I’m excited to share this tutorial for how I made my easy, inexpensive raised garden beds today! This is a simple project that you could tackle in less than 30 minutes and then fill with soil and plants to yield fresh grown veggies and herbs for your family!
There are many ways to build raised beds from elaborate and tall sides to simple and easy – I went with the most inexpensive version I could do while still using wood that would hold up outside. My beds are roughly 6 feet long, 3 feet wide, and 12 inches high – but you could just add another board to sides to make them 18 inches high if you wanted.
Here’s the materials you will need:
- 6- 6 foot long cedar fence pickets
- 1 – 2×4 or 2×3 (will only need 6 feet of it but will probably have to buy 8 foot long board)
- exterior screws
- saw – can either just use hand circular saw or a miter saw – very simple/easy cuts!
- 12 bags of soil to fill your beds with about 8 inches high of soil – I do a mix of these topsoil bags which are much cheaper and then a few bags of garden soil. Can use more bags if you wish to fill your beds more.
The cost in lumber is about $20 and cost in soil is $24. Could start with 1-2 beds the first year and then add 1-2 more the next year.
Cedar fence pickets are inexpensive (usually less than $3 a piece) and cedar is a naturally durable for exterior use. Plus it is not chemically treated which is why I choose cedar vs. using pressure treated lumber made for use outside. There are many thoughts on not using wood that has been chemically treated so those chemicals are not penetrating into the soil that you are growing your vegetables in. But completely up to you on what kind of wood you choose to use – I just went with the most inexpensive yet durable option.
But cedar fence pickets do come with a dog ear angled top so first step is to take all 6 of your pickets and cut off that dog ear part. 4 of the 6 pickets you will then use as is, the other 2 pickets you will want to cut in half. Roughly 35 inches but I would measure your boards and then just cut directly in half.
I used some fence pickets leftover from our fence that was built many years ago so mine I think are a bit wider but you will want to lay 2 of the longer pickets side by side and measure to get the correct height for your 2×4 or 2×3 corner and support pieces. Mine were right at 12 inches but yours may be closer to 11 inches high. Cut 6 of these the same length.
Then it is time to assemble!
I find it is easier to assemble the long sides first. Predrill your holes and then drill 2 screws per cedar board into your 2×4 pieces. I used 4 on each of the corners and then 2 on either sides in the middle to add some extra support.
Then attach the 2 end boards on each end and your box is done! Seriously so easy – I had mine done in less than 30 minutes.
At this point you could stain or clear coat which you help preserve the color of cedar boards – they will turn gray overtime but still remain just as durable for outdoor use either way.
Now to place them and fill them!
Make sure the spot you want to put them is level – mine are on a slight slope but the ground is flat if that makes sense. You can put cardboard or newspaper in the bottom to help with weeds but honestly I find that weeds growing up through 8-10 inches of soil doesn’t happen easily. Weeds that do pop up are on the surface likely from something blowing in.
At this point if you have some hay or straw or compost you would fill part of your bed with that. If not just fill with soil. Depending on how many beds you are doing it may be cheaper to find someone that could deliver a truck load of dirt but if you are only doing a few beds buying bags will be easier. You can do this soil calculator here to find out how many cubic feet of soil you need but for about 8 inches of soil in your bed you will need TWELVE 1 cu. feet bags of soil. I do a mix between these topsoil bags – maybe 8 –10 of those and then 2-4 garden soil bags.
Now it is time to plant! My little girl loves working on the garden with me and it’s such a great way to involve them in learning how to work hard and reap the benefits of their hard work. I remembering helping with a huge row garden as a child and it was definitely something I wanted to do with her.
I actually build 2 raised beds last year and then added this 3rd one this year. I had decent success with my plants last year but we planted a little later first of May and then had a horrible drought in the summer so didn’t yield as much as I would have liked.
This year I am trying a new method that I hope will help with not only being able to fit more plants in each bed, but also with being able to water easier and also yield more veggies from our little garden. It’s called square foot gardening which means you take your garden area and divide it into square feet spaces. Depending on the plant you can plant 1-4 plants in each square feet! Tomatoes and peppers are only 1 plant per square foot but things like lettuce and herbs you can do 2-4 plants in each square! I just marked off 1 bed but it definitely helped me be able to visualize my spacing much better and if you were planting by seed this would a great help too in helping to remember where each item was.
With all that’s going on with the Coronavirus I haven’t been able to find and plant all my plants but I have gotten a good start. We so far have 4 types of tomatoes, yellow peppers and green bell peppers, 1 cucumber plant because my little girl really wants to grow pickles , lettuce, and a few herbs. I want to add some zucchinni, jalapenos, maybe some peas or green beans, and maybe some melons? I’d love to do strawberries too but it’s picking time for strawberries here so need to add for next year.
I picked up a few when I have did my grocery shopping at Walmart last week – they have some decent prices on herbs and 4 packs of veggies. And your best bet is to find a local nursery or animal feed/supply store that sells plants. We have a small local animal/farm supply store that sells 6 pack of veggie plants for $3 which is a great price!
I have several of these picket fence pieces and decide to have fun adding a bit of garden decor to this area this year. The flat paver stones were all over our yard when we moved in and we had collected them in a pile behind our shed where they were just sitting unused. This was a fun way to use them and add to my little garden area in our back yard. If I wanted to really dress it, I would lay landscaping fabric down and put pea gravel all around the beds and paver stones, but not necessary so I am saving the budget for something else like more flowering plants for the yard.
Our backyard is nothing fancy but I love this little garden area! We have a bluebird family that lives in the box – the babies just hatched last week so it is fun to watch the parents coming and going feeding them.
Are you going to grow a garden this year? I think more than ever we are seeing the need to be as self-sufficient as we can – if I could have chickens I would too! I am hoping to have a lot more come from my garden this year so that I can can and freeze veggies for the off-season. What would you plant in your garden? I am already dreaming of fresh salsa coming straight from the garden!