Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Low-cost Raised Beds

When we first bought our house, we were pretty strapped for cash, but I still wanted to put in a couple of raised garden beds and get some vegetables going right away.  I was building a fence at the time, and had some cedar fence pickets lying around that were too ugly to use on the fence.  So I tacked some together to make some raised beds.  Six years later, they're going strong, so I'm sharing this idea.  I wouldn't bother building anything more sturdy and expensive unless they needed to be much deeper for a really wet site.

For each bed you will need:

Three fence pickets.  You want 1x6 square top pickets, 6 ft long.  Don't mess with any nasty treated wood or try to do with plain pine or hemlock boards.  You want red cedar, and the ones with the darker red and brown colors are the most rot-resistant.  They should cost anywhere from $1.25 to $2.75 each, depending on the grade and where you get them.

Two 1 ft stakes, so get a couple of feet of cedar 1x2 material for each bed you plan to make.

Eight #8 x 2" and two #8 x 1-1/2" screws, flat head if you have a countersink, otherwise pan-head.  Get them in stainless if you like, but any decent galvanized or 'gold' coated will be fine.

Cut one of the boards into two equal lengths, about 3 ft.  These are the ends.  The uncut long boards are the sides.  Important:  Cedar tends to split, so predrill and countersink the sides, about 1" in from each end.  Screw the sides to the ends.

Put the screws an inch or so in from the end of the board to reduce splitting
Sit the frame on the ground where you want the bed to be, and drive a 1 ft. stake at the midpoint of each side.  If the soil is wet and soft, this should be easy and you probably won't even need to sharpen the stake.  Put a screw through each stake into the side of the bed frame, about an inch down from the top.  The stakes will keep the relatively flimsy boards from blowing out under the weight of the soil inside the bed.
Reinforcing stake at the middle of each long side

Now fill the bed with a nice mixture of compost and soil, and stir in any bone meal, lime, or other amendments you might need, and get gardening.

Two of my beds.  Herbs in the back, berries in the front (and a garlic escapee)