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How to Build a Raised Bed Garden

Use these step-by-step instructions to construct an attractive garden box with an attached bench, perfect for vegetables, herbs, or cut flowers.

| April/May 2019

Photo by Joe Dodd

Garden beds can make any yard come alive. The best part about having a raised bed is that it looks attractive even in the offseason, because it defines and organizes the space in the yard. A simple U-shaped bed offers maximum growing space with all-around access. Adding a little bench to the cap can really dress it up. This 8-by-9-foot U-shaped raised bed can be a focal piece or complement other features in the yard. Plan to hand-water unless you want to install an irrigation system.

Before You Build

Select your location. Pick a sunny area that’s fairly level and easy to get to. These instructions will create a garden box that fits a 9-by-9-foot space and is designed to be placed against a fence; you can adjust yours to be bigger or smaller depending on your area. However, don’t go smaller than 30 inches in width for the arms, as it will get too tight to plant two rows of veggies.

Select and cut your lumber. I used “merch” redwood, which is rough and imperfect, because it lowers the price significantly and works great for a rough, rustic veggie bed. Use raw redwood or cedar for planters. Never use pressure-treated lumber for a vegetable garden. With a miter saw, cut all your lumber to the specified dimensions above, or adjust for your own space.

Grade your site. Most sites will need some slight leveling to get an even building surface. You have two options: Dig out the high areas and transfer the soil to the low areas, or build up the entire space with 3/4-inch gravel. Compact it with a hand tamper, and use a rake to level it out.

You can modify the dimensions shown for your raised bed, but if you do, remember to recalculate the lumber requirements too.
Illustration by Sara Bendrick

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