How to Build a Raised Vegetable Garden Planter Bed with Landscape Timbers
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 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.
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.
Do you have a garden at home?
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. 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.
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
TBD based on overall size
2 per timber pieces
Enough to cover ground
8" Brace straps
1 per each timber connection
90 degree angle brace
1 at each corner
1 package of 50
Enough to fill planter