Good morning and thank you for stopping by to check out my blog! While it feels like summer here in Northeast Indiana, it is technically still spring – my favorite season. I love how everything begins to come to life and grow again this time of year. I even love the rain (when it doesn’t turn into tornadoes!). So in the spirit of spring and the new beginnings that come with it, I thought I’d write my first post about my family’s brand new raised bed vegetable garden. My husband and I have talked for years about starting one of these and we’ve finally done it. I am just so excited about this and can’t wait to share with you how we built ours.
Raised beds can be pretty straight forward or rather fancy and complex. Ours is definitely on the simple side. Typically, raised beds are 6” to 12” deep. We have terrible drainage problems in our backyard, causing standing water several inches deep a few times a year, so we determined ours should be a bit deeper to protect our plants from flooding or being washed away. I’m going to share with you how we built our raised bed, but please keep in mind yours may not need to be this deep and your materials list can be adjusted accordingly.
The jury is out on whether or not it is ok to use treated lumber in vegetable gardens. Some say it is completely ok as long as your plants are a certain distance from the wood in question. Others say it is ok if you line the bed with landscape or geotechnical fabric. Still others say you should avoid this altogether. We opted for using cedar. Cedar is naturally rot and pest resistant without the use of chemicals. It is a bit more expensive, but the added cost is worth the peace of mind.
Here is our materials list. We got all of these items at Lowe’s with the exception of the cedar post and the soil. The post we found at Menard’s and the soil came from a local garden center (Henry’s Garden Center on Lake Ave. if you are in the Fort Wayne, Indiana area). If you aren’t sure what something is or where to find it in the store, just ask! We had to do that to find a couple of things and the staff at all of these places were super helpful.
(1) 8’ long 4×4 cedar post
(6) 8’ long 1×10 cedar boards
(1) 10’ long 1” PVC pipe
(2) 10’ long 1/2” PVC pipes
(32) 3 ½” #14 wood screws
(16) ½” #8 wood screws
(1) roll ¼” mesh hardware cloth
(8) 1” galvanized tube straps
1 truckload top soil
1 truckload garden soil
My husband, Shannon, actually built the bed so I’ll give him credit for this part. He began by making these cuts.
Cut the 4×4 cedar post into (4) 2’ long pieces.
Cut two of the cedar boards in half to make a total of (4) 4’ long boards. Now you have (4) 8′ long boards and (4) 4′ long boards.
Cut the 1” PVC pipe into (4) pieces of equal length.
Shannon actually built the bed in our basement and then carried it outside to install it once it was done. You could do this (using your garage if necessary) if you wanted to build it on a rainy day and take it outside to install it when it is nicer outside. Or you could just build the bed outside from the start. It doesn’t take long.
To build the bed, Shannon attached the boards to the posts using the 3 ½” #14 wood screws to create a 4’x8’ frame. Be sure to keep the board edges flush with one end of the posts. The other end of the post will be buried to stabilize the bed.
Next, using two tube straps per pipe and the ½” #8 wood screws, he attached the 1” PVC pipe at the 1/3 marks down the long side of the frame. This time, keep one end of the pipe flush with the bottom side of the cedar boards. This end will become flush with the ground once the bed is installed. If you want to, you can cut the pipes to be even with the top of the frame too. I recommend doing this as it makes this next step easier because you have to turn the frame upside down.
Next, Shannon stapled the hardware mesh to the underside of the frame, cutting around the posts so that the entire bottom was covered. If you are building this bed in place, you don’t necessarily need to staple the mesh to the frame. You could lay the mesh in the bottom of the bed once it is installed in place. This prevents burrowing animals from getting in your garden from below.
At this point, you are ready to install the bed outside.
First, using a posthole digger, dig 4 holes about 5” deep (depth will vary if you modified the depth of your bed) making a 4’x8’ rectangle. Next, place the frame over the rectangle, inserting the 4×4 posts into the holes you just dug.
Fill the bed half way with topsoil and the rest of the way with garden soil. We used ½ topsoil and ½ garden soil because our bed is very deep (about 19”) and topsoil is cheaper. Since you don’t really need 19” of garden soil, we saved a bit of money by filling partway with topsoil. If you are building a shallower bed, you may need to use all garden soil.
Now insert the 1/2” PVC pipes into the 1” pipes creating two arches over the bed. These arches allow you to drape bird fabric over the bed to keep critters out or drape a tarp or plastic sheet over the bed to protect from a late frost.
Now for the fun part – planting your first crop!
This is our first year for the garden so it is a learning process for us. I’ve already learned that we should have started seeds indoors earlier than we did and we should have come up with some sort of plan of what to plant and when. I didn’t realize that we would only have spinach early in the season and I didn’t plan for a replacement crop. So since I didn’t plan ahead and start some seeds, I’ll have to purchase some actual plants which is more expensive. I also forgot to water our tomato seeds (oops!) so I didn’t have any tomato plants started. These take a long time to grow and bear fruit, so we ended up buying an heirloom variety at Lowe’s.
Regardless of these small missteps, it is so fun and exciting to see the fruits of our labor – literally! We had some baby spinach and some radishes so far, both of which have been delicious. I don’t know what it is about eating foods you’ve grown yourself that makes them taste so much better!