How to make the Best Raised Garden Beds, Large or Small

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Two years. That’s the amount of time I’ve been waiting to make my garden dreams at our new house a reality. I waited patiently while we completed projects that took priority. But now, it’s time for my garden to shine. And to do that, I wanted raised beds. 

Building raised garden beds is an easy, cost effective way to grow fresh fruits and veggies. Follow this simple how-to raised garden bed tutorial. #raisedgardenbeds #buildingraisedgardenbeds

​Our home had been a rental previously, and it needed a lot of work. But, after all the projects that couldn’t be put off were done, it was time to bust out the saws and get to work. 

Fairy tail garden project commence!

We started by looking at the best selling beds from the box stores, but none of them meet meet our criteria. The wood was thin, the boards not high enough quality, and we knew within a few years they’d be warped, broken, and we’d be frustrated. 

Then, I got it in my head we needed galvanized stainless steel beds.

My father in law actually loved this idea and made two just like them, so I was able to see them in action. However, after thinking it over, I decided they were just a little too heavy duty for me. 

First off, I don’t need them that high or deep. While tall beds would be great for someone with back problems, I didn’t see the need to make them that large. Deep beds also meant I’d have to fill them with dirt and other materials. A lot of other material! I wanted easy access to the beds where I could kneels on the side and reach into the bed. 

So we passed on those too.

In the end, we decided that to get the long lasting, high quality beds in the range of sizes we wanted for our little garden grid, we’d have to make them ourselves. After all, we’re not afraid of a little hard work. 

Building raised garden beds is an easy, cost effective way to grow fresh fruits and veggies. Follow this simple how-to raised garden bed tutorial. #raisedgardenbeds #buildingraisedgardenbeds

Why we didn’t go with cedar raised beds

So many people make their raised garden beds with natural cedar wood, since it’s great for resisting mold and rot. However, cedar boards that are as thick and large as the ones we felt we needed to use would have cost much more money. 

Most cedar garden kits you find in stores are made with flimsy, thin boards. After a few summer and winters the boards begin to warp, and pull away from each other leaving you with garden beds that constantly need repairing. The screws end up stripping out, and eventually you’ll have to put new beds in.

If you have the extra cash go with thick, 2″ cedar boards, do it! If that’s not possible, using Ground Contact Hem Fir Pressure Treated Lumber is the way to go. Just our two cents! People are opinionated with this, so you do you boo! Moral of the story, you need thick boards. 

Our Garden Space

Our garden space is in the back corner of the yard, with a slopping hill down to the middle of the yard. We were also making the garden at a slant. Similar to a triangle with the top point the back right corner of our fence. It butted up against the chicken coop and outdoor shed. We knew to make the perfect fit, it was best done ourselves. 

​Since we weren’t working with level ground, we actually dug the back of the beds into the hill, so they were more submerged into the soil, while the other sides of the beds where sitting on top of the ground like normal. It worked perfectly with the space we had to place them.

This weird layout of our space meant that each garden bed planter box would have to be a little different sized to fit our slopping hill. That’s the other nice thing about building the raised garden bed yourself. You can make them whatever size you want based on your outdoor space. 

Building raised garden beds is an easy, cost effective way to grow fresh fruits and veggies. Follow this simple how-to raised garden bed tutorial. #raisedgardenbeds #buildingraisedgardenbeds

Building raised garden beds is an easy, cost effective way to grow fresh fruits and veggies. Follow this simple how-to raised garden bed tutorial. #raisedgardenbeds #buildingraisedgardenbeds

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

lag bolts

Items you’ll need to build raised garden beds:

Raised Garden Bed Tutorial

Raised Garden Bed Tutorial

Yield: One, 12 foot by 3.5 foot raised bed
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Difficulty: Beginner
Estimated Cost: 110.00

Materials

  • 4 2x8x12 Treated Ground Contact Hem Fir Pressure Treated Lumbar
  • 2 2x8x8's Treated Ground Contact Hem Fir Pressure Treated Lumbar
  • 1 4x4x8 Treated Ground Contact Hem Fir Fence Post
  • 36 2.5" Lag Screws with Washers

Tools

  • Chop Saw
  • Impact Hammer

Instructions

  1. Cut the two, 2x8x8's treated boards into four, 3.5 feet boards
  2. Cut the treated fence post into four, 20" sections (the four corners) and two, 16" sections. (two support braces in the middle of each bed)
  3. Use the 20" fence posts as the base for your corners. Starting with a long 2x8x12 board, line it up flush to the corner of the post and secure to post using lag bolts screwed into place with an impact hammer or socket wrench.
  4. Do the same thing with the 3.5 foot board on the other corner. Continue for all bottom boards, making sure you stagger the lag bolts so you dont hit one with the other when making the corners.
  5. Lastly, connect the two, 18" posts into the inside of the bed, directly in the centers of the 2x8x12 boards. See pictures in blog post.
  6. The posts on the ends of the four corners of the beds stick up 4" above beds. These are meant to be placed into the ground, securing bed into place. Essentially you made the bed upside down, and it will need to be flipped when putting into place.

Did you make this project?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

The materials are basically your custom garden bed kit! With these plans you can make beds to fit smaller spaces or large. Allowing you to live that gardening life that works best for you.

This project didn’t take much time at all. A weekend and we had the beds made, and installed in their spots. The new arrival of the beds made the space look so good! Like it had always been destined to be a cozy corner garden.

If using drip irrigation systems, you can also notch out the sides of the beds where you want to run the irrigation in, essentially using the sides of the beds as holders for the irrigation. Soaker hoses can be game changers.

​How many we made

We made four beds in total, some longer, others shorter beds, but all rectangular shape. Now, we wait impatiently to plant our spring garden and all the leafy greens! Growing season is going to be so fun in this new space. Wooden raised beds are in my opinion, the most cost effective, long lasting garden beds there are!

Building raised garden beds is an easy, cost effective way to grow fresh fruits and veggies. Follow this simple how-to raised garden bed tutorial. #raisedgardenbeds #buildingraisedgardenbeds

Answering a few questions: 

​Q: What to fill raised beds with?

A: Creating a well-balanced and fertile environment in your raised beds involves careful consideration of the materials used, starting from the bottom up. 

Here’s step-by-step directions 

1. Wire Mesh for Gopher Prevention:

  • If gophers are a concern in your area, you might need a bed liner of wire mesh on the very bottom to deter their intrusion. Use hardware cloth or similar material to create this barrier against burrowing pests.

2. Middle Layer – Compostable Material: 

  • Cardboard Weed Barrier: Place a layer of cardboard over wire mesh. This acts as a natural weed barrier, preventing weeds from coming up through the soil while still allowing for water drainage.
  • Leaves, sticks, and Yard Debris: Adding a layer of leaves or other organic matter helps create a base for decomposition. This helps to promote good drainage.
  • Compost: A rich mixture of organic matter, kitchen scraps, and yard waste that will decompose over time, contributing nutrients to the soil.

3. Top Layer – Soil Mix:

Find most of this at your local gardener’s supply store:

  • Soil Mix: Add the best possible soil you can afford. Soil is the groundwork of a good garden and worth investing in. Look for a soft soil mix for the top, one that will take seeds well. A peat moss mix is always a good idea. Make sure you have several inches of soil over the top the layers you placed in the bottom of each bed. Keep in mind that if you plant to grow root crops, you’ll need more room when planting.

Additional Tips:

  • Regular Maintenance: Keep an eye on the soil quality and replenish with compost annually to maintain fertility.
  • Drip Irrigation: Consider installing drip irrigation to provide consistent moisture without waterlogging the soil.

By layering compostable materials, implementing measures for pest control, and creating a nutrient-rich soil mix, your raised beds will be primed for successful and sustainable gardening.

Q: Why can’t you use railroad ties?

A: Railroad ties have been commonly used in the past for constructing garden beds due to their durability and availability. However, there are several reasons why using railroad ties for garden beds is now discouraged:

  1. Chemical Preservatives: Railroad ties are often treated with creosote, a preservative used to protect wood from decay and insects. Creosote contains various potentially harmful chemicals, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These substances can leach into the soil over time, posing a risk of contamination to plants and, subsequently, to people if the plants are consumed. Because of these concerns, the use of creosote-treated railroad ties in garden beds is not recommended for growing edibles.
  2. Health Risks: The chemicals in creosote-treated railroad ties can be hazardous to human health. Prolonged exposure to these chemicals may lead to skin irritation and respiratory issues. Additionally, handling or burning railroad ties can release harmful substances into the air.

​Making them look like they were always there

I like my gardens to have a lived in feel and to be personalized. Our very own garden made just for us. To do this, I brought in large rocks from around other areas of the yard, and dug small in ground flower beds on the ends of the raised beds. Maximizing the square feet we can plant as much as possible. I also like the contrast of some raised beds to in ground. The in ground beds I love to grow our favorite herbs and perennials.

I use the smaller lower areas beds for our own kitchen garden items. The raised beds are more for our canned veggies, where the in ground beds are more our herbs, flowers, cherry tomatoes, and other additional items. 

Also follow along on Instagram as I share daily what’s going on in the garden!

*Update: We added a cattle panel trellis to connect the back two beds in 2021. Check out that post here!

Need to know what to put in some of those beds? These herbs are some of the best to grow and harvest and preserve to keep you in spices all winter long

Happy gardening friends!

2023 update: Come see our NEW gardens on our Tennessee Homestead!

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16 Comments

    1. It’s just the box itself. Soil prices will depend on where you purchase from and the quality of soil you want. 🙂

  1. The box looks great. I have one problem.. Living on the west side of the Cascade Mountains we have moles, burrowing animals. Suggestion before setting up your site. Before adding a layer of dirt., lay down small hole chicken wire. Therefore the moles can not burrow up under your beautiful garden. I wish I had known that before hand. Thanks

  2. Love the boxes! Cedar is so expensive, I’ve been wondering if I can use pressure treated. I was worried about the pressure treated chemicals leaching into my edible plants? Did you do something to prevent that?

    1. I did my own research and came to the conclusion it was safe for our family, but always do research on your own to come to your own conclusion! 🙂

  3. The materials list says the lag bolts are 2.5 ” long, but it doesn’t state or I couldn’t find the diameter size. Are they 1/4″, 5/16″, 3/8″, or 1/2″? By the photos they look to be 5/16 or 3/8 I’m guessing. Thanks

  4. Love this! Are the middle posts 16″ or 18″? If the fence post is 8 ft wouldn’t that only leave enough wood for one 16″ post with the four 20″ posts?

    1. You have to buy an extra post to cut for the middles. They are 16″, the width of the boards! I hope that answers your question. 🙂

    1. We just removed the turf from below where the bed was going, and till the soil a bit. However, we don’t have rodents that will dig up through the beds. If you do, chicken wire is a great idea to place at the bottom. The plant roots will be able to grow through, and the critters will stay out!

  5. Hello! For someone who is wondering about the chemicals used on ground contact Fir, one could always install heavy plastic liner to separate the veggies from the chemicals. Just a thought folks.

  6. thank you for this. your garden and beds look awesome. unfortunately, I bought two raised beds from Wayfair, and they both collasped after just over a year. they wouldn;t warranty them after 30 days. not sure why. live and learn. out the money but will try to reuse the wood to make something like you built, thanks!!!

    Angela (from NJ)

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