Raised garden beds can be done any number of different ways. You can use almost any type of wood, especially if you don’t need them to last a long time, and you can configure them any way you want. Feel free to make different mounds throughout your yard to terraform a “foodscape” of edibles. Fruits and veggies can be integrated into standard landscaping with edibles mixed into your flowers. The most popular is still the classic raised garden bed. The question is, why build a raised garden bed if you still have to kneel down? Here’s how to make them taller and never kneel to garden again.
Raised Garden Bed Size, Layout, and Materials
I built my raised beds to measure 4 feet by 8 feet. The key feature about this size of garden bed is the width. If you make your raised garden beds wider, it is difficult to tend the center of the garden. I would not recommend making garden beds any wider than 4 feet if you have access to both sides or 2 feet if you only have access to one side.
With the size I selected, I was able to fit 4 raised garden beds with walkways in between them. I wanted the walkways to be able to fit a wheelbarrow like this one so they are about 30″ wide. Don’t make your walkways narrower than a couple feet or you’ll be too cramped to move about and move materials and tools through them.
To line my garden beds up, I measured to line them up with a shed and a carport equally. This way, the two end beds were straight. I tied masons line between the end posts and lined up the middle beds by making sure the front posts touched the line without pressing it outward.
For tips on ordering lumber, check out my information on the subject. My raised garden beds are made out of 2×12 cedar boards. I bought 12 foot boards and had my local lumber yard cut them into one 8 foot and one 4 foot board a piece. 2 boards were stacked on top of each other to make them taller raised garden beds. I didn’t stack a third board on top because I don’t want them too tall for my taller plants. If you have to get a ladder to harvest your beans and corn, that’s still no fun. My garden beds are held up with 4×4 treated lumber 6 feet tall so that if I ever want to put anything like netting or greenhouse plastic over the top, it’s easier.
But wait! You can’t use treated lumber on garden beds! I have done some research and, while the chemicals used to pressure treat lumber are not as hazardous as they used to be, they are still chemicals. However, this is beside the point because my 4x4s are all OUTSIDE the bed itself. Thank you to my parents for this incredibly clever way to construct my garden beds!
The beds are held together with large construction lag screws from Screw Products. I love how these fasteners drive quickly and really secure my lumber together in a strong manner. They have a self cutting tip so I don’t even have to predrill my lumber. Even with a 5/16″ screw, I didn’t predrill and there was no issue!
Raised Garden Bed Structure and Building
Building the Beds
Attach the bottom side boards on each side to the 4×4 posts using 3 screws per board, per post. Place your garden bed skeleton on the site in the rough position you want it. If you want an organic look, for a raised bed, allow the bed to follow the line of the ground. Add or subtract dirt in order to level it out more if you want a more structured look. I personally allowed my raised garden beds to follow the line of the ground for the most part. Once you line up your garden beds, attach the top boards, again using the 3 screws per board, per post.
Filling In a Raised Garden Bed
The dirt that fills my garden beds is crucial. I wanted something easy to dig in that would make my veggies grow quick and delicious. To find the perfect dirt, I asked my local landscaping company. They recommended a dirt that combined fertilizer, compost, and loam to make a perfect substrate for growing veggies. The company delivered the giant pile of dirt into my driveway for a small fee.
If you choose the correct dirt to begin with, you shouldn’t need to add any fertilizer. However, after the first year, I recommend adding compost and fertilizer, which I’ve talked about before, in order to maintain the health of your raised beds and the composition of your soil.
When it came time to fill the raised garden beds, it involved a wheelbarrow, a shovel, and a lot of trips. It was beyond that though. I found that it was faster to make a ramp and dump the whole wheelbarrow. This way, I didn’t have to shovel dirt into the wheelbarrow as well as out of it. When space was too tight for ramps, I put the lip of the wheelbarrow on the top edge of the bed and tip it in. I highly recommend the dumping rather than the shoveling method.
As a side note, I would also highly recommend having not only the round head shovel but a flat bladed shovel as well. This way, you can get all the dirt off the ground and into the raised bad. With just a basic shovel, that can’t happen and you waste dirt and money.
By changing things up a little bit, I could have saved myself both time, money, and effort. I have a lot of lumber left over from other projects that I could have put in the bottom of the beds so that they required less dirt. Not only would this have cleaned up my back yard but I wouldn’t have spent so much money on dirt. I also wouldn’t have had to move it all and I was sore enough this may be the driving factor. As long as there’s still a lot of dirt in the bed, it wouldn’t have affected the plants. Oh well, lessons learned for next time.
My raised garden beds are watered with a drip irrigation system that is my absolute favorite way to water. Check out my post on these systems here to learn how to save water and money while still having an incredibly productive garden!
One day, I will finish off the area by putting rock or mulch between the beds in the walkways. For now, I will continue to take care of the grass there with a string trimmer. I have already started to put plants in but there’s still a few more to go. You can’t plant too early. Once all the plants are in, I will add straw on top as a mulch to keep weed growth down and keep water in. I can’t wait to fill my raised garden beds with veggies for days!