Sunday, April 17, 2011

Raised Bed Gardening 2.0

Cut and Ready!
Today I started on the new raised beds.  This is the 2nd time I've built these and I've made a few changes to the first version.  Building a raised bed is very easy with a few good tools.  If you're interested in starting your own garden check out this wonderful article by Kate Gardner from PlanetNatural. So here are the details:

3 Beds total (for now... I'm probably going to build 2 or 3 more)
I really want a winter garden and a few beds to grow onions and garlic in, not to mention potatoes/yams.  All of these crops require a dedicated space for almost the entire growing season (in Seattle).  Unlike beans, peas, leafy greens, radishes and chard etc. where I was able to do 2 or 3 rounds in the same space.  With a yard that's about 2000sf I want to challenge myself to grow for year round eating!  I'm not much of a lawn person anyways :P

Beds are 4' x 8'
It just makes sense with lumber being 8' long.  It also fits nicely in the Prius.  Yes we hauled all of the lumber you see in that pic in our 2005 Prius!  It's like live action tetris.

Beds are 12" high
My first version was 18" high (or three levels of 2"X6") and it needed A LOT of soil to fill!  This time I'm only going with a 12" high bed (or two levels of 2"x6").  I searched around for more info on bed height and found this great video from GrowingYourGreens.

Cedar and Hemlock Fir
I originally planned on making all of my beds from cedar, but 2"x6"x8' cedar lumber was about $14.00 each and I needed 6 per bed.  Each bed would be about $90 with corner posts... that's a little more than I want to spend.  Lowes also had the same in Hemlock Fir for about $4 (or about $30 per bed with corner posts).  I debated for awhile at the cost vs. longevity of the wood and for the sake of experimentation I decided to go with both.  We made 2 Fir and 1 Cedar bed.  I'll keep you guys posted on how these compare to each other.

6 Cedar 2"x6"x8' = $84.00
12 Hemlock Fir 2"x6"x8' = $48.00
2 Hemlock Fir 4"x4"x8' = $16.00
Total for 3 beds: $148.00 (not including soil or misc things like screws and nails)

The Tools
Tools for the job:
circular saw, pencil, level, tape measure and drill.  You'll also need nails or screws and a level area to put it all together on.  It really helps to have a concrete pad or patio.  Measure and cut the wood.  Each bed has four 8' sections and four 4' sections and four corner posts that are 12"high.  Well the posts are really 11" since 2x6 lumber is really 1.5"x5.5".  

I Cheated
After you cut all of your pieces lay them out on a flat surface and begin to assemble.  In the past I used clamps to hold the wood together then pre-drilled and screwed them together... or you can have a helper hold the wood together, but it always slips or moves.  I cheated this time and used a nail gun!  It was soooo much faster!  I still pre-drilled and used screws, I just don't trust brad nails to withstand years of abuse.  I tend to overdo it.  This was the original tutorial I used from Popular Mechanics.

3 Down
My husband helped me with these and we managed to put all 3 together in about 2 hours.  I also added some braces in the middle of the 8' sections, my old beds were a bit wobbly in the middle. Tomorrow we'll deal with the soil and "install" our beds.


Missouri Bend Paper Works said...

Thanks so much for this post! I was just thinking of doing some raised beds, but had found the idea daunting...this makes it look possible! I'll stay tuned!

Diem Chau said...

Oh you're so welcome :) It's actually a very fun activity. If you have a helper and the right tools it's much easier. The people at the lumber store might even cut your wood pieces for you.

Victoria Takahashi said...

exactly what they said above! youve taken the daunt out of want!
Now it feels very Do-able!
thanks Diem!!!!


Diem Chau said...

Aw thanks Vic :)
Are you thinking of making a few beds? You've got the green thumb too!

Unknown said...

I know this post is a bit old, but I came across it because I was looking at using hemlock for raised beds and was curious how they held up. Thanks in advance!

Diem Chau said...

I had to move the beds last year and dug up frame. The hemlock beds had way more rot and at some spots it was completely rotted through. The other beds had rot as well, but the worst rot spots made it half way through the wood. They were both still usable, I just replaced the bottom boards. The top boards are all OK.

If I was doing this over again I'd use cedar, even if it costs extra. OR use cedar for the bottom (where there's more moisture or below soil) and hemlock for the top...

Pedro said...

I bought lowes hemlock fir board 16 feet long 1 foot wide and had it cut into two 5 foot and two 3 foot sections to make a 3x5x1 raised bed tomorrow. I'm curious how your's held up? I'm probably going to put landscape fabric underneath and cover with black plastic. Any advice before I build, things you wish you had known before you built yours? Thanks!