Anyone Can Build Their Own Raised Garden Bed! It’s both easy, and rewarding. Not only can you build the Raised Garden Bed you always wanted, but you can also custom design the size and dimensions to fit your space perfectly!
In this article, I show you a simple Raised Garden Bed design that goes beyond the 4 boards slapped together concept. You want your Raised Garden Bed to last so that you can concentrate on growing all those wonderful veggies and not worry about the corners of your bed pulling apart or the sides bowing under pressure. If you’re starting a new garden this year, then this article is for you!
The benefit and I would say the main benefit of building your own garden bed from scratch is that you can build it any size you want. Not every space we have available is the cookie-cutter dimensions of a store-bought garden bed. With that said there is a couple of hard rules that I like to follow when I’m building my own.
3 Rules to follow when Building a Raised Garden Bed
All of my Raised garden beds are open bottom except for the patio ones and as such height isn’t really a huge issue because the plants can simply have access to the earth below.
However, for me the whole point of a raised garden bed is accessibility. So I like to make mine at least a foot tall to make my gardening life as easy as possible.
The second consideration is width when you build a raised garden bed.
There’s a limit to how far you can reach for both planting and harvesting, as well as weeding. So I adhere to the strict width guidelines of four feet wide if I have access to all sides and two feet wide if I only have access to one.
Any wider than that and your typical gardening tasks become way too hard and way too cumbersome.
Lastly, we have the overall length of the raised garden bed. I’ll cap this at eight feet for two reasons:
- Dimensional lumber comes in eight feet lengths. Yes, you can buy oversized boards but your cost per linear foot goes way up and because of the times wood prices are already astronomical.
- The soil inside the bed is heavy and it’s always putting extreme pressure on the sides at all times. If you go too long even with bracing you run the risk of serious bowing on the long sides. Not ideal aesthetically or structurally.
knowing those things and knowing the space that I want to be filled today, I’m going to build six 1½ x 8 foot raised beds.
To achieve that desired height of over 12 inches, I’m going to use an array of two by sixes (2×6) and two by fours (2×4) stacked to make that happen.
To Build a Raised Garden Bed start with Drawing Desing
The first thing we do is to draw the design. Let me show you what that looks like so that you can put in your dimensions after any dimensions you want to build any size raised garden bed you want.
The beauty of building 8 foot long beds is that all your long sideboards can be left untouched. Since only the side pieces are cut calculating just how much lumber you need is a cinch.
If we want an 18-inch wide bed we have to remember that dimensional lumber is not the size that it’s advertised.
For example, a 2×4 is actually 1.5×3.5 inches and a 2×6 is actually 1.5×5.5 inches.
Make the cuts
With our dimensions figured out let’s go ahead and make our cuts. Measure twice but cut once.
Once you cut one end piece of which there is six total for each bed in this design, use that first one that you cut as a template to cut all the remaining pieces. It goes by infinitely faster this way.
Staining of the boards
I’m going to be staining just the middle boards on these beds to create a unique look. I’ll do that now, however, there are two things when staining a veggie bed that you gotta know:
- Make sure to use a water-based, safe stain whenever you’re working with lumber that’s going to be used to create food.
- Always sand down any wood prior to staining, especially outdoor wood, you need to allow that stain to penetrate deeper and more evenly. Without proper sanding first that stain is going to come out blotchy, uneven and it likely won’t even last the season.
Check out the difference here
Okay, with our middle sections of the bed all drying nicely in the sun. Let’s go ahead and assemble that first layer of the bed to act as a base.
Raised Garden Bed Construction time
This is where I want to demonstrate that building a good veggie garden bed is more than just slapping four boards together. You can definitely do that and you’ll have a garden bed that lasts at least a couple of years, but beyond that when that bed starts to fall apart you’ll be kicking yourself for not doing things differently.
You see when using screws and especially nails we have two kinds of forces holding that bed together or more accurately trying to pull it apart.
- First, we have pull force,which is literally the nails or screws pulling themselves out of the wood. The resistance that those nailer screws have is literally how strong that bed is going to be.
- And the second is sheer force, which is how much can the screw or nail withstand before it literally breaks in half. Shear force is magnitude stronger than pull force.
Assembling the base
So if shear force is what we’re after, let’s assemble the base to reflect that. Instead of just screwing all four sides together and having to deal with these beds again in one or two seasons let in set a 2×4 the exact width of our lumber on the corners of the long sides.
Sounds confusing? let me show you what I mean.
No need to clamp here just butt up the wood to the side and screw that 2×4 into place. I cut those 2×4 braces to one inch less than the height of the bed, this way they’ll be buried by the soil and you won’t be able to see them.
Okay with all those corner braces screwed in, we can actually assemble the full bottom section of the bed. It’s really easy stuff and all you need is a cordless screwdriver.
If we measured and cut correctly those side pieces fit in perfectly. Dimensional lumber especially the longer pieces like 8 foot one, sometimes can twist or even bend.
Luckily wood is quite malleable and easy to work with so just kind of put your weight on it to square things up. It’s a solid base and from here on out it’s really easy to assemble the rest of this bed. So let’s go check on those stained middle pieces. Looking good!
A second coat won’t hurt if you have the time but as long as you sanded first that stain should set in really well. I fit the end sections in first as it makes lining up those long pieces far easier. Good stuff!
Everything fits together really easily, however, and I always forget this if you’re making a skinny bed sometimes it’s really hard to get that screwdriver into the inside of the bed to secure those pieces.
The whole benefit of this design is that you don’t have to see the screws or nails or screw holes or any blemishes whatsoever on the front face of that bed.
It’s fine for a 2-foot wide bed, you can get that screwdriver in there and zap in those boards from the inside, but on a skinny bed like this you got two options: you can either assemble the long panels all at once or you can deal with screw holes on the outside.
I should also note on the left side middle section you can see that it’s not lined up perfectly that’s by design. I cut that middle piece just a little bit short half-inch on either side. This is for future installation of the irrigation so do note it was intentional and it’s not really a design of the raised bed.
On a normal raised bed, we’d be pretty much done right now but on these long pieces I like to do something a little extra and you’ll notice that we had four extra pieces of wood leftover, let me show you why?
Whenever I go over four feet on one side of a bed I always make sure to include braces on that long side. This is to prevent bowing and to really secure those layers of boards together so that no soil seeps out.
It’s easy stuff really and they can be put on the inside or the outside, I like putting them on the outside because I feel like if I stain them like the middle section it adds a little bit of aesthetic flair.
That’s it right there, the simplest of garden beds. Sturdy enough to last for years and subtle enough to let the plants do the talking. The easiest part is done the hard part is fitting it into place and then filling it with soil. But hey we’ll save that for another article. But what we won’t have to wait for is a recap of the main points.
Building your own raised garden bed is not just for the intrinsic reward of being self-sufficient. You can get the right dimension for your space as well as adequate height to grow all the veggies you want.
Remember dimensional lumber is not as advertised and the width and depth measurements are a half-inch smaller. Use corner two by fours as braces to have the bed rely on sheer force rather than pull force. Making it infinitely stronger and long-lasting.
If staining uses a safe water-based stain with a low VOC content. Finally use braces on the long sides every 32 inches for beds that are eight feet or longer.
Hey thanks so much for reading guys I appreciate the support more than you know and if you’re getting value from these articles please share them to spread the word and help your fellow gardener to grow better.