How to Build Raised Beds on a Budget

IMG_1923I’m not really a handy person. I can put together an Ikea chair or hang a picture but when it comes to lumber and screws and saws and making things plumb, I no can do. Luckily, my uncle is handy, literally a professional handyman. In February, he was at our house, visiting from Wisconsin. Over morning coffee, I asked him if he could help me build raised beds sometime. He said, “Why not do it today?”

Why not, indeed. I dug out my book called Food Grown Right in Your Backyard by Colin McCrate and Brad Halm, two Seattle gardener – builders, and showed him their section on making raised beds. We decided to modify the book’s directions and  build two 6′ by 4′ raised beds that were 12 inches deep. These would fit nicely into my veggie space. So we went off to the hardware store.

What amazed me about this project was how little time and money was spent doing it. My uncle and I finished in about an hour and a half, not counting shopping time. The total cost for everything was about $75. Here’s how we did it and what we used.

Our Purchased Supplies

  • Four 2″ by 12″ by 10′ Hemlock boards
  • One 4″ by 4″ by 8′  Douglas fir board
  • One 2″ by 4″ by 96″ whitewood stud
  • One 1 lb box of tan deckmate screws

We decided to ask the guy at the hardware store to cut the boards for us. For anyone new to building projects, I highly recommend this. In our case, we asked for one cut per board, a four-foot section that left us with a six-foot section from the same board. It worked out great. The cuts were straight and smooth. We’d already accomplished the first step before we even left the store.

Our Tools

  • A sturdy drill (with a regular bit and a Phillips bit)
  • A circular saw
  • A hammer
  • A smallish level
  • A few pieces of scrap wedges
  • A power cord

We got everything home and laid it out on the driveway. My uncle drilled a few pilot holes at the end of each board, about an inch in from the edge. Then, with a pencil, he marked where three pilot holes on each corner were to go and handed me the drill! Ack! I wasn’t sure how to approach it, but he helped me set it straight and go for it. Then, after I was done, we set screws a third-way into each hole and pulled the boards together. In a bit of handyman expertise, he wiggled the boards onto wedges and leveled the whole set up. I wouldn’t have thought to do that. One of us held the boards tight together as the other sunk the screws completely in with the drill. Voila, rectangular wooden boxes!

Somewhere during all of this, he’d cut the 4′ by 4′ board into 12 inch pieces with the circular saw. So he took the blocks and set them at the corners, then used the wedges to prop up the frame and again make it all level. We used the hammer to nudge all of the corners square. I can’t remember if I drilled pilot holes for the blocks or just pushed the screws straight in with the drill. I think we just pushed the screws in. We used two for each side. Then we cut and secured the 2″ by 4″ stud into the center of each bed with two screws on each side. By about 2:30 that afternoon, we were done.

These raised beds are blocky and sturdy. They easily hold lots of soil without strain. I can’t wait to plant them with lots of healthy veggies and flowers!


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