Building a Raised Garden Bed

Feeding your family with fresh vegetables grown at home is a satisfying way to stay healthy and save money.  Designing your bed with the right materials will give you years of vigorous vegetable growth without additional inputs.  I was able to build this great raised bed for under $100 dollars.  Hopefully this will give you some ideas on how to create a garden for your house.

Step 1: The Placement

I chose a site on the west side of my house for this garden.  Positioning the garden running East to West will get me good solar exposure across the length of the bed.  A large Oak tree North of the bed will give it some shade during the heat of the Summer.  I will get direct sunshine in the late morning and late afternoon in the Summer.  I will get sun all day in the spring and fall during my peak gardening seasons.

Step 2: The Walls

I chose to purchase landscape timbers from a local box store primarily due to price.  These timbers were less than $2 per 8′ section.  I would prefer to use wood that is not chemically treated or stone, but I did not have that readily available for this project.

4 landscape timbers were cut in half to create the ends.  The overall size is 4′ x 16′.  I used 20 landscape timbers to create this bed.  To fasten the landscape timbers together I used 6″ galvanized nails.  Each hole was pre drilled and the nails were hammered into place interlocking the timbers for strength.

Step 3: The Liner

I stapled some heavy black plastic from heavy duty contractor garbage bags I had available to the inside of the bed to protect the Landscape timbers from constant moisture and to protect my food from any chemicals leaching from the treated wood.

Step 4: The Bottom Layer

To kill the grass growing on the bottom of the bed, I cleared out my paper recycle bin and covered the bottom of the bed with a layer of newspaper, cardboard and junk mail.  I carefully reviewed all the material and made sure I only used paper products in the base layer.  It was a bit satisfying to see the junk mail actually getting used for something productive.

Then I went for a drive around the neighborhood on Sunday afternoon.  All my neighbors had been busy working in their yards over the weekend and placed bags of grass clippings, hedge clippings and raked leaves out at the side of the road to be picked up.  So I did, and took about a dozen bags home to put on the bottom layer of my garden bed.

As I was emptying the bags into my garden bed, I tried to evenly mix the green grass clippings and the brown leaves and twigs as evenly as possible so they would break down at the same rate.

Step 5: The Wood Layer

Large pieces of wood will keep my garden watered and fed in the coming years.  Wood is like a big sponge that takes up moisture and slowly releases it as the plants need it.  As these logs break down they will add organic matter and continue to feed the plants.

I was able to collect a few nice pieces from the roadside, but got most of it from a co-worker that had a tree cut a year ago and was happy to have me haul away the pile of wood in her yard.  Wood that has been cut and dried out, even if it is starting to decay is the best wood for these projects.  If green wood is used, the bed will start out slower to allow the wood time to start the decay process and get a good colony of soil microbes growing on it.

Step 6: More Organic Matter

On my way home from work I was able to pick up another dozen bags of leaves and grass clippings on the side of the road.  I mixed these and worked them all around the wood to fill the bed evenly.  I was also mixing in shovel loads of topsoil into the mixture and tamping everything down to make sure I did not have any large air pockets.

I soaked all the materials with lots of water.  Added more topsoil and washed it in again to make sure I had a solid base or organic material and soil for the worms and soil microbes to live in.

Step 7: The Topsoil

I picked up a yard of topsoil from a local landscape supply vendor.  This was enough to give me a good layer over the organic base materials to plant in. I mounded it up higher in the middle to keep from having any soil wash out of the bed and to account for some expected shrink as the organic material breaks down over the next few months.

A final soaking an it is ready to plant and mulch.  I will be sharing the progress of this garden in the coming months.

The Estimated Cost

  • $40 – Landscape Timbers
  • $20 – Galvanized 6″ nails
  • $30 – One Yard of Topsoil
  • Free – Organic Materials
  • Priceless – Fresh Vegetables
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4 Responses to Building a Raised Garden Bed

  1. organic food says:

    Hi, just wanted to tell you, I enjoyed this post.
    It was practical. Keep on posting!

  2. Adam says:

    Thanks for the post!! I am going to do this perfect and inexpensive, my wife will be happy once it is setup. Can’t wait to have some fresh veggies and heirloom tomatoes.

  3. YOUTH MINISTER DONISE GRACE says:

    thank you for sharing./ i really love how you spelled everthing out in your pictures.what a excellent teacher you are. jeremiah 33 verse 3 thank you./love donise grace/ youth minister voices and faces ministries house of God. aug 28,2015

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