As you might remember, I love gardening. Every summer I typically do container gardens. Not for lack of gardening space, but because the best spots were taken by other things, and I never had the time nor frame of mind to really tear down and build up, so to speak. I do love container gardens for many reasons, and a raised garden bed is pretty much just a big ol’ container garden!
But this year a few events worked in our favor & some great spots were open. So my woodworker Jay decided to finally build me some raised garden beds! What a great early birthday gift. And it turns out, it’s actually a super easy DIY project that you can make in one weekend.
First off, the area should be completely void of grass, flowers, bushes, roots, or trees. We had a fence put up, and three trees and over 20 bushes and shrubs that were overgrown/unwanted were removed professionally, so we had a LOT of clear area to work with!
See? That’s three trees. Piled up in my yard for firewood. I’m not lying when I tell you we had a lot of greenery removed. Anyway, because of that, we had a lot of wide open areas by the new fence that got sunlight now. I’d suggest finding the perfect spot and keeping an eye on it from sun-up (or shortly after) until sundown. Make sure it gets 6-8 hours of sun a day or that you get at least a varying sun/shade period over the course of the day. If you’re not like us, and lucky enough to have your area cleared out by a pro, then clear it out yourself. Remove anything you don’t want/that might interfere. Trim tree branches so the sun can reach the spot. Pull out any grass/weeds/flowers. Rake up and till the soil thoroughly. Measure out the size you want before removing anything, and if you’re unsure you can always use sticks and string to “fake it” to see if that’s the final placement you want. Keep it there a day or two, watch the sunlight it gets, and see how you like it. When it’s a go then you’re ready for the next step.
The first thing you need to do after that is buy your wood. We used a tutorial from Sunset.com and adapted it to suit us. The bed you see here is 4′ x 8.’ It’s laid out this way:
You can make yours smaller or longer or more square- it’s up to you. You’ll need to buy cedar to make it, though, because it’s tough, excellent for outdoor use, and of course, untreated… because this will be used for edible plants. No chemicals in my food!
- One 6-ft long cedar 4-by-4
- Six 8-ft long 1-by-6’s
- 32 3″ wood screws
We didn’t do the PVC piping or the hardware mesh, but that was just personal choice. The construction of this is very basic & simple. If you can measure and cut wood, you’re gonna be fine. Here’s the link to the tutorial for actually building it. The building took Jay less than ONE hour to do.
Once it’s built, then you’re ready to move it outside (unless you made it outside) and place it. Place it, double check, do any final adjustments and then dig your holes for the 4 posts.
This part was very easy. Then you just pop it in the holes and shovel the dirt back to fill any gaps.
Now we have to fill it with top soil. Because we had so many trees removed, and all the stumps were ground, we ended up with tons of wood mulch all over the place. We had to get rid of it, fully aerate and till the soil, remove any stray roots or leaves, and make sure it was broken up. It has to be easy to mix with the garden soil.
We used a combination of Vigoro organic garden soil/compost & Vigoro organic potting soil. It was fully in stock at the place we went to when we needed to buy the 22 bags of it, so that’s what we went with. Dr. Earth is also a good brand to use, as is Ocean Forest. We needed 32 cubic feet for the 4′ x 8′ bed. If you choose to alter the size, I’d recommend this calculator for figuring out how much you need to buy, however you can also figure it out manually using this formula:
Determine the volume of your planter box by multiplying the width by the length by the depth. For example, if you have a length of 5 feet, a width of 4 feet and a depth of 2 feet, the volume would be 40 cubic feet (5 x 4 x 2 = 40). This is the amount of dirt you will need to fill your raised planter box. This would equal 20 bags of soil sold in bags containing 2 cubic feet of dirt each.
And this seems to be the recommended percentage:
- 60% topsoil
- 30% compost
- 10% non-soil growing mix with vermiculite/perlite, etc
If you choose to use a garden mix/potting mix instead of topsoil as we did, you most likely don’t need to use the other two since most potting mixes have those things incorporated in them already. You can do that because technically a raised bed is a “container” garden, so potting soil is perfectly acceptable to use.
You mix 2-3″ of your new soil with your native soil. Thoroughly mix it in, using a spade or shovel if need be. Then continue filling it; after emptying each bag, smooth it out and rake it into an even level.
(we did this a few days later, and it was getting dark, hence the bad photo)
Then, you plant your veggies & herbs! Mine were sitting around awhile waiting to be planted, but if you create this bed at the beginning of the season, you might have just seeds/seedlings to plant. All of mine were well established. We have 4 tomato varieties, 4 pepper varieties, 2 cucumber varieties, 2 broccoli varieties, cauliflower, “Fairytale” eggplant, and green beans. As far as herbs go we have sweet basil, cinnamon basil, rosemary, chives, lemon balm, dill, Italian oregano, cilantro, flat leaf parsley, chocolate mint & sweet mint.
And then you need to label them! I used Sharpies to draw on wood shims. They come in all sizes and are cheap. You can use paint stirrers, painted rocks, popsicle sticks, old silverware… just about anything if you’re creative! Or you can just use the seed packets themselves. A quick search on Pinterest gave me a ton of ideas. Get inventive with it… after all, you’re gonna be seeing them every day, might as well make them pretty.
After about a week, we debated adding the cedar fencing. I initially bought some because while we live in a suburban area not far from an urban area, there are a surprisingly large number of bunnies & squirrels around here! Even with the large vinyl fence around our yard, they might be curious and try to nibble. I love having them around but I don’t want them eating my tomatoes! I bought this fencing in rolls at Lowe’s. You could also make your own, or follow the directions in the original tutorial on Sunset.com for adding the netting on top of the bed. We haven’t added the fence yet, we’re still thinking about it.
I also tied a few metallic cellophane crinkly things to a tiny Shepherd’s hook in the middle to deter birds from eating any seeds; the metallic look blowing in the wind resembles fire to a bird, and they won’t go near it. I refuse to use pesticide or chemicals in any way, so these are cheap easy fixes to attempt to repel little critters. Aluminum foil works as well as metallic ribbons.
I kept my strawberries in a pot, separate. This is an Alpine variety that’s specifically not a “trailing” or runner berry- it’s called “Alexandria”, and the berries are perfect for jams/jellies/pies. We named them “Dotty’s Strawberries” because Grandma Dotty loved her strawberries & strawberry jam.
As far as bugs go, I use a mix of dishwashing detergent, vinegar and water and spray it on the plants when the sun goes down if I see any signs of pests. Dr. Bronner’s or Fels-Naptha can be diluted with water and used as well. Again, I don’t use chemicals on anything in my yard. For fertilizer I use crushed egg shells (they provide calcium & also deter slugs/snails, etc), Epsom salts (Magnesium Sulfate makes lush gardens- roses love it too!) & Dr. Earth Tomato, Vegetable & Herb fertilizer.
And that’s it! It’s ready to be harvested as soon as all those little buds grow into deliciously fresh edibles, which is very close to happening.
I wanna see your gardens! So… show me on any social media account, or link me here in the comments.