Raised beds are not only aesthetically pleasing, but they’re also a great way to make tasks related to gardening much easier. I’ll show you how I make my DIY raised beds on a budget for only $20.
Watch how to Build a DIY Raised Garden Bed below:
Are you a visual learner like me? You can watch me make a raised garden bed from start to finish in this video. Come back to this blog post for a list of materials and exact measurements.
This post may contain affiliate links, meaning that purchases made through such links directly support this blog at no extra cost to you. You can find my full disclosure here.
Why Raised Garden Beds
There are pros and cons to raised beds versus traditional farming methods. I’m not going to cover them all here, but I will share my reasons for deciding to use raise beds in my own garden. First, I love the way they look in my own backyard. That was enough of a reason for me, but they also create easy walkways in the garden, significantly decrease the number of weeds, allow for optimal soil conditions, eliminate a lot of bending over when working in the garden, and with the design I share they also provide a ledge to rest on when harvesting. Raised beds can be made to any size and can be a great way to garden even in a small space. Raised bed vegetable gardens don’t take much time to build and are perfect for beginner gardeners who want a little garden. Or make multiple to create a larger garden space. I garden in multiple raised beds in addition to in ground gardens.
Something that might hold people back from raised beds are their price and difficulty to find. I hope to eliminate these barriers by sharing the best way I found to build my own DIY cedar wood raised bed garden boxes for just over $20 a box. This is a great DIY project to do if you want to grow your own food and are up for a simple project.
What you’ll need:
The following supplies are what you will need to build one raised bed with the top piece of finishing trim. These supplies can all be found at local hardware stores.
- 7 1/2 Cedar Fence Pickets (Cedar is naturally rot resistant. These fence pickets will be the most affordable option. Be sure to NOT buy pressure treated lumber for garden beds)
- 6 11″ pieces of 2×4 (less than one full 2×4 board)
- 46 1 5/8″ screws
- Garden soil to fill
- bit to match screws (This is usually included when you buy a box of screws)
- drill bit (use one that is just slightly smaller than your screws to pre-drill holes)
- Tape Measure
- Screw Driver
- Chop Saw or circular saw
- Table Saw
Note: You don’t need power tools, but they will save you time and make this a more simple project.
Cuts for your DIY Raised Garden Bed
The first step is to get all the wood cut to size. Here is what you will need:
- 4 70″ Cedar boards
- 4 35 1/2″ Cedar boards
- 1 Cedar board cut to 71″ and then cut in half the long way using the table saw
- 1/2 of a cedar board cut in half the long way (exact measurements will be taken at the end)
- 2×4 board cut into 6 11″ pieces
Attaching the boards
Start by making the short sides of the bed by securing a 2×4 piece on each end of two 35 1/2 length cedar boards stacked together (pictured above). Attach with a screw at the top and bottom of each cedar board, for a total of 4 screws on each side of the wall. you can see where I placed the screws in the board in the above picture on the left. Try to make the gap between the boards as tight as possible before securing them.
***Be sure to pre-drill your holes using a bit just slightly thinner than your screw! Since the fence boards are thin, pre-drilling your holes significantly decreased the chance of your board cracking!
Attaching the long sides
Next secure the long ends by screwing the long cedar boards into the 2×4 boards that you attached to the short ends. I like to start with the top boards to make sure that the top ends up being perfect. Any imperfections can easily be hidden on the bottom once they are placed in the garden.
Once you secure both long boards on each side, use a 2×4 piece in the middle and secure with screws (I used 1 screw in the middle of each cedar board). This provides extra support to account for the weight of the added soil.
Attaching the trim to your garden bed
The last step is to attach the top trim. This step is optional, but in my opinion it is a finishing detail that is worth a few extra minutes and dollars to include. It makes a huge difference in the overall appearance and functionality of your raised bed.
Start by securing the 71″ pieces on both long sides. There should be a 1/2″ overlap on the outside edge on all 3 sides. The inside of the trim should fall flush with the supporting 2×4, therefore completely covering it. Secure it using 3 screws, one in each 2×4. Do this for both sides.
Once you have the long trim pieces secured, measure the gap between the trim pieces on the short ends. Cut the exact measurements from the remaining boards (half a cedar board cut in half). Taking this measurement once the box is built will allow for less gaps between boards. Fit each piece in and secure using 2 screws, again, one in each 2×4 support pieces. When you are finished, the trim should hide all the 2x4s and leave you with a professional looking raised bed.
Filling your Raised Bed Gardens
When filling your raised bed gardens, it’s a good idea to use good soil with a lot of organic matter. Before adding your soil, I recommend lining the bottom of the bed with weed barrier, such as landscape fabric or layers of cardboard. If you use cardboard it should be free from any dye or tape. Fill the bottom of your beds with wood chips, leaves, or grass clippings. These materials are often free, will provide good drainage, and will break down over time adding nutrients and organic matter to your soil. Be sure to add 6 to 12 inches of soil the first year depending on what you want to grow. Next year, simply add a thin layer of compost and mulched leaves or grass clippings on the top layer of the soil to add additional organic matter and suppress weeds.
DIY Raised Garden Bed: 4 Year UPDATE
It’s been four years since I built my cedar fence raised garden beds. I’m happy to share they are holding up great, even with our harsh NY winters! If you are looking for an affordable way to create a garden and like raised beds, I recommend trying these out. I am able to grow a lot of food in a single 6’x3′ bed. They don’t use much lumber and using the thin boards makes this project very affordable. For only about $20 in materials, you can’t go wrong!
I hope this post is helpful if you want raised beds but didn’t know where to start, or didn’t think they could be in your budget. Maybe you were like me and wanted affordable raised beds that were a bit more detailed than the standard box style. If you make a raised garden bed, I would love to see it and hear what you think!
What type of wood should you use for a raised bed?
There are a lot of great ideas for making garden bed planters, but if you use wood it is best to use untreated lumber. The kind of wood you use is important because pressure-treated wood contains chemicals that can leach into the soil and be absorbed by your plants. Pressure treated lumber might last longer, but it is not a good choice when building a new raised bed garden. I recommend using cedar untreated wood boards because they are naturally rot resistant and will last a long time without harsh chemicals.
What else can you use to build raised beds?
Raised beds can be made from a lot of different things such as scrap wood, concrete blocks, cement blocks, straw bales, or metal. I would be cautious if using old pallets because they are often pressure-treated lumber.
How to fill a new raised bed vegetable garden?
You want to fill your raised bed with nutrient-rich soil. Depending on how deep your beds are and how many you have to fill, this can become expensive. To save money, you can fill the bottom of your beds with wood chips, leaves, or grass clippings. These materials are often free, will provide good drainage, and will break down over time adding nutrients and organic matter to your soil. Be sure to add 6 to 12 inches of soil the first year depending on what you want to grow. Next year, simply add a thin layer of compost and mulched leaves or grass clippings on the top layer of the soil to add additional organic matter and suppress weeds. I don’t recommend using large logs at the bottom of a raised garden bed because they take years to break down. They might be a good option if you have very deep beds to fill.
What can you grow in a raised garden bed?
You can grow everything from root crops to tomato plants in raised bed gardens. Tomato plants will require support or trellising. You can also trellis plants like cucumbers and squash to make more room for other plants. There are several food crops that will grow in raised beds.
Can you grow cut flowers in a raised garden bed?
Cut flowers not only grow great in raised beds, but they also look beautiful in the structured garden beds. My favorite flowers to grow in raised beds are dahlias, sunflowers, zinnias, and cosmos.
Can you grow herbs in raised bed gardens?
Raised bed gardens are excellent for growing herbs. My favorite herbs to grow in raised beds are basil, thyme, and parsley. Herbs such as mint, oregano, sweet marjoram, thyme, and chives are often perennials and will try to take over a raised bed after a few years. Mint is especially known for this. Raised beds can be a good way to contain these plants in the garden. If you don’t want these plants to take over a raised bed, simply divide them in the spring or fall. This is a great way to increase your plants, or give them to a fellow gardener.
Do you need drip irrigation in raised garden beds?
Depending on your climate you might want to add drip irrigation. In upstate NY zone 5b we get enough rain where I do not need to install irrigation. When I use an adequate amount of mulch (such as grass clippings) I only need to water with a hose a couple times a season.
Thank you SO much for taking the time to read my blog. I am so glad to have you here! If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below. Also, be sure to follow along on Instagram for more behind the scenes related to gardening and life in an 1800’s fixer upper farmhouse.