Looking for an easy way to set up a small garden in your backyard? If done right, you should have veggies ready in two to three months. A raised bed garden allows you to add nutrients to your soil easier, control weeds and bring the height up to a more comfortable level to pick your veggies.
In this article, you’ll learn how to build a raised garden bed and we’ll walk you through step by step to build your garden bed so you can get it up and running quickly.
For this project, we use 4 – 1″ X 6″ 12 foot long Cypress boards. You can use anything like Redwood, Cypress or cedar for yours depending on the area that you are in and what types of woods are available in your area. All three of these woods have a natural insect repellant and can handle weather better than regular pine boards.
You definitely want to stay away from any of the pressure treated pine simply because that can leach into your garden. If you can’t find any of the lumber above, as a last resort, you can use pressure treated wood but will need to line your raised bed with a heavy duty imperious material, such as this plastic sheathing.
The first step in the process is clearing out the area where the garden will be built.
You see we moved a lot of dirt and removed any of the weeds and everything that you see here. Depending of the type of vegetables planted, you want to loosen the soil underneath your raised bed for anything that has medium to deep roots taller than my 12″ raised bed. Examples of deep rooted veggies (24″-36″+), is lima beans, okra, sweet potatoes and even tomatoes.
I’ve got (4) 12 foot boards, which will be cut into (4) 8 ft section and (4) 4 ft section.
Rough Cut lumber is usually cut long so if they say it’s 12 feet, it’s usually several inches to a foot over that. In order to connect the boards, you’ll want to have square ends. Since rough lumber does not have a square end cuts, you will need to make a square cut at one of the ends, then measure out your 8 ft and 4 ft cuts.
Best way to make a square cut with a circular saw is with a speed square. Yes, it’s odd to call something a square that is actually shaped like a triangle.
In the picture below, I’m showing making my first cut to get a square end. I know that I need at least 12 feet plus an inch for wiggle room. I measured 12 ft and 1 inch make a mark.
Line up your speed square against the bottom of the board so that it’s just touching your mark. Now mark all the way across the board using the square as a guide. Grab your circular saw and line up your blade next to your mark.
Slide your speed square up against the edge of the circular saw. Now holding your speed square tightly against the bottom of the board, run your circular saw against the edge of the square. Make sure not to push too hard with the saw against the speed square or it will move and mess up your cut.
Now we’re gonna mark the eight foot section, cut it then follow with the 4 foot section cut. Repeat for the 3 other boards.
Next, we’re ready to make the first box.
We’re using structural screws rather than regular screws for more strength. We used the GRK 5/16″x4″, which is more than needed, but they won’t come apart. Plus with these types of screws, I didn’t have to pre-drill and worry about splitting the wood.
These structural screws have a bigger star bit for more grip/torque. I installed two per side, going through the short boards into the longer boards.
So I found it easy to stand the boards upright and as close to perpendicular to one another as possible with the board ends together but not overlapping.
I started with the top of the boards to drill the first screw. Once the first screw is done, now you can maneuver the bottom of both boards to meet up. If it’s a little warped, tapping with a hammer will move them where you need it. Now you can screw the other sides. Depending on how straight your boards are, I will sometimes screw all the top screws on all four sides, then move the bed on it’s side for more leverage to work the bottom ends together.
Next we’re going to verify that our raised bed is sitting level on the ground. You don’t have to perfectly level, close is good enough. You might need to move or remove a little bit of dirt here and there to get all 4 sides level.
You can build the box next to the first one and then we’re going to stack it on top.
And then we’re going to add six 2×2 posts. The posts main job is to keep both boxes connected together nice and flat. Our raised beds were about 11 inches tall with both boxes stacked on top. I cut my posts just over 12″.
I like to put my posts probably about an inch or so below the top, and I want it kind of in there really sturdy.
If your ground is fairly level, all of these posts will be the same height. If they’re not level, which I’ve had on slopes, you’re gonna have to make your boards different lengths to make your garden bed level.
Same as cutting the boards, make your mark, then cut your posts using the speed square as a guide.
I installed the posts with 2 1/2 deck screws. I drilled through the outside of the boards to the post inside.
How Much Soil to Add
Okay, now that we’ve built everything, it’s time to add the soil for planting. you first want to calculate how much soil you actually need and you can find soil calculators everywhere.
In fact, we have a link in our description below where you can go to our calculator and calculate it but simply put in your length by feet, your width by feet And then the height by inches.
For our raised bed, we needed about 1.19 cubic yards. That doesn’t sound like a lot but because it’s a cubic yards and not cubic feet, it’s more than you think. Due to the large volume of dirt needed, we went to our local lumberyard that sells garden soil. From there you can do the same just look up local lumber yard, local garden center or even google topsoil.
You can also get the dirt from Home Depot or Lowe’s, but it will be a higher price. You need 27-30 40lb bags of soil to make a cubic yard. If you don’t have a car to handle all those bags, then getting it delivered in bulk works better.
To enrich our garden soil even more, we got three bags of black cow manure, 3 bags of potting soil, and one bag of jungle growth.
We dumped about a 1/3 of the garden soil, then mixed in 1 bag of manure, potting soil and a 1/3 of the jungle growth. We did this two more times till all the dirt was in the raised bed.
Time to Add Plants
Okay, now it’s time to plant. Above picture shows all the plants that we’re putting in our garden at the end of March.
In Florida, we’re able to plant things like zucchini and squash, we are trying some potatoes and some onions to see if it’s not too late. We also have several varieties of tomatoes, cucumbers, basil and oregano. Some plants can grow best in shaded area, such as Alocasia and Beautyberry, as well as many more!
Also in the dump cart is our drip irrigation tubing. We also bought more jungle grow just because from putting the raised bed together and then actually planting six months has gone by and we wanted to make sure that the soil was nice and nutrient rich.
Depending of the plants you have, they will give you directions on the pot about how big they will get and how far apart they should be from other plants. But by and large, you usually have a grid style where you can do one per six inches or one per 12 inches. And some plants even allow you to do two per 12 inch grid. So you just want to plan it out.
As you see we are putting all of these together in a system to make sure that they’ll look right. And then just putting them in according to the directions on the little label.
We’ve also added netting, you’ll want to make sure that you put netting around it to keep any birds or critters out of it.
For instance, our adopted backyard chicken has decided that she likes it so that was one of the biggest reasons why we put the netting up.
I’d say in all, building the raised bed took about a 1/2 day with all the materials on site, then another 1/2 day to add the soil to the bed, not counting the time to go get the soil and bring it back. Planting took another hour or so and the drip irrigation took another hour, since we were just adding the garden section to a previously installed bigger section. This is a great weekend project for beginning backyard gardners.
So let us know in the comments below how your raised bed garden project went and let us know what are your favorite items to grow in your backyard. Also if you’re in need of a Christmas gift, then be sure to checkout our top 10 Christmas gifts for gardeners!