DIY Raised Garden Beds on Pinterest
I originally published this in spring 2012. Our DIY raised beds are still growing strong and we’ve added a few more over the years. Prices may have increased slightly over the last few years – but should be pretty close
Raised Bed Tutorial
I’ve dreamed of raised beds for years – but I was intimidated by the idea of building something. Intimidated by the cost. But in Spring 2012 we jumped in head first and we built our first raised garden bed – in an afternoon – and I realized just how easy and inexpensive they can be! We now have six raised beds that provide a bounty every summer and I’m so grateful that we went for it!
This tutorial is based on what we did to build our raised beds – but we don’t proclaim to be experts.
The price. I know there are probably cheaper ways to make these. I wanted a mixture of simple design, easy to acquire supplies (no stalking Craigslist or driving 30 miles for “free wood”) and frugal. I built two 8×4 raised beds and one 8×2 with an average cost of about $35 each, which I think is completely reasonable considering the bounty that will hopefully come from these and the years they will last. AND it’s about half of the going rate that I found for pre-built raised beds on Craigslist or the kits at Home Depot.
The design. I’ve spent plenty of time over the last two years reading online tutorials. I went with the easiest method and design possible (in my opinion). I had Home Depot even pre-cut my wood, so I wouldn’t have to bother. It was SIMPLE.
I’m no expert. My raised bed resume is short. This is it. I don’t pretend to be an expert and if you’re looking for a tutorial that would be certified by someone with a Bachelors in Raised Beds – this isn’t it. But I’ll share what we did, in hopes that it’s helpful.
SUPPLIES AND TOOLS
Good quality power drill – Early in our homeownership, we invested in a DEWALT DCD760KL 18-Volt 1/2-Inch Cordless Compact Lithium-Ion Drill/Driver Kit – and every time we use it, I am just gleeful at the time savings and ease! After years of handheld screwdrivers we are glad we now have power! It worked flawlessly on the raised bed boards.
2 inch galvanized screws. $8.47 a box. We used about 1.5 boxes to build the three beds. We used galvanized outdoor screws so they wouldn’t rust. There are probably cheaper screw options, we were at the mercy of the Home Depot sales people, who suggested these. They worked like a charm and probably worth every penny. So about $4.25 on screws for each raised bed.
Cedar boards, .5 inches x 4 inches x 8 feet. about $3.28 each. We used nine (9) for each 8×4 foot beds for a total of $29.35 per bed. And on the 8×2 foot bed we used eight (8) making it $26.32. We picked through the pile looking for ones with the fewest “knots” and the straightest line (not bowed or crooked). Don’t buy treated or stained woods – the chemicals will leach into your soil and your food!
Baluster, 2 inches x 2 inches x 36 inches. $1.49 each. Need two per bed for a total of $2.98 per bed. These are the supports we used in corners and mid-part of bed to give it some strength. Basically cut these to the length of THREE boards stacked on top of each other, if you used the ones shown above these need to be 10.5 inches tall. We had Home Depot cut these, too.
Cost per bed for 8 ft x 4 ft beds:
Boards 9 x $3.28 = $29.35
Screws = about $4.25 (half a box)
Balusters 2 x 1.49 = $2.98
Final price = $36.58
Cost per bed for 8 ft x 2 ft beds:
Boards 8 x $3.28 = $29.35
Screws = about $4.25 (half a box)
Balusters 2 x 1.49 = $2.98
Final price = $33.30
Before starting anything – observe your space over a few days to get a good idea of what kind of sun it gets. Measure the best area to determine the best side beds to make. It would be a shame to spend all this time and money building raised beds for an area not conducive to growing the things you want.
1.) Get prepared – The day before, make sure your power drill is charging and you have a back-up battery charged. Enlist another helper – it’s easier when trying to keep boards straight and flush.
2.) Cut your boards to size (or have someone do it for you!) – Like I mentioned earlier we had Home Depot cut our boards to the sizes we needed before we left the store. They do this for FREE, just tell them what you want. What a piece of cake!
3.) To pre-drill or not? The first raised bed we made, we drilled holes before drilling in the screws. I guess some people call this pre-drilling? The advantages to pre-drilling a hole is the screw will go in easier and you are less likely to have the screws crack or split your wood. The disadvantage of pre-drilling is it takes a lot longer – I’m not slick enough when it comes to changing out the drill bits, so it was cumbersome. On the last two beds, we got lazy and did not pre-drill, we had a few more little cracks and splintering, but we decided not enough to warrant the extra time to pre-drill. If we weren’t filling the beds with dirt, we might have cared a bit more. If you’re a perfectionist – pre-drill. If you don’t really care about imperfections, don’t. 🙂 (With this said if you are finding the screws are really cracking your boards – you need to pre-drill or it compromises the structure and longevity of your beds).
I did not measure out the spots for the pre-drilled holes. I just put the boards together like I wanted them and drilled the holes. The key is to keep the boards from moving before you can get the screw in. So we pre-drilled as we went and the extra set of hands was necessary to hold it in place.
I used the 3/32 drill bit for the 2-inch screws we bought. I’m not sure if this is exactly right, but it worked. I guess the key to pre-drilling holes is to find a drill bit that is a little smaller than the shank of the screw (without the threads). If the wood cracks/splinters as you drill in the screw you need a larger hole, if it goes in easily and feels loose, you need a smaller bit. 🙂 That’s what I gathered from Googling about drill bits, hope it’s helpful. 🙂
4.) Square corners – Find a nice even work space. Start by lining up the corners on your 8 foot board and your 4 foot board. Try to get a 90 degree corner. I’m guessing a T-square (Stanley 45-300 Aluminum Carpenters Square) might come in handy for this – but we weren’t too worried about it, so we didn’t bother.
5.) Work your way around. We started with making one corner. We drilled the two pieces together, then added the baluster support to the corner and screwed it in. Then we worked our way around until we had four corners. Try to avoid the dark knots in the wood – those are a pain and nearly impossible to drill through. And on the corners – just watch the screws coming from the other direction – I always drilled a little higher, to avoid hitting the other screws (hope this makes sense).
6.) And around again. Then work your way up! If you care about your bed being exactly 90 degree corners, try to wiggle and adjust after the first level. We didn’t bother.
7.) Mid-section support. This title makes me think of Spanx – but basically in the middle of each raised bed, we screwed a support to the three boards. This just gives the sides more support. I suppose we could have done two on each side, we’ll see how one on each side works.
8.) Next steps. A friend of mine stapled plastic sheeting inside his raised bed – to help keep moisture away from the wood and increase longevity. I think we are going to do this next. Then we will have dirt delivered. . . and then the tough part comes – shoveling and wheeling it into the backyard to fill these up!
My daughter tries to help. Don’t worry, we removed the battery so she wouldn’t injure herself and she really thought she was being helpful. You can see the detail along the side of the corner – it’s not perfect, but it will do!
Pin it here: How to Build Raised Beds
I told my son we would build him a raised bed in the backyard. He looked at me puzzled and said, “so I’m sleeping outside now?” Ha!
I’d love to hear how you made raised beds or if you have any tips for a better way to do things. Be nice – remember I don’t claim to be an expert. 🙂
Sata Scoggan says
Wow, this article was super helpful! I’ve spent ages looking for affordable raised beds for our new “suburban homestead” and was worried I wasn’t handy enough to make my own. Now I’ll give it a try!
Adelle Newton says
I just finished the first one and it turned out perfect. Thanks so much for sharing.
Your garden beds look so great and easy to make. I’m glad you included lists of pieces and estimated cost…makes it easy to plan! I am so inspired by your design and easy instruction that I will be using your plans but instead of making two completely separate beds, I will turn them into a U-shape connecting the two with a bed at one end…this way I can walk into the area and have more planting space. I’m also planning on extending the balusters, or braces, and installing fencing and a gate at the open end to keep the deer away. LOL
Thanx again for the inspiration!!
I love the instructions you provided for this project! Unfortunately our Home Depot doesn’t carry the cedar you used. They carry 5/4 x 6x 8 and they are $10.47 each. I will only need to use 6 pieces per bed but that brings the cost of cedar to $62.82 per bed. I didn’t even check screws and baluster costs yet. That’s a huge difference and a bit too much for our tiny budget. 🙁
Thank you so much for this super easy, assuring instruction set. I built mine out of four 1x6x8 boards and four 1x6x4 boards and I made the balusters four feet tall so that I could attach chicken wire for peas and cucumbers to vine up on and also to stretch it around the bed to keep my dear friends the bunnies out. Otherwise though I followed your directions and you made it to simple for me to build my first raised bed!! Thanks again!!!
dubey safford says
Thank you so much, this was very helpful. This grandma is making an attempt this weekend. Wish me luck!!
I have a sloping yard. How would you suggest to best build a bed with all the labor of dogging out a hole?
Did you remove the grass before filling bed with dirt or place a garden cloth barrier before filling with dirt?
Robert S says
You can leave the grass if you like. Just put newspaper or weed control fabric on the bottom,
I AM MAKING MY RAISED BED WITH 2″X10″X8′ ON SIDES AND 2″X10″X4′ ON THE ENDS, 2″X”2X20″ INSIDE CORNER SUPPORTS, ONE IN MIDDLE ON EACH SIDE SUPPORTS.
I BUILT ONE THAT IS HALF THE SIZE OF THE ONE I WILL BUILD. IT WORKS GREAT BUT I WANT TO PLANT MORE.
Scott Engle says
What is the product ID number for the boards you used? I went to HD yesterday to build a modified version of this and the inexpensive lumber used is not in my store
Thanks for all the great advice. This will be my first raised bed. I appreciate the tips about not hitting a screw when putting in another one. Some people have common sense about these things but as for me, I need easy to follow written instructions like yours!
Hello, I am working on constructing three of the 8ft x 4ft beds, and I have a couple questions:
Is 1 inch the best thickness for the wood? I saw one of the comments saying that 1 1/4in is best, but i’d like to get your take on it. I’m trying to make beds that would last a few years at least.
How much soil did you use to fill these? Where is a good place to find it commercially? What would be an estimated price?
FYI, your cedar boards are 5/4″, i.e. 1-1/4″ thick, not 0.5″ as indicated in the article. 0.5″ boards do exist, but would be terrible for a garden bed side wall trying to hold back hundreds of pounds of soil. So, in the interest of readers who may not know these things, and are following the instructions verbatim, a correction would probably be a good idea. Thanks.
I think for not self-proclaiming yourselves as any kind of experts, you certainly knew what you were doing; and though very modest, you managed to get your message through clearly. I have been a DIY all my life, will be tackling ‘your’ concept when building my raised beds, and am very pleased I came across your article, so thanks for sharing! I was researching this because I wasn’t sure what kind of wood to use, and you taught me much more, especially about the plastic on the inside, something I had not even thought of. Thank you! Sincerely, G.W.
The main thing to keep in mind is that this isn’t an expensive decoration, it’s a big bin to hold dirt. It doesn’t have to be perfect, the lines don’t have to be straight, you don’t need to use any certain materials…whatever will hold the dirt in place in the end.
Thank you for the tips. The most part I liked is your daughter’s help and your son thought about raised beds. LOL. I have two kids as well, 5 yrs old daughter and 9 years old son. Whenever they see me working in the backyard, they always come and offer me a help. Instead of helping me, they make the thing worst and I had to work more to clean up their mess.
M G Ba. says
This really is a great idea.last spring I bought vinyl beds for growing vegetables but those are comparatively expensive. I am all for DIY and I am sure this will be a great experience. I plan to have more raised beds to grow vegetable next spring and it would give me a lot of time to do this project. Thanks a lot for sharing this project
Warren Gaul says
Black Plastic is made from Oil by products.
Treated wood, even the new QCA Treated wood should not be used around food beds.
There is a black landscape fabric that does the same job ( of wicking moisture away from the wood – Allowing it to drain).
YOU DON’T HAVE TO GO TO THE TOP EDGE OF THE TOP BOARD OR THE BOTTOM EDGE OF THE BOTTOM BOARD IF THAT MAKES SENSE. IT IS ONLY A SUPPORT TO TIE THE THREE BOARDS TOGETHER.
Monica C says
Mechanical engineer that specialized in non-metallic materials. The “black plastic” you mentioned does not leach chemicals in the presence of plain water. In fact, it is the same type of plastic your tooth brush is made from.
Covering treated lumber with the black polyethylene sheet (6 mm) is a very good barrier between the treated wood and the soil. For longevity reasons, one may consider making the lowermost board (which will be in contact with the ground) treated, and use cedar for the rest.
Thanks for this post, it’s super helpful for a novice like me. I am however a bit confused by your measurements. If the boards are stacked up 3 high and they are 4″ in height each, wouldn’t you need 12″ support beams not 10.5″ if you are doing the height of the bed? Or am I missing something here? Thank you!
Lumber is called “4-inch” but it has been milled to make it smooth, so a four-inch board is actually about 3.5 inches. Times 3 is 10.5″.
4 inche boards are Really 3.5 inches.
Angela Zeigler says
The biggest expense in raised beds is filling with soil. The beds them self are cheap enough however, having enough soil (even low grade plain top soil, adds up to athe least 5 times the cost of the bed.
I agree. We’ve been looking at replacing our traditional garden with raised beds and the cost of the topsoil is very high.
“Cedar boards, .5 inches x 4 inches x 8 feet. about $3.28 each” could not find at this cost in home depot. they are atleast 10$ each. please advise
I found them at Home Depot today for just over $4.00 each. I’d ask someone there and see if they can help you locate them!
The pressure treated wood no longer contains poisons that it used to. If you line the beds with plastic, it shouldn’t be a problem, and the boxes should last longer.
Is the plastic lining going to somehow contaminate the soil?
Monica C says
No. Polyethylene sheet does not contaminate soil in the presence of water. In fact, it absorbs several types of oil.