How to Build a Cedar Raised Garden Bed
After procrastinating for years about planting a garden I finally relented and decided to forge ahead with not just any garden, but a raised garden at that. In the process I realized that my yearly excuses for not planting a vegetable garden were pretty lame and I should have done this year's ago. My father was an avid gardener and for as long as I can remember he had a wonderful garden that we all reaped the benefits from.
And so as with most of my projects, once I got started, which always seems to be the toughest part, I plunged in headfirst and we quickly decided on the perfect location that gets plenty of sunshine.
I decided that I would start off with a modest four-foot by eight-foot raised bed and if everything went well I would expand with another raised bed next year. While you can build a raised bed with virtually any type of wood I opted for a cedar box that would withstand the elements for years to come. Keep in mind that you can use pretty much any type of wood for this. Cedar, Juniper or Redwood are the preferred types of wood for raised boxes due to their resistance to the elements and long life-span but you can certainly use any reclaimed or recycled wood. The one type of wood I would stay away from is pressure treated lumber as the chemicals used to treat the wood can leech into the soil.
What kind of garden do you have?
- The first step in this process is to select the area of your yard to place your raised garden. You preferably want a level area that gets plenty of sunshine.
- Decide on the size of your bed, which can be any size from a simple two-by-two-foot box for spice plants or flowers to as large as you want. I selected a four-by-eight box, which I felt was large enough to fit a variety of plants but not too big to be unmanageable.
- Once you have decided on the dimensions of your raised bed you must decide on the height of the box. This can range from just six inches to as high as two or three feet. Just remember that the higher your bed the more soil it will take to fill it.
To make this job a little easier consider using just one cedar box. You can find cedar boards in a variety of widths from 4, 6, 8 and 12 inches. I used two 6 inch boards because they were cheaper than one 12 inch board.
I decided on a 12-inch height for no other reason than this seemed reasonable. There would be plenty of room for the roots to grow but it wouldn’t be too high that I would need a dump truck to fill it. I now set out to find some 1 x 6 x 96-inch cedar boards. You can just use 12-inch wide boards but I found it cheaper to use two of the 6-inch boards stacked one on top of the other to achieve my desired 12-inch height.
For this size box you will need six cedar boards measuring 1 inch by 6 inches by 8 feet. This is a common size board and you should be able to find it in any lumberyard. You will also need two 1 x 2 x 96-inch pieces of cedar that will be used as corner pieces
- Hand Saw/Circular Saw
- Screw Gun/Screwdriver
- Cordless Drill
- Drill Bits
- Tape Measure
- Rubber Mallet
- Deck Screws
If you don't have any lumber available to build your box and need to purchase it ask them to cut one of your 8-foot boards into 2-four foot pieces for you to use as your end pieces.
Time to Build
To make our raised garden box 12-inches high we are going to build two boxes and place one on top of the other. If you opt for 12-inch boards you will need just one box. Start by taking one of the eight-foot boards and cut it in half. These four-foot pieces will form the ends of your box. Now simply attach the two eight-foot pieces to the four-foot pieces to build a rectangular box using galvanized or polymer coated deck screws. I used three screws at each corner and quickly had a nice four by eight cedar box. I pre-drilled the holes to prevent the wood from splitting.
When cutting your 1" x 2" anchor pieces cut them at an angle to make it easier to hammer them into the ground
Simply repeat the process if you are building two boxes and take them out to where you plan to plant your garden. Place your first cedar box where you want it. I used a 1-inch by 2-inch piece of cedar cut to a 24-inch length as a corner piece. Using a rubber mallet I inserted the corner piece about 6–inches into the ground and repeated the process at each corner. I then attached my box to the corner pieces to secure it in place. Now place your second box on top of the first and secure it to the corner pieces. You can place additional 1 x 2’s at the midpoints of the sides to provide additional strength. When completed it should look something like this.
Once your raised garden box is in place it’s time to turn over the grass/soil inside the box. I did this by hand but you can certainly use a rotor-tiller if this makes it easier for you. If you do use a tiller be sure to turn over the soil before building your box so you don’t have to lift the equipment up and into the box.
To fill the box with soil you have a few options available to you. You can buy garden soil at your local garden center or you can fill it yourself if you have good soil available. Don’t be afraid to use your raised garden box as a composting box during the off-season to help enrich the soil. You are now ready to plant and reap the rewards of your work with whatever garden vegetables you decide to plant.
You will notice from the pictures that I have two raised beds side by side. I was so inspired after building the first one that I went ahead and constructed a second garden box. You can see that the plants in the second box are a few weeks behind the first box and this will insure that we have a longer harvest period come late summer.
It took about two hours to construct and assemble the boxes. If you are using only one box as opposed to stacking two you should be able to complete this even quicker. The time spent constructing your raised garden boxes will allow you to reap the benefits of growing your own vegetables for years to come.
© 2014 Bill De Giulio