Raised Bed Tutorial
One of the most common questions I get is – how did you build your raised beds!?! I had blogged about this back in the spring of 2012 when I built raised garden beds back then – but supply prices have increased, so this is an updated raised bed tutorial based on what I was able to find in spring of 2020.
The raised garden beds in this tutorial are 8 feet by 4 feet. I did this because it reduces the number of cuts needed (I’m using 8 feet long boards). I will also premise this post with I am not an expert – not even close. This tutorial is just me sharing how I managed to assemble basic rectangular boxes in my yard and fill them with dirt 🙂 – so please keep this in mind as you move forward.
Now let’s talk about the price. There are probably cheaper ways to make these. Based on my research of raised bed kits on Amazon – these are definitely a more frugal choice – especially when looking at surface area for planting. I went for a simple design with easy to acquire supplies. This means supplies I can easily find at any hardware store – and not stalking Craigslist and driving 30 miles for “free wood” – but if that’s your thing, you could probably cut some corners in terms of cost.
The cost of each raised bed was about $58 (just supplies to assemble, does not include dirt) – this is quite a jump from my raised beds from 2012 when I managed to build them for $35. Blame it on inflation I guess. . . but even still, for an 8×4 space to grow your own food, I think $58 each is still a hell of a deal when you compare to raised bed kits on Amazon and other options.
Let’s get into the nitty gritty of the building. . . .
RAISED BED TUTORIAL :: SUPPLIES
Good quality power drill – The most important tool you’ll need when building a raised bed is a good quality power drill. We bought something similar to this DEWALT 20V MAX Cordless Drill / Driver Kit, Compact, 1/2-Inch (DCD771C2) more than 10 years ago and it’s still going strong. If you’re a homeowner this is investment you’ll use often and you can get a nice, rechargeable drill for around $100. Of course you can always reach out to friends, family or neighbors to see about borrowing a drill for the day – and that’s a great way to save some initial costs (just share some veggies with them when they start growing)!
Cedar boards 5/4 inches x 6 inches x 8 feet (actual size 1.03 inch x 5.5 inch x 8 feet) Quantity 6 – I changed this up from my last raised bed tutorial and bought a taller board. I did the math and these ended up being less expensive in the long run because we didn’t need to use as many (also means less screws and time). For each 8 feet x 4 feet raised beds you’ll need six (6) of these boards – costing $53.28 in wood for each bed. When picking out your boards look for ones with fewest “knots” and the straightest lines (not bowed or bent) – this will make things easier when assembling.
There is some debate on whether or not you should use treated wood (lasts longer) or non-treated wood (I like cedar) for your raised beds. This is definitely something I recommend you research separately from this blog post to make the best decision for yourself. Ultimately I went with regular cedar boards because I like the look of it – love the smooth finish and the lack of chemicals. I acknowledge that this means I’ll need to replace boards or beds sooner than I would have if I used the treated – but I just feel better personally using non-treated wood to grow my food.
Extra support for sides/corners of bed – I used these furring strips because they were inexpensive – just $1.18 each and they are 8 feet long. These go in the corners and along the long side of the bed for extra support. Each furring strip is 96 inches long and we cut these into 10 inch lengths (our raised beds are 11 inches tall and these will be on the inside of the bed, so they don’t have to be any taller than that). You can cut 9 supports from each furring strip – making them 13 cents each. You need six (6) of these 10-inch supports for each bed for a cost of $0.79 cents per bed.
Outdoor screws 8×15/8 – I paid $8.98 for a box of 75 Fas-n-Tite Wood Exterior Wood Screws 8×5/8 this comes out to 12 cents a screw. We used 28 screws for each bed, that’s $3.36 per each raised bed.
Cost per raised bed ::
Boards 6 x $8.88 = $53.28
Screws = 28 screws x $0.12 = $3.36
Furring Strip supports = $0.79
Final price = $57.43
RAISED BED TUTORIAL INSTRUCTIONS
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. Clear your building space – which should be flat open space.
2.) Cut your boards to size (or have someone do it for you!) – If you go into Lowes or Home Depot organized and knowing what you want – they should be able to cut your boards for you for free. We had invested in a Hitachi C10FCG 15-Amp 10″ Single Bevel Compound Miter Saw and were able to cut our boards at home. For each raised bed you’ll need four (4) 8 feet boards not cut and four (2) 4-feet boards.`
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 this round of raised beds we did NOT predrill holes. We had a few boards that split – but not enough that I really feel it compromised the structure of the bed.
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. We used the Swanson Tool S0101 7-inch Speed Square Layout Tool with Blue Book this time around to get our corners square. You can use any item that has a 90 degree corner to square up your corners.
5.) Work your way around the rectangle – We started with one corner and worked our way around the rectangle – making sure all the corners were square. Once you get all four sides on the box – add the 10-inch furring strip to the corners so you have something to attach the next level of boards to (similar to photo above, but we are using taller boards so they will hit higher on the furring strip)
6.) Repeat for the second layer – Secure the boards to add a second layer to the wall of your raised beds
7.) Finish by adding supports along long side. I added a support in the middle of each long side of the board – screwed into both the top/bottom boards to add a little extra support.
I hope this diagram is helpful – shows where all the wood goes and the general construction of the 8 x 4 raised beds!
Let’s talk dirt. You can’t grow anything unless you add dirt, huh!? Well using this dirt calculator from our local company Great Western Supply, each of our raised beds should require about a yard of soil. From what I can tell – the most economical way to fill your raised garden beds with dirt is to find a local soil company and haul your own.
For Great Western Supply – you can haul a yard of garden mix (or preferred choice for soil) for just $17.95. That brings your cost for EVERYTHING (except seeds) to $58 + $17.95 for each bed = $75.96 per raised bed. (See Great Western prices here)
We had so many beds that we just opted to have 10 yards of dirt DELIVERED – which sure is the easiest way to do things. Basically a dump truck pulls into your driveway (or where ever you want the dirt) and dumps all your dirt for you. This comes out to $27.95 a yard – but includes delivery. This obviously increases the cost of each bed by $10 . . . but if you need a LOT of dirt it’s probably the most reasonable way to go. Shop around and find your favorite company. Make sure you know what TYPE of dirt is being delivered – they are all very different.
Before we filled the raised beds – we put down cardboard boxes in the bottom over the grass. We did this on our last batch of beds and ideally it should stop weed and grass growth. This time around, we found some old clear plastic garbage bags in the garage and laid those along the sides to protect the wood a little longer. We did not staple or adhere them at all all (mostly because we didn’t have a staple gun handy) – so we hung the plastic along the top edges of the beds and trimmed it back after we added dirt. We’ll see how this addition pans out over time.
So there you have it! I hope this raised bed tutorial helps you build your own raised beds without too much difficulty and cost. I’d love to hear from you! Share your favorite raised bed suggestions and/or feedback on this DIY raised bed tutorial!