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How to Build a Raised Garden Bed: Cheap Prefab Kits & DIY Plans

I'm a big fan of all things green and growing. I love planting a garden in the spring and watching it thrive.

Raised garden beds

Raised garden beds

Cheap Raised Garden Beds: Best Options for Veggie Success

A gorgeous raised garden bed system is an amazing thing. It will instantly give you green thumb credibility, and people will consider you an expert gardener. But getting started can be daunting.

That said, guess what? Raised gardens are actually quite simple to build or put together, and even easier to maintain! Not only that, they keep your backyard looking tidy and lush.

So what's the best way to get started?

This article will look at several ways to put together an elevated garden on the cheap, and I'll break it into two parts. First, I'll show off one of the best cheap raised garden kits on the market today, and I'll explain why it's worth your time to consider.

Secondly, I'll also touch on ways you can do it yourself, and cover a basic DIY raised garden bed idea that works in most situations!

Hopefully this piece will help you get started with your green dream and inspire you to take action. It's easier than you think, I promise!

A beautiful, green garden space.

A beautiful, green garden space.

What's the Big Deal? Raised Garden Bed Kit Advantages:

If you're searching for how to build a raised garden bed, you'll find that there are a lot of plans out there. Unfortunately, many of them cost quite a bit and are pretty labour intensive.

Luckily for the non-handy, there are several cheap, functional raised garden bed kits that work great. You've got options.

So why should I bother making a raised garden bed?

Easier Plant Separation:

One thing that makes DIY elevated garden beds particularly appealing is the ability to sort and manage your plants in a systematic, logical and tidy manner.

If you've ever gardened before, you'll know that plants do not always grow in a logical way! In fact, they seemingly enjoy growing exactly where you don't want them to. Having some physical barriers between planters allows you to mix and match compatible and symbiotic plant types.

Better Access, Easier to Tend:

Because it's elevated off the ground, a good raised garden bed system is a lot easier on your back and knees. Depending on how high you make it, you can pull weeds and prune without an aching back because of the accessibility.

No Digging:

Another huge advantage of a raised garden bed kit is that you don't have to excavate earth in your back yard. Typically, you'd need to dig down to remove grass, sod and sandy soil before adding richer soil and planting. With this system you have no need to dig anything; once the frame is completed you're ready to add soil and plant.

1. Prefab Raised Garden Bed Kits: Here Are a Few Cheap & Simple Solution

If you're not a carpenter, and you don't feel inclined to learn, you might want to consider opting for a cheap raised garden bed prefabricated kit. Unlike a DIY project, the pieces are already cut and measured to the proper sizing, so all you need to do is put the various pieces together.

You'll have a lot of options here, and I don't want you to get bewildered, so here are my thoughts.

Plastic (poly) vs. Wood:

This will be your primary choice. There are two basic styles of prefab raised garden bed kits around, plastic and wood. Both have advantages and disadvantages.

Plastic is usually less expensive than wood. It's durable and flexible, and it doesn't absorb water in the wet season. It's also lighter, which means it's easier to move around and (sometimes) assemble.

However, plastic is prone to becoming brittle after it weathers for a few seasons. It's not as customizable as wood, and frankly I don't think it looks as nice.

And of course it's also a man-made product that's derived from fossil fuels and won't biodegrade for thousands of years.

Wood is strong! It can take a beating and sit for years and still maintain integrity. It's easy to customize and cut, and it looks amazing in a natural green space setting (like a back yard). It can also be rot resistant. (Cedar is.)

Wood is heavier and more expensive to ship. Certain types of wood are prone to rot if they sit in water for too long. Assembling a wooden raised garden bed kit will usually require some basic tools (electric drill, primarily).

Between Wood and Plastic, Which Is the Best?

Wood is my preference by a long shot. It looks a lot better, it's natural and easy to work with, and it doesn't create more unnecessary plastic waste.

The Yaheetech is a raised cedar garden bed.

The Yaheetech is a raised cedar garden bed.

2. Want to Build a DIY Raised Garden Bed? Here Are Some Tips

If you're a bit more technically inclined and you don't mind a project, you might consider opting to build your own raised beds from rough timber. It's really not that difficult if you're competent with a few basic tools.

I'd recommend using wood for this project, since it's cheap, readily available and earth friendly.

The Basic Concept of a 'DIY' Raised Bed Garden

Conceptually, it's pretty simple. A raised bed is really just a sturdy square frame that sits on top of the ground and elevates the contained soil. It's usually placed on top of the bare earth or grass (which allows for good drainage).

That means you just need to connect four panels or boards with four corner joints. I'd recommend your panels be at least 6" tall, preferably 10-12" so that your garden can contain more soil. Most raised gardens are between 10 inches and 32 inches in depth.

Before you buy any timber, be sure to draw up a plan. How big will your garden be? Figure out the dimensions of each side. That way your local lumber store can cut the wood down to size for you. Typical dimensions include 4'x4' and 8'x4'.

Pro Tip: I wouldn't go much wider than 4 feet. Think about it: you don't want to have to clamber inside your raised garden bed box to access inner plants, and 4' is about as far as most people can reach.

Figure Out Your Panels

Your DIY raised garden bed should be at least 6 inches in height, so you'll want to pick out panels (or boards) that are at least that wide. I find that 2x10s or 2x12s work really nicely for this purpose.

I'd choose a wood that's either resistant to rot naturally (such as cedar), or one that's been treated. Your garden will be sitting directly on damp soil most of its life, so it will need to be rot resistant.

DIY Suggestion: Use some gardening anchor joints as posts.

DIY Suggestion: Use some gardening anchor joints as posts.

You don't technically need posts, but in the interest of ensuring your DIY raised bed garden is square and level, I'd highly recommend opting for anchor posts. It will be holding a fair amount of soil, and a collapse would be unfortunate.

You can opt for wooden posts, such as a 4"x4", and if you're feeling fancy you can choose an ornamented post with a top cap.

My personal recommendation? Go for a metal raised bed corner bracket. There are many options on the market that are designed to fit with common lumber sizes (2"x12" being the most common).

Some even come with a ground spike, a really handy addition for installation and stability.

The anchor joints pictured to the right are a pretty great option. They will fit lumber of almost any size, and they're sturdy and well constructed. They have a great feature where they'll stack inside one another, so you can create corner joints of almost any size.

Figure Out Your Hardware:

You'll want to make sure the screws, nuts and bolts you use won't corrode or rust over time. For that reason, I'd strongly encourage that any DIY raised bed garden kit be fitted with weather resistant coated fastenings.

Coated decking screws are the best option in most cases. If you're unsure what to get, ask an attendant at your hardware store what they'd recommend.

Cross Beams?

It might be a good idea, depending on the length of your raised DIY garden, to include some cross beams as support. This doesn't have to be anything fancy, just a single beam across the centre is often enough to do it.

Why do this? Over time, your beds will lose some of their structural integrity, especially if you have curious children leaning on them to inspect plants and bugs. Cross supports help to maintain the beds in square and add some rigidity.

Cross beams aren't really necessary on beds shorter than 6' in length.

Additional Tips for Building a Raised Garden Bed

If you're installing either a prefabricated plant bed kit, or if you're opting for a DIY alternative, you should still keep the following final tips in mind.

  • Level and Square: Be sure to do your level and square measurements. If your bed isn't level, just block it up using lumber scraps. Keeping it level is mostly just an aesthetic thing, but if you're a perfectionist it's better to get it right the first time. Plus it does affect water flow through your plants, so do it to avoid dry and wet spots. Square is more vital. If your beds aren't square as you build, you'll run into fit and finish problems, and you'll be frustrated (trust me!). Take the time and ensure your corners are square before you proceed.
  • Burrowing Pests: Unfortunately, burrowing pests like moles won't know the difference between your yard and your raised garden bed kits. To keep them out of your veggies, you might consider adding a galvanized mesh garden cloth underneath your beds. Just tack it in place and the moles won't have anywhere to go.
  • Space Out Your Beds: Hey, be sure to keep enough space in between your beds. You might enjoy the aesthetic of the snugly fitted gardens, but it's a pain to move around and mow the grass in between if you don't leave enough space!

Thanks for reading! If you have a custom plan you want to share, please leave a comment below!

Prefab Raised Garden Bed Kits vs. DIY

Questions or Commentary?

Demas W Jasper from Today's America and The World Beyond on April 16, 2014:

A good First Article for raised bed gardeners. Need some comments, but at least HP listed some additional Hubs. Thanks.