Who knows what the next few months will bring? Planting a garden is one way to cope with so much uncertainty. You’ll put your mind to taking care of plants and produce some of your own food. Plus, gardening is something everyone in the family can help out with.
With a raised garden bed, you can more easily reach in, pull weeds, water, and tend the plants without too much strain on your back. Containing your garden this way gives you better control of your soil, too.
Practically anyone can build a raised garden bed. It is really just a simple frame you’ll set on a level spot. You’ll want to build it narrow enough to make it possible to reach halfway across the bed from either side — this one measures five feet across, a good width for most people.
The materials are simple and inexpensive. I spent $126 on lumber and screws for this project. Set aside an afternoon and you’ll be ready to plant your first crops of lettuces or peas.
for one 10-by-5-foot box
- A level
- A screw gun
- A shovel
- 32 2½-inch exterior-grade galvanized screws
- Lumber: Six 10-foot 2x12s and four 3-foot 2x4s. Use untreated Douglas fir.
Building your box
Before you begin, select your site. Look for a flat spot with plenty of sun. Measure out a 10-foot by 5-foot area, then use the level to determine if the site is flat. If it’s not, you may need to dig, rake, and tamp the soil to create a flat foundation. If your site is not flat, water will always run off to one side, so this first step is important.
Matthew Hunt shows how to start by marking and cutting two of the 10-foot boards in half. If you don’t have a good saw, ask the lumber yard to cut them for you. Now you’ll have four 10-foot lengths and four 5-foot lengths of the fir. These will become two frames or boxes, which you’ll stack on top of each other.
Screw your lengths of wood together to make two boxes. If you don’t have a screw gun, you will want to borrow one for this job. As you put together the corners, place the longer pieces of wood on the outside and the shorter ones on the inside. Use four screws to secure each corner well.
After you’ve put together the two boxes, stack one on top of the other. This makes a deep bed, good for growing potatoes and carrots. Use the level to make sure the boxes are stacked nice and flat.
Attach a 2×4 to the inside of the boxes at each corner, forming a cleat to secure them. For attaching the cleats, 2 ¾-inch screws work well. They won’t poke out the other side. If you have rabbits or deer, you may want to wrap chicken wire around the bed, using the cleats as posts. If you don’t need that, and don’t want them sticking up, just cut them off, level with the top of the boxes.
For this size bed, you will need 4 cubic yards of soil, which can be delivered from a local nursery for about $200. Now you’re ready for the summer growing season.