Now that gardening season has come to the Pacific Northwest, I was able to complete my first big garden project of the year. Last week, with some help from my dad (though his role was mostly a teaching one, I swear) I built my first raised bed for my vegetable garden. Gardening in a raised bed allows you to better control the quality of your soil. It will give your plants’ roots a little extra room to grow, and will help keep out weeds and unwanted insects. My garden currently consists of a patch of dirt right next to the house, but this year I’ve decided to add a raised bed to give me more garden space in a sunnier area. For a non-handy girl, this project was about as simple and straightforward as you can get.
1. First things first: a trip to the hardware store gave us 3 2X6 pieces of lumber, one of which I sawed in half. This will make a 4X8 bed, the perfect size for being able to reach all of your plants.
2. Next, I drilled two holes in each end of the short pieces. Each hole was an inch in from the side and 3/4 of an inch from the edge, so that they would match up with the ends of the long pieces. I then matched up all the joints and drilled holes all the way through to the long pieces, exactly where the screws were going to go. (My dad says this two-step drilling process makes it easier for the screws to go in straight.)
3. After I drilled the holes, I lightly tapped a nail in to hold it in place so that the whole bed would be in alignment.
4. Then, one by one, I took out the nails and replaced them with screws. And that’s it; you have a raised bed. However, because our yard is fairly uneven, we took some extra steps to make sure our bed would be absolutely level. For one, I screwed a piece of scrap wood across one corner of the bed, as seen below, so that it would maintain it’s shape as we moved it about. We removed the piece when we were finished, and it’s entirely optional.
5. Using some more scrap wood, we pounded four stakes into the ground at the four corners of the bed. These would help us mark the area, and would eventually serve as our way of leveling it.
6. One side was much higher than the other, so we (my dad) dug in a bit on that side.
7. The next step was to use a level to figure out where the bed needed to be, and while I held the bed level, my dad drilled the corners into the stakes. In the end, one side ended up being a few inches higher than the ground, which we accommodated by drilling a few pieces of plywood to the inside of the bed that will be long enough to meet the ground. Another option would be to just fill in the space with rocks, scrap wood, or in our case, the sod that was dug up from the other side.
8. Finally, I laid some cardboard down inside the bed to keep the weeds out until we are ready to fill it with topsoil. The cardboard will decompose and become part of the garden.
Our project was a little more involved than it needed to be, mostly due to my dad’s perfectionist tendencies. In reality, securely screwing four pieces of lumber together will give you a raised bed. Despite our extra steps, though, from start to finish it took all of two hours and $10.56. Not bad for 32 square feet of new food-growing space!