Tuesday, February 28, 2017

DIY Raised Garden Beds


This blog is going to be lengthy!
I've found that my previous purchase of a garage full of tools has been a blessing and a curse.  We now have some neat, farmhouse additions to our suburban house, however, the honey-do list is neverending!  Our latest project idea was to build something so we could have a garden at the house.  If you know Jessie at all you'll remember how much she loves having fresh fruits and veggies in the house!  So, we decided to give this "home grown" idea a shot and build some sort of raised garden beds.

Now, if you know me (Clint) at all, you'll realize how particular I am about projects, especially woodworking.  I've inherited all my skills from helping my grandpa through the years which have really given me the ability to come up with some neat ideas since we became homeowners last year.  We researched around and found some neat plans from Ana White Counter Height Garden Beds (pictured below).  I decided to build two 2'x8' boxes, two 2'x6' and one 2'x4'.  I also tweaked the design a bit to add more stability to each box so I've included the materials and cut list.

Here's what we ended up purchasing:

Materials List (all boards 8' length) - Total Cost Approx. $650
The reason we chose cedar mulch over regular mulch is because cedar is naturally insect repellent and doesn't fade in color near as fast.  It's about the same price depending on which brand you purchase.  We chose Texas Native because it's 100% cedar, meaning it doesn't have crummy filler pieces like pine or oak.  The same goes for cedar boards - plus it looks and smells AWESOME!  Douglas Fir is also a good choice because of the same properties but it's a decent amount cheaper than cedar, but we don't have much of that available in southeast Texas.  Whatever you use to build the garden boxes, make sure it is NOT pressure treated wood.  Over time, the chemicals used on that wood can soak into the soil and contaminate edibles.

A few days and heavy rains later, I finally got to hammer down on the box builds.  Let me tell ya, having a sliding miter saw makes a world of difference and cuts down on time!  From the materials list above I started cutting everything I needed before I started to actually build them.

Cut List
  • 4x4
    • 32 @ 32"
    • 4 @ 7 3/4" (middle bed)
  • 1x8
    • 4 @ 96"
    • 4 @ 72"
    • 2 @ 48"
    • 10 @ 24"
    • 2 @ 60", 1 @ 10", 1 @ 20" (middle bed)
  • 1x4
    • 4 @ 96"
    • 4 @ 72"
    • 2 @ 48"
    • 62 @ 24"
The plans from Ana White's website says to use all sorts of pre-drilling, guide screws, etc., but I didn't want to waste time using that so I went with a pneumatic nail gun and framing nails.  The ring shank type hold just as well as screws but if you don't have access to a nail gun then deck screws work just as well.

The build process went relatively smoothly, however the hardware cloth was a bit difficult to maneuver and staple down.  I bought 24" wide hardware cloth so I would only have to cut the length and not have to mess with the width.  

Once I got all the boards cut I began to piece it together.  For the 8' boxes I used four 4x4 on each side with twelve 24" 1x4 underneath.  I cut and stapled the hardware cloth then nailed the 1x4 boards for added stability.  I also nailed 1x4 boards between each leg 24" from the top of the box to make them more stable.  The 6' boxes took three 4x4 on each side and eight 24" 1x4 underneath (pictured behind the 8' box).  The 4' box was the easiest to build with four 4x4 and six 24" 1x4 (bottom picture).

We really only had one area of our backyard that made sense for a garden and that happened to be the most complicated, unlevel, non-square (go figure) section of the yard.  Our backyard is graded in a way that rainwater flows toward the house, levels out about 12 feet from the back of the house, then flows around each side to the drains by the street.  So here I discovered problem numero uno.

From here it took several attempts placing the boards and finished boxes to figure out where I needed to cut out the grass.  If it wasn't one thing it was another - story of my life!

We knew we wanted some sort of paver separating the garden area from the rest of the yard, and this ultimately led to the most backbreaking part of the project.  I know if I just put pavers on top of the grass it would cause water to puddle up and eventually backflow toward the house - no bueno!  I knew my only option was to dig down the height of the paver to allow water to flow over everything and out to the street.  I ended up renting a sod cutter and flatbed trailer from Home Depot.  The sod cutter has depth options so I set mine to 2" (the height of our pavers) and went to work building up a nice pile of grass and clay.  The garden area measured roughly 9' wide in the rear, 12' wide in the front and approximately 18' deep on the sides.  After I piled it all up I started to kick myself - why didn't I wheelbarrow it around to the trailer as I pulled it up?!?!  *Sigh* lesson learned!  Cooper was obviously laughing at my mistake!

Now that I got all the grass and weeds out I wanted them to stay out.  I put down some Sta-Green Premium Landscape Fabric and tacked it all down with fabric pins that way the grass and weeds wouldn't grow up through the mulch.  I brought the garden boxes to the back yard so I could place pavers and stepping stones where I wanted them.  

After I placed the stepping stones and brick pavers I realized I bought WAY too many, so back to Lowe's it was to return them!

We originally had a vision to fill the garden bottom with gravel, but, after seeing the cost and how many trips with a wheelbarrow it would take me, we decided against that (Hallelujah!) and instead picked out some cedar mulch.  The cedar mulch has the same insect repellent properties as the cedar boards, and again, it smells amazing!

Once I got all the mulch put in and leveled, I went ahead and built the middle garden bed.  We chose to have this one sitting on the ground so it would be easier to maneuver around and give some contrast to the taller boxes.  Jessie decided it will be filled with different berries (yum!).  The corners aren't 100% square on this one because I wanted it to be the same shape as the whole area but that's not a big deal - it will hold up just fine.

I put all the raised boxes back inside, leveled them in the mulch and VOILA!  Finished!  I'm extremely happy with how this turned out.  Without counting the days I got rained out, it took about 3 days to finish it all, including my numerous trips to Lowe's and Ace Hardware.  Here's the finished project (a fence and gates are soon to come!) - it's obvious Cooper loves it too.  Garden bed, dog bed, it's all the same.  Thanks for reading!