Last year we (meaning I) decided that we (again, I) needed a raised bed garden for some of my perennials like herbs and strawberries along with space for my root vegetables and lettuces. So I did what I always do and I went to Pinterest for some inspiration. And then I did what I always do again, and I combined a few different ideas to work for my needs.
We built four of these beds for under $200 total! I love being able to step off of our back deck and snip some herbs for dinner or pull up a carrot or two. Just last night I was able to cut some chives for baked potatoes, and I can't wait until we can go gather strawberries for breakfast!
Now, I want to again say that we built these last year, so the prices are from 2017, but I don't see how they could have increased too much.
We started by purchasing six 1"x6"x8' cedar fencing boards at Menards for each bed we wanted to make. This will give you a 4 ft by 8 ft raised bed. Then we bought 2x4's to use in the corners to screw it all together. I wanted to be able to add row cover or plastic to create a greenhouse. To do this, we bought 3/4" PVC pipe and the fittings to attach them to the boards and 1/2" PVC pipe to use as the hoops.
Since these beds are frames without a bottom, you will also need to start saving all of those shipping boxes from Amazon and decide where you will get your soil from. I'll describe what we did for this a little later.
Build the Frames
Start by cutting your 2x4's. If you want yours flush with the top, then they would be about 12 inches. You need four 12 inch boards per bed you're making.
The next thing my husband did was to cut off the "dog ear" on our boards. You can totally leave them if it won't bother you, but I just wanted a really clean square look. This does technically make my beds slightly less than 4ftx8ft, but what are a few inches?
Now cut two of the cedar planks in half. These will become the four boards you need for the short ends of the bed.
Once you've made all of your cuts, you can screw it all together. Place two of the long boards flush together and screw the 2x4 pieces to the top and bottom, but make sure you leave space for the side boards, about an inch. Repeat with the other two long boards. Now screw the side boards to the 2x4. And you should have at rectangular frame.
If you want to have the ability for the row cover or plastic, now is the time to add your 3/4" pipe. Using a pipe cutter, you will cut 12" sections. For each bed, you'll want eight 12" pieces- four per side. Screw the pipes in place equally down the long sides of your bed.
Prepping the Bed for Soil
Find a level area to place your bed frames and arrange them however you like. I moved and moved mine until they were equidistant and seemed straight with the house! It is worth taking your time because hopefully they won't be going anywhere anytime soon!
Take all of those boxes you've been saving and remove any tape or labels the best you can. You want to line the bottom of each bed with this cardboard to kill the grass underneath. The cardboard will eventually compost into the soil, but tape and labels may not depending on what they're made of.
Another thing to do before adding soil is to use tape to cover the holes of your PVC pipe. You don't want them filling up with soil so that you can't easily slip your hoop pipes down in them!
Once you have lined the bottom with cardboard, you will want to add soil. Now many of you know that our mini farm is actually attached to my family's larger farm. We simply bought 10 acres of the family farm and then the 20 acre plot next to it and rounded things out.
Our family no longer raises cattle, but they do lease the land to a cattle farmer and he feeds hay in various sections of the pasture. These areas are frequented by the cows, so there is quite a bit of manure that gets mixed into the dirt near these areas. We lovingly refer to this as "poop dirt." Fancy, I know. LOL! Anyway, my dad filled up the front loader on the tractor a few times and we filled our beds with the "poop dirt" and some left over dirt that was piled up from when we built our chicken coop.
And to just make things even better for our plants, I went to the local gas station and picked up some nightcrawlers. For those of you that aren't from the country, nightcrawlers are REALLY big worms that are used for fishing. I bought one container for each bed and added the worms to the beds so they could help mix and aerate the soil.
You're now ready to plant!
I loved the idea of these beds for my perennial plants like strawberries, horseradish, lavender, thyme, chives, etc. because this gave them an area that would be safe from my husband "accidentally" mowing them down. And it also contains them from spreading too much.
These beds are also FANTASTIC for root veggies. We have a lot of clay in our soil in the main garden, and even though we are working on adding organic matter to the area to loosen it up, we always ended up with short carrots and and shallots never grew. The looseness of the soil in these beds allowed for long carrots and my shallots did wonderfully!
Add straw, mulch and fertilizer as needed to keep weeds at bay and harvests plentiful.
Greenhouse or Row Cover
After you've planted, you can add the hoops and row cover or plastic. I placed the 1/2" PVC pipes down into the 3/4" pieces on the sides. My 1/2" PVC was 8ft long. Honestly, this is probably too long. I'm thinking of cutting some of the length off so that the plastic and row cover is closer to the dirt.
I used metal clips to keep my plastic attached to the hoops. I think they were 99 cents each at our local hardware store. Just make sure to allow for some air movement or you'll cook your seeds instead of getting them to grow!
Well, that's it! If you have any questions, please comment below and ask! I hope you enjoy your raised beds as much I have enjoy having mine!