Our backyard garden is in dire need of an update. The raised beds have rotted after several years, the trees have overgrown and I learned what worked from our first design and what did not. I am ready to make some big changes.
When planning a garden, there are many factors to take into account. Sunlight, ease of use, eye appeal, watering, how much you are willing/able to care for, what plants you even want to grow, what space they take up and your own abilities. This is the 3rd home where I have created a backyard garden so I have a pretty good idea of what I like to grow and what I can grow. I know my hardiness zone and I know my level of commitment so it’s time for an upgrade.
I knew I definitely wanted something a little taller than my last one – I previously had about an 8″ high raised bed. This time, I am building a 12″ high raised bed.
My husband suggested that I build two 16×4 foot beds with a 3 foot space between them to allow movement and mowing. The boards I planned to use were 2×6’s at 8′ long, so a 16′ bed would work. But, my last beds were long and I found I just didn’t have enough ease of access to all the veggies so I wanted smaller sized beds this time. I decided on 4’x8′ beds – 4 of them. I also wanted to build them in a more central location in my backyard. Last time I built my beds against the fence and that took away even more access to the garden veggies. Now I can walk entirely around each garden bed which gives me lots of access. #easeofuse
I used pine boards to make my garden because I like that my walls rot after 6 or so years so I can change my design again, but cedar or redwood will last much longer if you want a more permanent choice. I used 4 2″x3″ stud boards to create my stakes but you can buy stakes if you don’t want the extra work of cutting them. I was just trying to save some $$. Oh, and do NOT use treated wood – that stuff has arsenic in it and you DO NOT want that leaching into your food. #keepitclean
OK, you are going to get the instructions that I finally figured out on my last two beds. The ones that are actually pretty easy and work perfectly. The first two garden beds are not as pretty, they were definitely my learning experience. But, I wanted to do this independently (usually my husband takes over these types of projects and I just hand him tools) because I felt a desire to get it done asap and I work from home which gives me the liberty to work outside during the week. I also love a good challenge!
I could have gotten this done in one day if I knew what I was doing. But, now that I do, I kinda wanna build raised beds all over the house…..where can I go next? Although, 2 days to get this completed is not too shabby either. My over 40 body is not as excited.
Let’s start with CUTTING:
These are garden beds, not indoor furniture, so I am not going to get really exact here, but I do want my work to look nice and be functional. (which it is!) So, start with making your cuts. Fashion some protective eyewear and have fun – rotary saws are loud, but not hard to use. So, to make a 4’x8′ bed that is 12″ tall, you need FOUR 8′ boards and FOUR 4′ boards and FOUR stakes. I cut all of my 4 footers together – so for 4 beds, I needed 16 4′ boards, so I cut 8 boards in half. The rotary saw is easy, just make sure to raise your boards off the ground and hold on so it doesn’t pinch the blade when you are completing your cut.
Then I needed to cut my stakes – **Lesson Learned** – I thought I could just take those studs and make FOUR 2′ stakes out of them by cutting each piece at an angle. NO. Stakes must have a point in the CENTER of the bottom, not just to one side. If you try to drive a stake into the ground with only one slanted side, it will move out of position by inches. I learned the hard way. NO bueno. So, go ahead and cut those angles every 2 feet, but then take each stake and cut off that little tip so the stake has a point in the center.
Next, time to BUILD:
Now, I already measured my space and figured out where the beds would sit relative to other structures in the yard (fences and shed wall) and made sure to have an equal spacing all around the beds. 3′ border around the entire garden area and in between beds. Math IS important! And so is measuring…..do it more than once. #measuremeasuremeasure
The first step is to make a box. Take 2 long boards and 2 short boards and put one screw into each joint. Just one. This gives you some play to make sure your box is in the right place and is not a parallelogram. Place your box in the right spot and than measure the diagonal to make sure it’s square. You don’t need to do trigonometry, just make sure both diagonals are the same.
Once you get your diagonals equal and your beds in the right spot, put the 4 stakes in each corner. Just enough to be level or lower than your 12″ bed height. I marked each stake with a 11″ mark and hammered them in to that point. Measure your diagonals again just to make sure nothing shifted.
Now make another box on top of your first box. Make sure when you are making these boxes that you are lining up the edges nicely. Check your diagonals AGAIN and then once they are all good, you can screw the top and bottom boards into the stakes.
And that is it. Seriously. You CAN do it yourself and pretty quickly once you realize how easy this is. I may stain them with some linseed oil or not….I will figure that out this weekend…..
I used a staple gun to put weed block paper on the bottom of the beds. It’s an extra step that will make a huge difference.
Now, it’s time to fill those babies up. Find out if your local transfer station has free compost for residents. I know mine does, so I will be hitting that next week! Then I can add more structures….I have plans for growing upwards and maybe even creating a small pergola between the beds on the long side so grow something up and over for fun! Stay tuned!