How to Build a Raised Bed

It’s planting season, and you have your seeds ready to go. But where are you going to plant them? You have several options. If you live in an apartment or condo – or have a very small yard – you can plant in pots. However, if you have a larger yard, you will have to decide whether you wish to plant directly in the ground or in raised beds.

Raised beds are preferable for several reasons. First, having poor soil in your yard won’t affect your plants’ growth when you use raised beds because you will be importing soil to plant in. (Nor will you have to rotor till your ground. A definite plus.) It’s also easier to amend your soil when it’s in a bed. Second, raised beds raise the plants higher so they’re easier to reach; the higher your bed, the easier on your back. Just note that the higher your bed, the more soil you will need. Finally, raised beds are neater and can be trimmed with landscaping to fit into your garden plan.

Building a raised bed is fairly easy. You can make the beds as long as you wish, but the width should be no longer than four feet. That allows you to reach a maximum of two feet from each side. Any wider than four feet and you will be stretching your arms and back too far to reach the middle of the bed. Gardening should be fun, not a catalyst for extra chiropractor visits!

I have eight beds that are 4′ x 8′ and six beds that are 4′ x 9.5 feet. (I have a jog in my fence line where my beds are; the difference in length allowed me to have the same amount of space around each bed.) For ease, I’ll show you how to make a 4′ x 8′ bed — both a single-tier and a double-tier.

SINGLE-TIER RAISED BED:

Single-Tier Bed Plan

Single-Tier Bed Plan

For a single-tier bed, you will need the following:

3 each 1 x 6 treated deck planks, 8′ long (one cut in half, 4′ each)

32″ length of treated 4 x 4, cut into four 8″ lengths with angled bottoms (see diagram)

Box of 12- or 16-penny decking/galvanized nails

Paint (optional)

Follow the diagram above for building a six-inch-high raised bed. If you wish to double the height of the bed, you will have to get 6 each of the 1 x 6 deck planks and make each of your 4 x 4 corners 14″ long.

The angled bottoms on the corners are to better secure the bed in the ground.

Here is a close up of the corners once the bed is in the ground:

Raised Bed Corner

Raised Bed Corner

Note: If you plan to place your single-tier bed up against a fence, please remember that you will be able to reach your bed only from one long side; so you should make it only two feet wide for ease of reach. (I took liberty with this rule with my double-tiered beds because I planted tall perennials in the back of the bed and they are not difficult to harvest.)

DOUBLE-TIERED RAISED BED:

For a double-tiered bed, you will need the following:

Two-Tier Bed Plan

Double-Tier Bed Plan

5 1/2 each of 1 x 6 treated deck planks, 8′ long

1 each of treated 4 x 4, 6′ long – cut into two 8″ and four 14″ lengths, with angled bottoms (see diagram)

Box of 12- or 16-penny decking/galvanized nails

Paint (optional)

Follow the diagram above for building the double-tiered bed. Note that you will have an 8′ length of 1×6 in the front and the middle, but the back of the bed will have two 8′ lengths on top of each other.

Here’s a side photo of my double-tiered berry bed:

Side of Berry Bed

Side of Double-Tiered Bed

Painting your beds is optional. I chose to paint mine because I recycled wood from an old deck and wanted the wood to last longer. It looks nicer, too.

If you have more than one bed next to each other, they should be 18-24 inches apart. Putting the beds 24″ apart is a little more comfortable, but you can fit more beds in the same space if you place them 18 inches apart. The choice is yours.

Once you have your beds made and placed in your yard, all you need is the soil to fill them. Local garden centers offer top soil by the truck load and will deliver for a small fee (usually about $25) if you don’t have a truck to get the soil yourself. Because you do not know what type of top soil you are getting, you will have to perform a soil test and amend the soil accordingly before you plant.

Finally, you can landscape around your beds or leave as is. I decided to landscape around my beds to make grass cutting easier, to alleviate grass trimming against the beds, and to make them look neater. I found free bricks on Craigslist (which happened to match the brick on my house), and purchased cypress mulch from Lowe’s. With landscape fabric underneath my mulch, weeding is greatly reduced; and the weeds that do grow are easy to pull.

Landscaped beds

Landscaped beds

Doesn’t that look great? And so simple! I’d love to see your raised beds. Post your pictures on my Facebook page and share YOUR creativity.

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