How to Build a Wood Raised Bed ~ My checklist & Favorite Tips

by | Mar 20, 2019

Are you thinking of building raised garden beds? Before you start building, there are some things to consider so you can properly plan out your garden and raised bed layout.

Some raised bed inspiration…

Raised garden beds offer lots of benefits, not only to the plants, but also to the eye. While I do a mix of gardens in my yard, raised beds offer an organization, a structure, and a charm to any space. You can read even more about the proc and cons of raised bed gardening in: What Type of Garden is Right For You?

The raised beds you see below were part of my very first garden! They were the first beds we ever designed, built, and used for gardening. Since I didn’t photograph or document any of that original building process, Sam and I decided to make some mini-raised beds for our front yard garden and film a video so you could see the process and tools we used for building a custom raised bed.

PS: you might notice the cattle panel trellises in the photo below. They are one of the most useful and durable vertical growing spaces in my garden, and I’ve written a full tutorial HERE.

The backyard in 2015 and then in 2018. We added five original raised beds made from natural redwood.

The mini-raised beds

Below you’ll find a checklist of things to consider before building a raised bed, but also a DIY video for how we construct custom raised bed using all-natual redwood. These beds were meant to grow vegetables, but during a heatwave all my plants bolted (ie. flowered and turned bitter) so I replaced them with strawberries. We love our little strawberry beds!  They currently flank a bench in our front yard garden, and I’m obsessed with how cute the fruit looks hanging down the front of the beds.

Whatever size you decide to make your beds, consider each item on the list below! If your beds will be very large, you’ll want to build them in-place so you don’t need to carry them long distances. The process for building a raised bed is basically the same, no matter the size, just make sure you take the time to measure, buy the right materials, and do your research!

This post is meant to accompany our Building a Raised Garden Bed Tutorial video. I just wanted to provide a simple checklist of things to think about as you approach building your beds.

Raised Bed Checklist:

√ Location

Consider your sun exposure and water source when deciding where to install your raised beds. Are you planning on installing irrigation? If so, where is your water source? To help de-mystify garden irrigation, check out Watering & Irrigation ~ Insights From Our Garden. Other options might include simply using a watering can (as you expand your garden this could get more time consuming and difficult), or something like these oyas.

Take note of what parts of the area receive full sun, partial sun, shade, etc. Many vegetables require full sun, but there are some that like partial sun (especially in hot desert areas). Take a day and see how the sun moves over your garden. Remember that sun exposure can change over the seasons as well. Take notes or even draw a diagram. This information will help you choose the best location for the vegetables that you want to grow. Vegetables typically want at least 6-8 hours of sunlight a day.

These smaller raised beds flank a peaceful garden bench. I love that they keep the strawberries from touching the ground and are easy to harvest!

√ Size

Once you know where you are building your beds, how big should they be? As discussed in the video, how tall (or deep) do you want your beds? It is recommended to go no shorter than 1 foot, but usually taller beds are better for root development.

Think about harvesting your vegetables. Is your bed too wide to reach across? Make sure you will be able to easily access your vegetables. I would not make a bed that is wider than my arm reach unless I was able to walk around to the other side to harvest as well. Keep those kinds of measurements in mind.

If you are making many beds, you will need to consider walking paths. Can you easily walk between your beds? Can you wheel a trash can, dolly, or wheel barrow between them? A garden is a lot like a construction area. You will be working in it and need to be able to move around without feeling like you will trip or hurt yourself.

√ Support and Durability

In regards to wood choices, we prefer redwood or cedar. Go for all natural wood that has not been treated with chemicals that could leach into your soil. Redwood and cedar resists rot and ages well over time. We also do not stain or coat our beds with anything because the wood ages so beautifully, and why go through the extra process of trying to find something safe and then spend the time coating the bed?

If any dimension on your bed exceeds 6-8 feet, you might want to consider adding another wood brace to add support and prevent warping over time. See our video for the 2×2 corner braces we use, and then simply add another brace to the longer dimension of your bed on the inside.

√ Pest and Weed management

In our video we cover your options for gopher mesh and weed barrier. If you foresee either of these things being a big problem, you can consider covering the bottom of your beds as we demonstrate. In our case, we don’t have an issue with either, so we are going to use cardboard as a temporary weed barrier. Eventually the cardboard will decompose and become a healthy part of the soil. Hopefully by that time, the weeds have been stifled. Note: try not to use glossy cardboard because this means that glossy coating would be decomposing into your soil. Yuck!

It’s Spring and the perfect time to get that garden started. I hope this guide has been helpful.

Watch the video tutorial here.

Watch how we install a raised garden bed here.

Are you ready to start planning and building your garden?

You are well on your way! Once your garden is ready to plant, use your gardening zone to help you select the proper plants for your growing climate (find your gardening zone HERE)

Visit a local nursery to pick up your seedlings, or check out Where I Buy Seeds and learn to grow your own plants from seed!

Got questions? Leave a comment below!

PS: Tag me in your garden photos with #FreckledCA on Instagram!

Meet Randi

Urban gardening is my jam. I’m Randi, California girl who obsessively gardens to grow food and flowers around my urban home. Seasonal, simple living is what inspires me~ I hope it will inspire you too. Join me in crafting a life and home connected to the garden Read More>>>>

For Growers & Gardeners from High Mowing Organic Seeds