil.  

Tools and Materials for a DIY raised garden bed plans

Lumber 

Use cedar “2 x” boards for the sides. These are commonly 2″ x 6″, but you can use 2″ x 4″ or 2″ x 8″ boards if this is what you have available. 2″ boards bought at a lumber yard are actually 1.5″ thick.  

For the corner posts, use 4″ x 4″s, cut to 10″ longer than the desired height of the bed. If your bed is going to be longer than 8′, you will need extra posts to put in mid-span to prevent bowing and to provide a place to secure the cross-supports. 

Fastenings 

Use 3.5″ #10 coated deck screws for the project. You will need six screws for each corner and two for each mid-span post.  

If you are using cross-supports, get a few 1″ stainless screws. 

Cross Supports 

Buy several lengths of 1/2″ aluminum flat stock. This is available at most hardware stores, usually in 8′ lengths. It is very easy to cut with a hacksaw and to drill for the screws. 

Tools for Building Raised Garden Beds 

Hand saw, square, carpenter’s level, mallet (or sledge), screwdriver, drill. 

 

Soil depth requirements for common garden vegetables

12” – 18”  

  • Arugula 
  • Broccoli 
  • Brussel Sprouts 
  • Cabbage 
  • Cauliflower 
  • Lettuce 
  • Potatoes 
  • Radishes 
  • Strawberries 
  • Spinach 

18” – 24” 

  • Beans 
  • Snap Beans 
  • Carrots 
  • Kale 
  • Eggplants 
  • Peppers 
  • Peas 
  • Squash 

24” – 36”  

  • Asparagus 
  • Lima Beans 
  • Pumpkins 
  • Tomatoes 
  • Sweet Potatoes 
  • Watermelon 
  • Parsnips 

By understanding the basics of rooting behavior and the rooting depth requirements of the plants you want to grow, you will be more likely to make a better choice for the height of your garden beds, soil, and materials.  

I am a huge container garden fan and have grown beautiful vegetables and flowers in container gardens. Raised garden beds are similar to tending a larger container garden.  

Space is a great factor to consider when growing a garden at home. When choosing a planter or elevated container for growing vegetables, check to see that the bottom is constructed to allow for good drainage.  

Also check that the bottom is strong enough to hold the weight of the soil when it is wet. Slatted bottoms with inner permeable liners are a good choice when choosing a container for vegetable gardening. Same goes for raised garden beds.  

Raised garden beds are a wonderful way to get involved with nature and grow vegetables you love and consume. Learn about 6 ways your garden could be saving you money.  

Garden beds are also used for growing flowers. I have seen several raised garden beds filled with the most beautiful flowers. Calling in monarch butterflies and bees pollinating beautifully.  

We hope you take delight on gardening this year, get your kids and your family involved and enjoy the harvest to the fullest.  

We hope you enjoy yourself today and keep checking back for ongoing tips, guides and great shopping!

About The Author

Wanda Lopez

Wanda Lopez a blogger at heart and shares her insight on all things food, recipes, home décor, travel and more at https://www.mysweetzepol.com. She’s a passionate content editor and contributor for household brands such as Kraft, Publix, Ford, Best Buy and more, educator and photographer. In love with design, food and the outdoors. Balancing work, motherhood and all things in between. 

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