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Home > Yard & Garden > How to Build a Raised Planting Bed

Build a Raised Planting Bed

By Brett Freeman
Build a Raised Planting Bed

If you have decided to put a vegetable garden in your back yard, there are several reasons to consider building a raised garden bed. Doing so allows you to fill the raised bed with quality soil, versus creating a bed by hacking out sod and trying to improve the existing (and probably depleted) soil. A raised garden is also easier to work because you don't have to bend as far to reach your vegetables, and it provides an obvious border more likely to be noticed and respected by playing children.

Pre-build the Frame

Make your frame out of 2x10 cedar boards. Yes, they cost more, but most other types of wood can rot, and pressure-treated boards contain dangerous chemicals that can leach into the soil. You can use as much or as little space as you want for your vegetable garden, but make sure it's no more than four feet wide so you can reach everything in the bed while remaining outside it. If you want your garden to be more than four feet wide, build multiple raised beds. Build your rectangular frame by placing the longer boards outside of the shorter boards and using three screws at each joint, screwing through the longer boards into the ends of the shorter boards.

Place the Frame

Set the frame on the ground where you want the raised bed. Use a framing square to make sure each corner is square, then place pieces of scrap lumber diagonally across each corner. Tack the scrap lumber into place so that it holds the corners square when you move the frame. Now use an edger to score the ground along the outside of the frame. Remove the frame, then remove the sod where you want to place the frame. Till the remaining soil with a tiller if you have one, or with a shovel, pitchfork, and plenty of effort if you don't.

Stake it

Cut two-foot long stakes from a cedar 2x4. You need one stake for each corner, one for each end, and, if your frame is not more than six feet long, one for each side. If it is longer than six feet, cut two stakes for each side. Make two diagonal cuts at the end of each stake so they end in a point. Replace the frame, digging out dirt as needed to level it.

Using a rubber mallet, drive the stakes into the ground until they are flush with the frame (if you can't get them deep enough, use a reciprocating saw to cut them so they are flush). At the ends, you want a stake against the outside of the frame at the midpoint. On the sides, the stakes go outside the frame at the midpoint if you are using one stake per side, or outside the frame one-third of the way in from each end if you are using two stakes. The corner stakes go inside the frame, flush against the corners. Use three deck screws to attach the frame to each stake.

Fill it and Plant

The last step before planting is to fill your planting bed with a mix of compost and soil. Be aware that the soil in your bed, particularly in the first season, will drain well and require frequent watering. Once your plants are planted, mulch the bed with grass clippings. This holds moisture in while preventing weeds from sprouting.

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