Our DIY Raised Garden Beds

May 13, 2013

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Last week, we took a couple hours and finally tackled a project we’ve been meaning to for years–  Raised garden beds!!  Chris and I both grew up in homes with gardens, and we’re happy to be on our way to one of our own.  This article from BHG goes into a lot of the perks (with a lot of pretty pictures) of raised garden beds–all of which helped us finally quit our procrastinating and get planning and building.
After we mapped out which vegetables we’d like to try and harvest (we’ll talk about that in a different post), we decided to build 5 beds.  Our yard is about 1/3 of an acre and right now, nearly bare in back–so five 3×6 boxes, we have plenty of room for.
We spent about $100 getting the supplies for five boxes, including:
30–cedar fence boards 1x6s
15–cedar fence boards 1×3.5s
Galvanized screws
20 ft redwood 2x2s
We didn’t want wood that was chemically treated in any way and cedar and redwood are both naturally rot resistant, so that’s why we opted for those. Plus, we have a cedar fence that is now nice and gray (someone actually knocked on our door and offered to take it off our hands–ummm?) that we love and are looking forward to the weathering of the boxes, too! When we got home, we started the timer (so we could see how long it took to build the boxes) and made all of our cuts first.
Since the 1×3.5s that we were using to frame out our top edges were the same length as the 1x6s–6 feet–and we wanted there to be a bit of overhang. We trimmed down 20 of the 6ft lengths to 5ft 9 inches and the remaining 10-1×6 boards to 33inches (also resulting in 20 boards).
Then we cut and mitered the 1×3.5 boards to 45 degrees, giving us what would eventually be 5-3×6 frames for our garden beds. Lastly, we cut our redwood posts into 1ft lengths for our inside supports.
Once all of the cuts were made, we started assembling.
1. The sides of the boxes are made up of two 1x6s, essentially stacked on top of each other with a redwood post at each inside corner. We put our redwood in 9/16 (the actual thickness of the planks) of an inch before securing the 5’9″cedar sides in with galvanized screws.
2.  This is so when we screwed in our shorter 33″ cedar sides, they would fit snuggly in the gap
3.  After all the sides were secure, we turned the whole box right side up (the redwood posts that extend longer than the box will help secure them into the ground) and placed our mitered “frame” on top. Now, the frame is totally optional–but we thought it would not only look nice, but be handy to set small garden tools on while we’re working.  Gotta love a good-looking, functional finish.
4. Once we got the frame where we wanted–completely unmathematically and unscientifically, just moved it around until it fit together and worked–we drove two screws into each corner and called it done.
Pie. From start (before we made our first cut) to finish (carrying the last bed to the backyard), our five garden beds took us 2 hours 21 minutes and 39 seconds to build–which, well, we were pretty excited about.
Of course our work isn’t done.  We still need to play with the spacing/arrangement, excavate (although we heard placing cardboard at the bottom of the boxes also works?) and fill the boxes with dirt and finally plant–and then, I suppose there is the whole tending, weeding, and harvesting before we can officially and literally stick a fork in it–but we’re completely excited about our new project/hobby and can’t wait to share more of the process and progress with you.  Hopefully we’ll have another garden update before the end of the week!
Anyone else building garden beds?  We can’t decide whether to keep the surrounding grass, or dig it all up and surround the beds with some sort of mulch or pebble. I’ve been drooling over so many ideas all weekend–feel free to chime in!

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What do you think?

  1. Barbara says:

    Great job. Just got into this woodworking hobby but these seem to be something I can do. Thanks for the nice plans and details.

  2. Jamon Mysliwiec says:

    I’m dying to know how you got all that wood for under 100 bucks!
    the 30 cedar boards alone are over 100 bucks.

  3. Holly says:

    Amazing! I’m going to use this as a guide for my gardens, coming soon.

  4. Anna says:

    What overall size are these beds when finished?

  5. Barney Longacre says:

    gonna give it a try thanks c&j

  6. Carl says:

    Looks Great!

  7. Stacy Fontenot says:

    Thank you so very much for the measurements, cost break-down, and plans. We made 5 boxes and have 2 of the 5 fully planted for our fall garden. They look amazing! I really appreciate your post and how easy you made this project. We shopped Friday evening. Saturday, we built and by the evening we had stapled cloth to the insides and filled those 3 with soil. The following weekend all 5 were done. All before the rains! Thank you again!

  8. Jessica says:

    Please tell me where you bought the wood for your project. I can’t find cedar at a good price.

  9. Barry P. says:

    how as the 1″ lumber holding up. I was thinking of going with 2″ lumber, but would love to keep the cost down if it holds up fairly well.

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  12. Michael L says:

    Just out of curiosity, do you remember what size screws you used for this? I started building this (thanks for the plans btw!) and was wondering if the cracking of the 2x2s I’m getting is due to maybe too long of a screw.

    • Julia says:

      I believe an inch and a quarter

    • Adam says:

      Splitting is mostly caused by not pre-drilling holes. Even pre-drilling a hole as small as half the diameter of the screw will help prevent splitting.


      A good tip I’ve found for not cracking the wood is to take a little meat out with a drill bit that is smaller than the screw itself. Then put the screw in. Works wonders!

  13. Brian Campbell says:

    I want to thank you for posting this. I found cedar fencing in Georgia after twisting a local home improvement store employees arm to get it down for me from back-stock (warning to others: they had dedicated spots for cedar which were filled with pressure treated pine). I had fun building the boxes and we’re about to start the excavation process ourselves to level out the area where the boxes will be installed. I ended up cutting my boards as I went to maximize the size of each box (as the trim was always the longest pieces). I also got some additional 2×2’s to reinforce under the inside of the trim and to secure the two long boards of each side to each other (note the “T”‘s) under the long trim pieces.

    Here’s a link the to a picture of the boxes:

    • Michael L says:

      Brian, the extra 2×2 for support seems like a nice idea. I built one to spec based on Julia’s and saw that i had a little give on the sides of the long boards. I might have to try this addition. Pictures look like they came out great.

  14. Linda says:

    Did you have to set any posts?

  15. Alexa says:

    I saw that you said you uses fence, but where did you find 1×3.5 cedar boards.

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  17. Sheila says:

    Hi, I was just wondering how tall these are? I plan to build these but I am trying to figure cost of soil/compost and need to know all of the dimensions! Thanks!

  18. Dee says:

    I’d vote against using gravel. Once you have gravel, you can’t get rid of it and it spreads and gets into everything and the dirt gets into it. Sounds like I’m a messy gardener, but I’m not. My brother lets his grass grow up to his raised beds and it’s beautiful. If you do decide on gravel though, it is not a big deal to weed it. The weeds are rare and they pull right out. If you don’t want grass, think of going with something that decomposes and then replace it occasionally. I’m so excited for you. These boxes are beautiful!

  19. […] three hours cutting and nailing together the pieces.. I found the type of box I wanted to make HERE, and used it for […]

  20. Becca says:

    We followed your directions and ended up only making 3! Which I’m glad. We bought same wood/etc and that cost us almost about $250 for just the lumber (luckily we already had the screws) Then the cost to fill with soil was crazy! Again about $250! The whole project planted cost about $500!!!!!!!!!! It was way more costly then we thought for only 3, but we are hopeful that we will use these for years to come!!!!

  21. […]  We found this great DIY on how to make a really good looking raised bed garden at this blog, Chris Loves Julia  This is one of the better looking gardens we have seen using simple western red cedar available […]

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  24. Rob says:

    The boxes look great!
    I may have missed it, what are you going to fill them with in regards to soil? Organic?
    Are you worried that the sides may bow out once you start filling them and the soil gets wet and settles?
    I plan on making two of these myself.
    In Virginia.

  25. Ben Bailey says:

    I just would like to make two of these but it would still cost me well over 200 dollars. Any idea where I could some wood for cheaper?

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  27. […] our last house, we were primed and ready for a garden after making our own raised beds, but moved unexpectedly before we could actually make use of them. So yes, we embarrassingly have […]

  28. Bobby says:

    Hi – these are hands-down the most beautifully crafted raised beds I have seen online thus far. I’ve been scowering the internet for raised bed designs and I definitely like your design the best. The mitered cap on top gives the design such a nice, finished look – and like you said it’s also functional as you can lay garden tools down on it. Would you by any chance be able to provide me with a list of lumber pieces required to build just one of these raised beds? I would greatly appreciate it. Keep up the great work!


  29. Tom says:

    How much did you spend on dirt? and how have the beds held up?

    • Julia says:


      We actually moved unexpectedly right after building these, but I know the new owner was excited to use them. We priced out a lot of dirt options and our city had the most affordable compost locally. Less than $200 to fill all the beds.

  30. pearlz says:

    Impressive! Most impressive! But you are not a Jedi yet! Not until you start a mulching pile. LOL! IMO cardboard on the bottom is the way to go. I wouldn’t bother with gravel between them either. You could put some decorative clay herb planters in-between the boxes, but not too big, so you can still walk around. Google “clay pots on rebar” and check out the images. Looks great! I’m feeling inspired (almost).

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  36. abbasmommy says:

    Use this simple and easy method called “LASAGNA GARDENING”. Our school used it while building a community garden last spring:

  37. Conor says:

    Galvanized screws are not the best choice for this, they will start to rust pretty quickly in most parts of the US. Try stainless or coated deck screws.

  38. annie mott says:

    It depends on what you are going to plant as to whether you want to excavate the ground underneath. Lettuces, things with shallow roots, flowers, garlic, those all stay in the top 6 inches and will do ok with what you have. Spinaches, tomatoes, potatoes, asparagus, things that require deep supporting roots will need more space below what you have. My suggestion, despite the back-breaking work involved, is to dig down an additional 6 inches below the sod, till that up and amend with your bed soil, dolomite, and compost, and then fill up the rest of the top of the bed with your top soil, dolomite, and compost mix. It will help with the weeds, and ensure healthy plant roots.

  39. Someone offered to haul your pretty fence away?? That is bizarre. I’d love to hear that whole story!

  40. ValHalla says:

    Looks great–always love to see new gardeners getting started!
    For the grass inside the beds, thick cardboard will probably do it, especially if you are going to fill that baby up with soil. If your lawn is weedy (can’t tell from the pic), or for those with more shallow raised beds, you may want to take the extra step of removing the sod also. Make sure you place cardboard under the sides if you use it, or just remove the sod there, because some things will work their way in–and the best thing about raised beds is the lack of weeding. I pretty much only pull tree seedlings that fall into my beds from above–except where things creep into the edges of my lower beds. Prep is key!
    For the grass outside the beds, I suggest you wait and see, and place the beds mower-width apart. Mine ended up shaded and the grass declined, so I eventually went with straw mulch instead. The only weeds are violets, which are pretty and get to stay. It also gets compacted there from walking and working there, so not great for grass in the long run.
    I hope your community has a good bulk compost/topsoil delivery–I think I spend more on compost than anything else. I could never make enough for my garden myself.
    good luck!

  41. Anonymous says:

    We have 4 raised beds in our front yard & we put big pavers down between them so we could walk amongst them easily and it looks heaps nice with the grass growing up between them.

  42. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much! I’ll head there today hopefully and I will let you know what I find! :)

  43. Anonymous says:

    What state are you in? I’m in Maryland and am currently looking online for Home Depot and don’t see prices like the ones you mentioned

    • We’re in Utah. Although, last night I tried to find a link to the boards we used online and couldn’t. I know Ana White, in Alaska, got similar prices too. Try heading into your store and look for cedar boards. There will be some that have angled edges like fence posts (for fence posts) and there were these right next to them. Kind of rustic. Let me know! Good luck!

  44. Cheryl M says:

    Your beds look great! Where were you able to purchase that much cedar for $100? We’re in Ohio and I’d hate to think what that’d cost us here.

  45. Anonymous says:

    How do you tell if the wood at the lumber yard or Home store has be treated?
    I know the wood with (what looks like)”staple marks” in it has been treated? But what else do you look out for? Thank You.

  46. Jessie says:

    We’ve got raised beds as well, with bark surrounding it. Looking over the comments, it seems like a big problem has been the weeds…but for us, it hasn’t been annoying at all! We’ve had them in for 2 years now, and with no weed barrier (I’ve heard it doesn’t do a whole lot) we’ve maybe pulled 30 weeds. My biggest complaint is that I can’t walk on the bark without shoes on :) But whatever you decide, you are going to love your garden!!!

  47. They look great! And all for $100? Our lumber in Florida must be much more expensive for some reason!

  48. They look great! And all for $100? Our lumber in Florida must be much more expensive for some reason!

  49. My in laws have a raised garden and it was wonderful last year so we have plans for one for our yard now… but we just got done building a huge playground area so it might take a bit.

  50. Crystal says:

    Those are the exact beds I’m building today, too funny. I’ve had the materials bought and sitting in the garage for the past month but this Utah weather hadn’t been nice enough for long enough for me to rip out my current raised beds ( built them 5 years ago with free framing lumber and they finally started to rot, sad day). Anyway I’ve been contemplating putting sod back down between the new beds becausd I had previously put down weed barrier (over dirt, grass had never been grown where the garden beds are) and wood chips and I was constantly pulling weeds. Also you might think of stapling the black weed barrier down to the bottom of the new boxes. I never put anything on or in mine and although the first year was great and I only had to pull a couple weeds growing from the top of the bed they gradually over 5 years overtook the beds so much so that I didn’t even plant the garden last year and weeds are the main reason I pulled the whole garden out this year to start over. Sorry for the looong comment.

  51. These look great! Jenn’s got a couple of gardens going in the back yard this year, but my favorite is a raised salad garden right outside of the kitchen door. Yum! I like the unity of these, and would totally consider lining the back of the yard with them. Are you guys composting, too?

  52. Patty says:

    They’re BEAUTIFUL!

  53. We’ve got raised beds in the corner of our yard, with pea gravel in between and a cute picket fence surrounding the whole thing. It’s adorable, but we still have to do a lot of weeding in the pea gravel (even with the expensive 20 year weed barrier underneath the gravel). If your overhead sprinklers don’t hit the garden and you do drip hoses only for the raised beds, you might be able to prevent some weed growth in the gravel.

    Also, not sure what kind of grass we have here in Utah, but it’s pretty determined stuff too. It pops up in our beds way too much, so I’d second the recommendation to excavate the grass in the beds before hand.

    • The weeding in gravel is exactly what I want to avoid. But it’s nice to hear confirmation that we should definitely excavate our beds. Thanks Michelle!

    • Only surround with mulch or pea gravel if you want to weed it. Because promise, you will get weeds in it! Space so they’re easy to mow or weedwhack between and you’ll prob be much happier, even though it’ll look less fancy schmancy.

      A quick tilling should be all you need at the base of them, but cardboard is also really fine (depending on your grass – we have a healthy crop of bermuda and crabgrass). If you’re really worried about grass making an appearance (which will happen sooner or later no matter what), do both!

  54. For the cardboard on the bottom, I did that with my beds. It worked ok, but we have bermuda grass, which is very determined grass. It still permeated and I’m always pulling up grass and dealing with it every year. I wish I had just excavated properly at the beginning.

  55. They look great! I like the idea of some sort of mulch or pebble surround. I think that will really finish them off nicely and make them look more designed into their habitat vs just placed on top of the grass. Can’t wait to see the finished result!

  56. nikkirm says:

    This is on my list too! These are beautiful and can’t wait to hear about your planting!

    • Patricia says:

      Hi Julia / Chris ~ I’d like to know now, a couple years down the road, how the fence boards are working out for you? I was told to use 2×6 or else put in verticle supports to keep the sides from bowing out. I found some used 4x4x8 cedar posts for the corners and now I’m looking for 2x6s, but if I can get away with simple fence boards and use 2x4s every few feet to support the sides that might be better.

  57. Callie says:

    Nice work!! I can’t get over how they look like coffins haha…but that’s probably just because I watch too many crime shows, and they probably won’t look like that any more once they get dirt/plants growing in them!

  58. Michelle says:

    I would seriously consider pea gravel or some other surround only because mowing and edging around them could potentially be a major pain in the tookas!

    • We’ve heard it both ways, which is why we’re so undecided. Yes, mowing could be cumbersome but gravel means weeding. We’ll see!

    • Rae says:

      No weeding if you put landscape fabris under the gravel….

      Here is how I did mine….

      A I covered the entire area (for boxes and pathes) in lanscape fabris, just right on top of the exsisting grass.

      Placed my boxes as I wanted them. Cut large Xs in the fabric inside the boxes. (this was to allow my plants to put down deep roots beyond the depth of the boxes. It should stop any growth from the grass underneath long enough to kill it)

      Them filled my boxed with soil and compost and covered the fabric in between. I choose to use mulch, but gravel would certainly last longer.

      No weeding needed in gravel, and no mowing and triming of the area. totally worth the extra 35ish dollars for a giant roll of landscape fabric.

      • Deborah says:

        Hello Chris, I was wondering did you use glue to attach the frame together?

      • Jessica Mendoza says:

        I am wanting to make one of these and am not very handy, any measurements or buying advice to help me get what I need?

    • Judy Goodwin says:

      Any idea how long it took you from soup to nuts to build your beautiful boxes?

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We believe we should all love where we live.

We’re a couple of homebodies, working to uncover the home our home wants to be. And we’re so happy to have you here. 

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