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How to Build a Garden Bed with Landscape Timbers

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David and his family have been on property for years and enjoy a good sized garden every summer

Growing Tomatoes in Raised Beds

Little tomato plants enjoying their new spacious home in a raised vegetable garden bed

Little tomato plants enjoying their new spacious home in a raised vegetable garden bed

Raised Planter Beds

At some point in our lives we have all been exposed to gardening at home. We either saw our parents growing tomatoes or zucchini squash at home or possibly you do it right now in your own yard. Growing your own vegetables at home has a wide range of benefits.

You get to have complete control over what you grow and how you take care of the plants. If you don’t want to use pesticides don’t. Maybe you prefer to fertilize with all natural products, no problem. Since you are in charge of the whole operation you can do things anyway you want to.

My family grows a pretty big garden every year and my wife has really gotten into canning things that we get out of it, after we eat some of it. Since we live on an acre of land our garden has been given a respectable amount of room to flourish; it is right around three thousand square feet, which is actually bigger than our house.

Where to Build a Raised Planter Bed

Building a raised bed is not a complicated task and you certainly do not need to be a master carpenter to do it. To make your project a successful one start with a fairly level plot of land. The area doesn’t need to be perfectly flat but any major elevation changes will make building a sturdy bed complicated later. An uneven base can also shorten the lifespan of the bed as the walls might not be a sturdy as they would on a flat surface.

I would take some pieces of lumber and layout the bed you are thinking about building. This exercise has two benefits. The first one is that this will give you a very good idea of the size of the bed. Make sure that the bed has adequate clearances around it so you can walk on all sides; this will ensure ease of flower or veggie picking later in the season. The second benefit is you will discover any uneven areas that might need to be corrected.

First Steps to Take When Preparing to Build the Raised Bed

After you have cleared and leveled an area, and determined the overall size, you can prepare the ground for the bed. To make weeding easier don’t forget to put down a weed blocking fabric. Don’t be cheap on this step because you will never get another chance to make this right, unless you want to dig out all of the dirt and do it again. If you don’t want to buy the fabric save a bunch of newspapers, laying down a thick layer of newspaper will do the trick too; just don’t use the ads or sections with a bunch of colored ink it them like the Sunday comics. The thickness of the newspaper layer should be just about a quarter of an inch thick or so.

What Kind of Material to use When Building a Raised Bed

Options are plentiful when selecting what material to use for your bed. Some people use railroad ties or pressure treated 2x6’s; we use landscape timbers because they are fairly cheap and are easy to use. We have never used the pressure treated lumber before because they come with a warning to wash your hands after touching them; that is not something I want near my food supply.

The timbers we get are usually $3 at our local Home Depot and come in eight foot long pieces. I can also cut them with my circular saw so I have complete flexibility when creating the bed’s layout. Each piece is about three inches tall, approximately.

How to Build a Raised Bed with Landscape Timbers

Since these timbers are our preferred material to use when we built our raised vegetable beds I will explain how you can build one too; usually with only a few hours of work and two people tops. These directions will be for a bed that will be about one foot tall or four pieces of timber tall.

To reinforce and strengthen the beds we use pieces of rebar, again available at Home Depot; or whatever hardware store you want to go to. We get the two foot length pieces of #3 rebar; each number of rebar represents one-eighth of an inch so a #3 bar is three-eighths of an inch. We use the #3 bars because we drill one-half inch holes in the timbers for the rebar to go in.

For the eight foot long pieces I drill a one-half inch hole, two feet in from each end making sure to center it the best I can. The more uniform the drill hole locations the easier it is to get the rebar to cooperate. After you put the piece of timber on the ground hammer one piece of rebar into each hole but only go a few inches in, just enough to grab some soil. Repeat this step until you have one layer of timber outlining the bed’s layout. If you are doing a rectangular bed just cut the timber in half and now you have perfect four foot pieces to use on the ends.

The next step is monotonous but isn’t too tough, if those holes are drilled in decent and consistent locations; it might also be easier to do this with two people. Lift the timber over the sticking out rebar and line up the holes, try to lower the timber at the same rate or it will probably get stuck. I can also speak from experience that you will want to keep your hands clear of the rebar because getting your skin stuck between the rebar and timber is not a pleasant feeling. Repeat this step until the bed has reached the desired height.

To further reinforce the bed I would install eight inch straps at each straight timber connection; one-half inch screws work perfectly fine. Additional support at the corners is a good idea too, ninety degree angles are a good choice here.

Raised Planter Wall and Bracket Straps

Side view of the completed planter.  Four timbers were used to construct the height.

Side view of the completed planter. Four timbers were used to construct the height.

Sample of what kind of brackets to use to provide strength and durability to the planter.

Sample of what kind of brackets to use to provide strength and durability to the planter.

Fill it with Dirt and Enjoy Your Raised Bed

Congratulations you have just built a raised garden bed that can be used for vegetables, flowers or whatever you feel like growing. You can also save your back and knees from squatting on the ground working the soil or planting seeds.

To maintain your new bed keep an eye on the soil, from a nutrient perspective. Really the only drawback to a raised bed is nutrients have a tendency to seep out of the soil quicker, probably because it is elevated. Get a soil test kit and keep an eye on the levels of phosphorus, nitrogen, potassium and the ph level. Proper levels of these nutrients are critical to your plants health and their success.

Parts List to Build this Raised Vegetable Garden Bed

PartQuantity

8' timbers

TBD based on overall size

Rebar pieces

2 per timber pieces

Weed block/Newspaper

Enough to cover ground

8" Brace straps

1 per each timber connection

90 degree angle brace

1 at each corner

Wood screws

1 package of 50

Dirt

Enough to fill planter

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 David

Comments

RTalloni on October 07, 2015:

Well done guide for making a nice looking raised garden planter bed. Good tips like avoiding pressure treated lumber for veggies make this post valuable. People have many reasons for using raised beds, one of which is back problems. This method makes it easy for a person to build one to the exact height they personally need.

Ibidii on August 18, 2014:

I am new to hub pages. I need to have a raised bed so I can do garden from a wheelchair and not bend over. Any suggestions? Great story. I am in Lake county, northern California, too.

David (author) from Idaho on May 11, 2012:

Summerberrie - Thanks and I'm glad the timing worked for you; good luck on building the beds!

summerberrie on May 11, 2012:

adjkp25, this hub is perfect timing for me!I was going to make a few raised beds this year. Thanks for the info! Voted useful.

David (author) from Idaho on May 10, 2012:

Michael - We love our beds. They are so easy to keep up and so much easier than being on your knees working in the soil. The veggies are a great bonus too!

David (author) from Idaho on May 10, 2012:

thundermama - I'm glad you liked it and and thanks for following me.

David (author) from Idaho on May 10, 2012:

Marcy - Thanks. I was hoping it would come across in a clear and easy way for anyone to give building a bed a try. Having the four beds does give our garden some depth and they really are attractive and have weathered well.

If you are in my neighborhood let me know, I'm sure we can work something out.

David (author) from Idaho on May 10, 2012:

Melovy - Thanks, give it a try...you will really enjoy the outcome of a raised bed.

David (author) from Idaho on May 10, 2012:

alliemacb - We have built four of these beds now. The first one took some time but you definitely get quicker after doing a couple of them. I'm glad it might have inspired you to give it a try.

David (author) from Idaho on May 10, 2012:

picklesandrufus - thanks, I'm glad to see other homeowners have built raised beds too.

Michael J Rapp from United States on May 10, 2012:

Nice hub! We have two raised bed gardens and they are indeed a tidy way to grow a few veggies over the summer. Like Marcy said, I feel they add to our backyard rather than muddle it up. Plus we get some good food out of them. :-)

Catherine Taylor from Canada on May 10, 2012:

Great hub, well written and super pictures. Glad this was shared by someone I follow. Voted up and am now following.

Marcy Goodfleisch from Planet Earth on May 10, 2012:

What a helpful hub! Raised gardens are attractive and blend into the urban environment better than just tilling an area of your yard. I appreciate the details you gave that we wouldn't think of on our own, and the list of what we need in order to build one.

Now, can I come over to sample your veggies this summer?

Yvonne Spence from UK on May 10, 2012:

This is very useful. I have had attempts at this, but not with huge success, so as we’ve just had work done on our garden I will have another try. Thanks for the hub.

alliemacb from Scotland on May 10, 2012:

A helpful hub. Will share with a friend of mine who likes to grow her own veggies. I have tried in the past and have been quick to give up but you may just have inspired me to give it another go. Voted up and useful.

picklesandrufus from Virginia Beach, Va on May 09, 2012:

Very helpful hub.Before I moved into my house, the owners before me did exactly what you describe. Vote up and useful

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