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Benefits of raised bed gardening

Where to buy raised garden beds

How to build a raised garden bed

Installation / tips / layout suggestions

Raised garden bed supplies

Or, browse raised garden beds in the Eartheasy store:

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The Benefits of Raised Bed Gardening

Raised garden beds, also called garden boxes, are great for growing small plots of veggies and flowers. They keep pathway weeds from your garden soil, prevent soil compaction, provide good drainage and serve as a barrier to pests such as slugs and snails. The sides of the beds keep your valuable garden soil from being eroded or washed away during heavy rains. In many regions, gardeners are able to plant earlier in the season because the soil is warmer and better drained when it is above ground level.

By raising the soil level, raised garden beds also reduce back strain when bending over to tend the bed. This is especially helpful to older gardeners or people with bad backs. And if the beds are built well, the gardener can sit on the edge of the bed while weeding, and for some gardeners this is the biggest benefit of all.

Raised beds are not the same as garden planters. Planters are elevated containers which have bottoms to prevent the soil from falling out. Planter bottoms usually are slatted, with some type of semi-permeable cloth barrier which permits drainage. Raised beds, however, do not have bottoms; they are open to the ground, which offers the benefit of permitting plant roots to go further into the ground for available nutrients.

Raised garden beds are available in a variety of different materials, or they can be made with relative ease.

 
The Farmstead cedar mortise & tenon raised garden bed






The GrowCamp Garden Bed






Build your own elevated garden bed






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Redwood Raised Garden Bed Kit






Raised Garden Beds, kits & planters for sale






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Where to Buy Raised Garden Beds, and Raised Bed Components

Note: Below is a small selection of what we offer. To see our full line of garden beds for sale, click here.

Composite timber raised garden bed

Composite Timber Garden Beds

- Made of a blend of wood fiber and UV-protected polypropylene.
- 100% recycled material.
- Connecting joints made of high impact durable ABS plastic resin
- Available in many sizes; can be stacked for added height
- Easy to set up: takes a few minutes
more info, or to purchase

Natural Cedar Raised  Bed


Natural Cedar Raised Beds

- highest quality, rot resistant Port Orford cedar
- lapped corners held in place with 3/8" aluminum rods
- aluminum cross-supports on larger sizes prevent bowing
- available in various widths and lengths
more info, or to purchase

Farmstead Raised Garden Beds

Farmstead Cedar Garden Beds

- available in three sizes
- easy to stack for additional height
- naturally rot and insect resistant; no metal parts to rust
- very easy to assemble; also easy to disassemble if you move
more info, or to purchase

Cedar raised garden beds with decorative posts

Cedar Raised Beds with decorative posts & optional trellis

- available in several different lengths, widths and configurations
- all stainless steel hardware perfect for raised bed gardening
- decorative posts prevent hose from sliding across bed
- some models have optional attached trellis
more info, or to purchase

Recycled Plastic Raised Beds

Recycled Plastic Raised Beds

- made of 100% high-quality, durable HDPE recycled plastic
- withstands extreme temperatures, will not split, rot or mold
- available in 4 sizes, 2 height options, 5 color choices
- extremely durable, guaranteed for 50 years
more info, or to purchase

Elevated Container Gardens

Elevated Container Garden Planters

- grow vegetables or flowers on patios, balconies and  restricted spaces
- made of rot resistant cedar; available in three heights
- cross-slatted bottom with heavy-duty permeable liner
- 24" high model is ideal for wheelchair gardening
more info, or to purchase

Recycled Plastic Raised Garden Bed

Modular Raised Garden Beds

- built-in 'mini-greenhouse', cold frame components
- zero-maintenance, all-weather, different designs available
- available in 4' x 4', 4' x 8', can be expanded
- insect netting included on some models
more info, or to purchase

complete garden kits

'Ready-to-Grow' complete raised bed garden kits

- made of weather-resistant cedar
- gopher and mole-proof options; rabbit-proof fencing
- built-in irrigation system
- attached 6' trellis for climbing vegetables
- available in six different layouts and sizes
more info, or to purchase

Farmstead & Natural Cedar Raised Garden Bed Assembly Videos:



Raised bed components and corner brackets:

Use these interlocking joints, or the steel corner brackets, to make any size, shape or height raised bed. Either of these 'do-it-yourself' systems are designed to fit standard size lumber which you provide.

Anchor joints

Anchor Joints

(left) stake into the ground; moveable brackets adjust to any angle, and hold and fasten composite timbers or any standard 2"x6" lumber. - more info, or to purchase

Stacking Joints

(left, lower) slide into Anchor Joints to create additional height. - more info, or to purchase

stacking joints

raised bed corner brackets

Composite lumber >

Recycled polypropylene/wood-fiber timbers, in 4' lengths.
Durable, long-lasting.
Fits perfectly with Anchor and Stacking Joints.
- more info, or to purchase


< Corner Brackets >

• build any size raised bed    • use your own wood
• durable powder-coated steel with stainless steel screws
• easy to assemble
- more info, or to purchase

composite timbers

raised bed corner brackets

How to Build a Raised Garden Bed

Gardeners can build their own elevated garden beds with relative ease. You will need to decide what kind of wood to use, how tall you want the bed to be, and whether you want to build the entire bed yourself or use pre-made corner braces which simplify the construction process and provide a secure corner that won't work loose over time.

What kind of wood to use?

In most cases, cedar is the best wood to use for garden beds because cedar is naturally rot resistant. Western red cedar is commonly used, but Vermont white cedar, Port Orford (yellow) cedar and Juniper are also great choices for outdoor construction projects. Redwood is another excellent rot-resistant wood, but redwood is a more limited resource. How long the wood will last depends on the type of cedar and your local weather conditions. In our garden, we use red cedar for building the beds, and some of these beds have lasted 15 years. In general, you should expect about 10 years from a cedar bed before it begins to deteriorate.

How tall should the bed be?

You can build the bed to any desired height up to 36". The most common height is 11", which is the height of two stacked 2" x 6" boards. If you have good soil beneath the bed, the roots will go down deeper as needed to access more soil and nutrients, so you can even have beds that are only 6" high. If you want a taller bed, remember that as you go taller, the weight of the added soil will add pressure to the sides, and will bow them outward. This is easily prevented by including cross-supports. We recommend using cross-supports in any beds which are taller than 18", or longer than 6'.

It is also important to consider the soil depth requirements for the roots of the vegetables you want to plant. Depending on the soil conditions beneath your bed, you may want to build the sides of your bed higher for certail crops. For more information, read our article Soil Depth Requirements for Popular Vegetables.

How wide and long should the bed be?

We recommend bed width to be no wider that 4' across. This is because it is easy to reach the center of the bed from either side, and for people with long arms, to reach across the bed. It's important to keep the width this narrow to avoid having to step on the bed since this would compress the soil. The bed can be any length as long as cross supports are installed every 4' - 6' along the length of the bed to prevent bowing. We think longer beds are best, if you have the garden space.

We have built many raised beds over the years, and our construction process has evolved. The method described here is, in our opinion, the simplest method of building a raised garden bed, and it requires no special tools or expertise. Using this method, you can build your bed to any desired length, width and height.

Tools & Materials:

LUMBER

Use cedar "2 x" boards for the sides. These are commonly 2" x 6", but you can use 2" x 4" or 2" x 8" boards if this is what you have available. (2" boards bought at a lumber yard are actually 1.5" thick..) For the corner posts, use 4" x 4"’s, cut to 10" longer than the desired height of the bed. If your bed is going to be longer than 8', you'll need extra posts to put in mid-span to prevent bowing and to provide a place to secure the cross-supports.

In the photos below, we used 2" x 4" boards for the posts instead of 4" x 4"s. This is because the wood we had was full dimension, i.e., the 2" thickness was a full 2". If you get your wood from a mill, they can cut it full dimension for you.

FASTENINGS

Use 3.5" #10 coated deck screws for the project. You'll need six screws for each corner and two for each mid-span post. If you are using cross-supports, get a few 1" stainless screws.

CROSS SUPPORTS

Buy several lengths of 1/2" aluminum flat stock. This is available at most hardware stores, usually in 8' lengths. It is very easy to cut with a hacksaw and to drill for the screws.

TOOLS

Hand saw, square, carpenter's level, mallet (or sledge), screwdriver, hacksaw, drill.

Is treated lumber safe?

In 2003, the EPA banned the sale of lumber treated with chromated copper arsenate (CCA) for residential use. Two compounds, alkaline copper quat (ACQ) and copper azole (CA-B), have now replaced CCA wood in the residential market. Both contain copper and a fungicide but no arsenic. The copper keeps insects at bay, and the fungicide prevents soil fungus from attacking the wood. In ACQ, the fungicide is quat, which is also used in swimming-pool chemicals and as a disinfectant. The other compound, CA-B, uses copper and tebuconazole, a fungicide used on food crops. According to Miles McEvoy, who works in organic certification with the Washington State Department of Agriculture, no pressure-treated wood is allowed in soils used to grow organic food. If you want to meet this high standard, choose a different material.

Until the safety of treated wood is proven conclusively, we recommend you use a naturally rot-resistant wood like red cedar, black locust or redwood. Under most circumstances, these woods will last 10 - 20 years when used for raised beds. Recycled composite plastic lumber is another alternative, and is now available in a variety of sizes and colors.

 

Construction:

Assembling the raised bed frame

1. Cut and assemble the basic frame, block it up to level

Clear the area where the bed will be located, because you will be building the bed "in place".

Use a square to mark the ends and saw the boards to desired length. Put two screws in each corner to hold it together for now. Set a level on the frame and place blocks beneath it to keep it level. Do this for the ends and the sides.

Driving in the corner posts

2. Drive in corner posts and screw the boards into them

Cut the post pieces longer than you will need. You can saw a point on the bottom of the posts, although is it not essential.

Set the first post into the corner of the frame and drive the post into the ground a few inches. Screw the frame into the post, using two screws per side. Set the other posts in place and screw them in the same way.

Filling in the raised bed with soil

3. Fill in boards to ground. Saw post tops flush to sides

Now add the bottom row of boards down to ground level, using the same method of simply screwing into the posts. You may have to dig into the ground in places to get the boards to fit.

Using a hand saw, cut the posts where they stick up, so that they are flush to the sides of the bed. Smooth the ground in the pathway and start filling the bed with soil.

Adding cross bracing

4. Add cross-bracing

If your bed is longer than 8', or taller than 18", it's a good idea to use cross-bracing. This will prevent the bed from bowing outwards in the center of the span.

Use a hacksaw to cut the aluminum flat stock to the exact width of the bed. Drill a hole in each end, and use a 1" stainless screw to attach the cross-brace to the posts at either side of the span.

Finished product!

5. Top up the bed with soil and get gardening!

Use your best garden soil to top off the bed. If there are rocks, the soil can be screened through a piece of 1/2" mesh. Or you can just pull out any rocks you come across.

Add soil amendments such as peat, lime, rock phosphate and organic fertilizer, as needed. Spray the soil with a fine spray, and top it off again because the water will lower the soil level a bit.

Now your bed is ready to plant!

 

Raised Bed Installation / Tips / Layout Suggestions

Raised Garden Beds Horizontally

Lay out the beds so they are horizontally facing south

It's best if the long side of the bed faces south. This assures equal light exposure to all the plants growing in the bed. If your bed is aligned the other way (the ends facing south), you may have planting limitations because taller plants in front can block the sunlight to small plants in back.

Double-dig the bed area

If the ground has never been used for gardening, it should be 'turned over' (dug) to a depth of 16”". This gives you a chance to pull rocks, and to see the composition of your soil. Leave soil piled up in the center, away from the sides, so you can set the bed in place without obstructions.

Check for roots

As you dig the soil, keep an eye out for any roots which may be growing beneath your beds. If left to grow, these roots will steal the organic amendments you add to the soil. Pull any roots back towards their source, and pull the main root clump. If the source is a living tree, you may need to install a root barrier by digging a narrow trench outside the perimeter of the bed, and deeper than the roots, and then insert a barrier such as heavy plastic sheeting.

Level the bed

Use a level for this task. This may seem overly meticulous, but after several waterings the soil will settle to level, and you'’ll want the bed to be the same. Set a stiff board (2x4) on top of the bed sides, across the span, and set your level on this board. Tap down the sides as needed till you get a level reading. Be sure to check for level both along the length and across the width of your bed.

Burrowing pests?

If your garden has burrowing pests such as moles, a layer of 1/2" or 1/4" hardware cloth (galvanized mesh) can be laid across the bottom, before soil is added. The mesh should continue at least 3" up along the insides of the bed and be stapled in place. If you plan to grow root crops, such as potatoes or carrots, you may want to set the mesh lower in the ground by digging deeper when you are setting up the bed. There are also raised garden planters available for above-ground gardening. These planters are designed to be easy on the back, but they also keep burrowing pests, rabbits, cats and other critters out of your garden.

Spread soil out evenly

Add any planned soil amendments, such as peat, compost or lime, and spread the soil evenly across the bed. Water the bed with an even, fine spray. This will settle the soil; add more soil to "top off". (Over time the soil will settle an inch or two more.) Rake the bed once more to even out the soil and you’'re ready to plant. To learn more about developing the ideal soil for your raised beds, read our articles:
6 Tips for Building Soil in your Raised Beds and Planters
3 Useful Soil Mixes for Planters and Raised Beds

Avoid stepping on the bed

Once the soil is added and the bed is planted, make it a policy to never step on the bed. Stepping on the bed will compact the soil, reduce aeration and impact root growth. Pets should also be trained to stay off the raised beds.

It's very helpful to have a 'spanner board', a short sturdy board, like a 2 x 6, that's just longer than the width of your beds. This board can be laid across the bed, setting on top of the bed sides, and can be used to set buckets on when weeding or adding amendments, and it can be used to step on if you must step on the bed. It also makes a handy seat when weeding or tending the bed.

Leave a generous width between beds for the pathways

It helps when pathways between raised beds are wide enough for a small wheelbarrow. For grass pathways, make sure they are at least wide enough for a weedeater or a small mower. (In our raised bed gardens the pathways are 22" wide.)

Mulch the pathways between beds

Weeding pathways is a nuisance which you can avoid by putting a double layer of perforated landscape cloth over the pathway, and cover this with a 2- 3" layer of bark mulch or coarse sawdust. When laying down the landscape cloth, allow it to come up 1" against the bottom board of the bed, and staple this to the bed. This will not be visible because the mulch will cover it.

When buying mulch, ask the seller if they have had any complaints about weed seeds in the mulch. It is very common for bark mulch to have weed seeds which sprout in your pathways. Some weeds will still appear on your pathways regardless of the mulch. Wait until it rains before pulling them out, or you may rip the landscape cloth. The weeds will come out easily if the ground is wet.

raised beds comparison

Cedar vs Recycled Plastic vs Composite raised beds

Raised beds are traditionally made using cedar wood, which is naturally rot-resistant. But new materials offer several choices in raised beds, but which is best? To learn more, read our article:
Cedar vs Recycled Plastic vs Composite Raised Beds.

Raised Bed Trellis

Add a trellis to your raised bed

Raised beds are sturdy enough to support a trellis, even one large enough for pole beans which grow to 8' tall. Here is our favorite trellis design which won't mark your raised bed with visible holes, yet is easy to disassemble for storage or to relocate to another raised bed.

To learn how to build this trellis, read our article:
How to Build a Bean Trellis for Raised Garden Beds.

 Tree roots in raised beds

How to block tree roots from your raised beds

The fertile soil in your garden beds will attract the roots of nearby trees, depleting your valuable garden soil. If there are trees adjacent to your beds, you may want to consider installing a root barrier.

To learn how to make a root barrier, read our article:
How to Block Tree Roots from Entering Your Garden.

Raised Garden Bed Supplies

To see all our raised beds and supplies, click here.

Non-toxic wood preservative

Non-toxic Wood Preservative for Raised Beds and Planters

Raised garden beds, planters, garden decks and outdoor wood furniture can be protected against both water and fungal-borne decay with new mineral-based formulations which are non-toxic, and safe to use with food crops. For more information, see Eco Wood Treatment

Jora JK270 compost tumblers

Composters - choose from 12 different styles

The best ingredient to put in your garden is your own compost. The best composters are sealed units (tumblers) which convert kitchen, yard and garden waste into compost in just a few weeks. These compost tumblers are ideal for urban gardens and homes with small yards.
- click to see our full line of composters

Cedar Large Raised Garden Center

Cedar Elevated Planters

- grow vegetables or flowers on patios, balconies and restricted spaces
- made of rot resistant cedar
- portable planters can be moved indoors in winter
- more information, or to purchase

Non Toxic Weed Control

Non-toxic Weed Control Products

- stop weeds before they sprout with corn gluten
- kill mature weeds with non-toxic Burnout spray
- remove weeds easily with the Cobrahead precision weeder and cultivator
- click to see all our Non-toxic weed control products

Gardener's Oasis Greenhouse

Greenhouses and Garden Cold Frames

- start seedlings in a controlled environment, protected from unseasonal weather
- start gardening earlier in the spring and extend crops later in the fall
- clear and translucent greenhouses
- choose from over 20 models!
- more information, or to purchase Greenhouses & Cold Frames

soaker hose

Watering

- recycled rubber hoses, guaranteed for life, made in the U.S.A.
- high quality soaker hoses which conserve water by delivering it only to planted areas.
- a variety of rain barrels, sprayers and water conservation products
- click to see all our Watering Products

Build a garden cloche

Build a portable garden cloche

Protect seedlings from the elements, extend the growing season, keep moisture in and pests out. You can build this cloche yourself.
Click to purchase the garden cloche plans

complete raised garden bed kits

Complete Raised Garden Bed Kits

- available in Redwood and Cedar,and in different sizes and configurations
- rodent proof
- fenced with trellis and built in irrigation system
- easy to assemble
- more information, or to purchase


Visit Eartheasy's online store for a wide range of gardening supplies

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Related Pages:

Composting - make your own high-quality fertilizer and soil conditioner while reducing household waste.
Backyard Vegetable Gardening - how to create your own backyard food factory!
Drip-Irrigation - get better results from your garden while using less water.
No-Till Gardening - how to improve production from your vegetable garden without digging into the soil.
Preparing your raised garden beds for spring - a few early spring tasks will help ensure a bountiful harvest.


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