DIY Raised Beds
Building Raised Garden Beds & Raised Garden Bed Ideas
Our #1 tip is to start with strong corners, like our aluminum raised bed corners.
Building your own raised garden bed is a great way to control the materials in your bed, the soil/plant protection, and the cost. However, before you go build your own raised bed, there are a few important variables to weigh. From site preparation to bed materials to accessories, there is a lot to consider when constructing your own bed.
One of the most important things to determine before building a raised bed is bed orientation and positioning. Most gardeners will say that a north-south orientation is the best for a garden, as it takes full advantage of available sun light. Also, make sure that you don’t build your raised bed too close to your house, as it can create unwanted shade. However, houses also provide wind shelter, which can be beneficial to more fragile plants.
Another important aspect of building a raised bed is site preparation. Pick your site and then mark your desired dimensions with 4 small stakes and a string. Your raised bed can be as long as you want, but make sure that it is no more than 4 feet wide, as you ideally want to be able to reach across it to tend to your plants. Aligning the beds in straight rows simplifies the installation of an irrigation system, which many gardeners use. We also recommend that you leave at least 2-3 feet in between beds for walkways, and so that you have room for a wheelbarrow or lawnmower (less than 2 feet could lead to tall crops shading out smaller ones also). If building your beds on top of grass, you should remove the first 2-3 inches of sod. Many gardeners swear by the double digging method to make the beds base layer most productive to the raised soil. If you want additional weed insurance you should consider laying Weed Fabric and staking it with Earth Staples. If you are installing a bed on a hard or impervious surface, like a patio or rooftop, you will benefit from Raised Bed Liners.
When building your own raised bed, one of the most difficult decisions to make is what kind of material to use for the actual beds. Most gardeners would agree that wood is the sturdiest and most attractive option, but metals and composites are popular too. When choosing a type of wood to use, there are many factors to consider. Cedar is generally considered the go-to wood to use for raised beds because of its hardness and its durability - lasting 15-25 years if properly installed. Cedar is untreated and is naturally decay/rot-resistant and insect resistant, so you won’t have any nasty chemicals entering your garden. Another popular option for wood is pine or fir, which will typically last between 7 and 12 years. Pine may last 15 years or more, but it has a better chance to do so if it is treated. These treatments may be toxic and unhealthy for your plants and ultimately your food. (Two non-toxic stain options are Eco Wood Treatment and the citrus based Cedar Garden Oil, which also works on pine). Most pine is treated with a preservative to prevent decaying, but is it possible to use pine untreated as well. Pine is always less expensive than cedar.
If you decide to use cedar (which we highly recommend), depending on where you live there are typically two types to choose from: white and red. White cedar is often seen as slightly less desirable than red cedar, though it can often outlast red cedar when used as a building material. White cedar will usually be less expensive due to being relatively more available and because it is marked by more knots and imperfections than red cedar. These knots can give your raised beds more character, but they also require vigilance in making the knots so that they don’t diminish the functionality of the board. White cedar decays slower because about 90% of the lumber comes from the heartwood section of the tree, while only about 10% of red cedar lumber comes from it. This is because red cedar trees are usually significantly wider than whites. Red cedar is stronger than white cedar, but can be more brittle, making less milled and refined timbers more likely to spliter or crack. Because red cedar has fewer knots than white, it is easier to work with and will generally give your garden a smoother and cleaner look. Both red and white cedar can be left to weather naturally or treated with a variety of preservatives and stains (for more good discussion on staining raised beds check out these posts on GardenWeb). One of the most important differences between the two is cost, as red cedar trees can only be found in certain areas of North America (Pacific Northwest and British Colombia). Gardeners can save significantly on costs by purchasing whichever cedar variety is grown more locally, so check which cedar is more popular and available in your area before buying one.
A seasoned gardener will tell you that the most difficult part of building your own raised garden bed is constructing solid corners. Many do-it-yourselfers use cedar posts or angle iron from hardware stores to build their own corners, but they always seem to pull apart or rust. We carry a variety of corners and are most enthusiastic about our aluminum corners, whose unique and proprietary design not only reduce building time, but also guarantee a sturdy bed. These aluminum corners are the strongest corners available, they are handmade in Vermont, and they are attractive, too! Another great option is a decorative set of corners, which adds good-looks and security to your raised garden bed. They are great for building new beds or upgrading a pre-existing one, and the pointed bottom can be pushed into the soil to accommodate any lumber height. We also carry tall corners for extra deep beds. If you want to create divisions within your beds then our Aluminum In-Line Connectors are the best option. In-Line connectors also reinforce the sides of raised beds to keep them straight and prevent bowing at the sides. See are full line of raised bed corners here.
Even if you decide to build your own corners, a great accessory for your raised bed is an irrigation system. These keep your raised beds hydrated and thriving without forcing you to spend hours watering your plants. One of our favorites is the Snip ‘N Drip Soaker Irrigation System because it quickly and easily creates a watering system to fit your unique landscaping. Another ideal accessory for if you decide not to build your own corners is the AquaCorner , which is an even easier and more attractive way to effortlessly keep your garden happy and healthy. A constant supply of water is crucial for a healthy garden, and the AquaCorner’s internal plumbing brings the water right to your raised bed.
There are several other accessories that are great additions to DIY raised beds. Trellises are not only great for keeping animals out of your garden, but they also add a great visual touch. Because flowers and vegetables can grow up a trellis, it makes your garden vertical in addition to horizontal, expanding your gardening capacities. One of our favorite trellises is the Veggie Trellis, but even more can be found here.
Another great way to keep your plants safe is with a plant protector. Gardeners get very creative with plant protectors, which can be made from many different materials. Many gardeners use fencing, shade covers, and even garden tents to protect their plants from extreme heat from the sun, an autumn frost, or pesky animals. Click here for the widest selection of raised bed plant protection products.
In order to prevent soil loss and maintain a tidy raised garden bed, liners are crucial. Liners are extremely durable and prevent soil from washing away, while simultaneously allowing water to drain. They are also a natural weed barrier when used on lawns and allow you to install a raised bed on any firm surface (such as a concrete or stone patio). Liners are a bit more difficult to make from materials found at a hardware store, so many gardeners purchase the material from gardening stores and then fit it to their raised beds. A large selection of bed liners can be found here, including our liner made from recycled materials.
Even though we are in the business of selling raised beds, we love seeing gardener’s home-made creations. If you choose to build your own beds, we hope we can help your gardens thrive with our accessories and our information.