Top Social

How-To: Raised Vegetable Garden Beds

We have been in our new house just over a year and last spring we were so busy working on the inside that I did not have time to even think about the yard. But now with the inside somewhat complete, we can now focus on the outside. First up- creating a vegetable/fruit garden.

I picked the back corner of the yard which receives full sun but is not directly in your line of sight when you look outside from the house. My original plan involved putting a short fence around it to keep pups out but after examining the soil we had to change our plans. The soil in that spot is incredibly sandy, which is odd since in this area we have a lot of clay. So we think an old playset used to be back there and they dumped sand for the kids. So our options became either digging up all the sand and getting rid of it somehow or building raised beds. We chose option B. Obviously it was not a very difficult decision.

But we were gardening and raised bed virgins so some research was in order.

We learned we had a lot of options in terms of materials-

Stone/brick-too expensive and too permanent in case our adventures in vegetable gardening do not go as well as we hope

Landscape Timbers- cheap but very we unsure what wood they we actually made of and how they would hold up

Cedar-pretty, resists rot, can do it ourselves but still expensive if making multiple beds

Pressure-Treated-cheap, easy to use but conflicting info about it's use for food gardens. From what I have gathered from my online research, pressure treated wood used to be treated with arsenic which is not to be used in food gardens. However, they are no longer treated with that particular chemical and it is now safe to use in food gardens. I found the brand that Home Depot stocks (Yella Wood), looked at their website and it verified this. I still might line it with plastic to make sure, but we will see.

So pressure treated won out from a cost/appearance perspective.

Now off to Home Depot....

We made three 8x3 beds. We decided on this size from how they would fit in that area of our yard and they would have to been thin enough for me to reach into the middle.

Materials (for 1 8x3 bed):
Six eight-feet-long 2 by 6 boards
One 6-foot-long 4-by-4
3 1/2 inch outdoor screws

(These lengths can be adjusted depending on how many beds you are making and the prices of different lengths of wood)

Tape Measure
Saw (Sawzall, Miter saw, or circular saw)

1. Measure and cut four sixteen-inch pieces of the 4-by-4 lumber.
2. Measure and cut four thirty-six inch pieces of the 2-by-6 lumber.
Materials for three beds cut.

3. Put the bed together upside down on a flat surface. The four by fours are the corner posts. Put a two by six on it's narrow side and place the four by four upright at the end. Screw the four by four into the two by six with two screws. Repeat with another four-by-four on the other end of the two-by-six. Then add a second two-by-six to make a second level. Repeat with other sides. If you want the edges to overlap allow the short side pieces to overhang like in the picture.

Putting the boards together

4. Carry the bed over to your desired location and flip.

 5. Place the beds where you want them.  Mark the ground and dig out the four corners to the depth that so that the four posts would be sunk into the ground and the long boards would be flush to the ground.  If the ground is not level pack dirt solidly along the long boards.

6.  If you have gophers or other burrowing rodents in your area you might want to line the bottom of the beds with wire mesh to keep them out.  You also could line them with plastic if you have any concerns about the pressure treated wood.  I skipped both of these steps.

7. Fill with dirt.  We filled ours with enriched soil from the local garden center delivered to our house.

We also added gravel to the outside of the beds for walkways but this not a necessary step.

8. Add seeds and/or plants and enjoy!

We put three beds together in an hour so it was relatively quick and easy but this is definitely a two person job so that one person could hold it still while the other put in the screw. A miter saw would have made the cuts on the four-by-four straighter but since we do not currently own one, we made due with the sawzall.

We can't wait to enjoy freshly grown fruits and vegetables from our new raised beds!

Update August 2009- The beds are a rousing success!  The veggies are growing vigorously which I largely attribute to the great soil quality and drainage of the beds.

13 comments on "How-To: Raised Vegetable Garden Beds"
  1. This is awesome! Your beds look awesome and I love the look of the gravel around it.

    Thank you for sharing how you made it. We amend the soil, so our actual soil is pretty great along with good drainage, but I really like the look of the raised beds. We still subscribe to the square foot gardening mantra, so we put mulch around th ebeds, which looks much nicer and makes it easier to walk around

  2. Very informative, thanks for sharing.

  3. I'm planning to create a raised garden. Thanks so much for sharing this. Your plans are going to be a huge help.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing this information. I am planning a community garden in San Antonio, TX where I'll be building 18 beds at 10x10. I am using y'alls design as it is fast, easy, and very economical. I've already built one prototype just to test the design and build. Brilliant!

  5. Oddly enough, we are also building raised beds in San Antonio! Our daughter will be 3 this summer, and we want to show her how to get dirty and teach her that food comes from somewhere beside the grocery store. Your design is perfect for us - thank you so much for sharing!

  6. What is the distance between beds? It appears that 3 ft covered with gravel is OK. Is this so?

  7. THank you so much! We've been looking for plans to relocate my edible garden & your plants worked like a charm! I can't wait to go crazy & do this with my 1 & 2yr old. And if those are the pics of the inside of your house on the side of this article: YOUR HOUSE IS GORGEOUS, ELEGANT BUT LIVABLE & I am so envious!

    You have great taste.

  8. How deep is your gravel? I'm planning on doing something similar just can't decide if I want 2" or 3".


  9. So exciting!! My husband and I want to build raised beds, and had NO CLUE where to start! Your info, instructions, pics, etc. are perfect for getting us started. Thanks so much for sharing!!!!!!!!

  10. I must say, I really like your blog's design. It's very snazy. I also like your raised beds. :) We are building our first one this weekend.

  11. I must say, I really like your blog's design. It's very snazy. I also like your raised beds. :) We are building our first one this weekend.

  12. Looks great! Thank you for sharing. My husband and I are going to use this to make a similar garden in our yard this spring.

  13. How much soil did you use for the three beds that size?