Friday, April 26, 2013

how to build a raised garden bed

step one:  do some math.  gahh.  i know.  after pricing lumber on home depot's website, i discovered shorter boards are cheaper.  which sort of makes sense.  after my last painful and drawn out raised-bed-building adventure, i decided 4'x4' lumber beds were much easier than 8'x4' stacked landscaping ties.  plus i have the space, the hauling vehicle [my mom's] and i hadnt yet made a good buddy in the home depot lumber department.
but i sketched out some ideas and questions - should i try and do corner stakes and screw each side into it?  do i stagger the screws?  can i use corner brackets?  how many do i need - 1 or 2 per corner?  what strength?  what kind of screws?  what size?  do i need nuts too?  do the brackets go on the inside or the outside?  why are they so friggin expensive?
i decided i wanted 5 beds - 4 for veggies and one for flowers.  with 2"x12"x8' boards, i would need 2 boards per bed, with a total of 10 boards, somewhere around $18-19 each.  right there... priceeey.  jesus.  but these things are treated to last [now arsenic free!], im putting a crapload of work into this project, and damnit i want a nice well-made garden. 

after handing the lumber guy my drawing, taking it back again, and trying to convince him that yes, i am female, and i do know what im asking for.  somegoddamn4'piecesoflumberforchristssake.  there is no need to treat me like a porcelain doll or pretend to be kind of dense in order to get me to explain it over twice.  i can help move the boards if it cuts the time in half that i have to spend with you.  im sure ive damaged my hands worse.

but i digress.

step 2:  buy materials.  i bought 10 8' boards cut to 4' lengths [free in store!], a box of exterior screws, and 20 corner brackets - the super cheap kind.  fortunately i already had an electric screwdriver/drill or that would have been another hour of my life.

step 3:  figure out where to put beds.  i laid some boards in my yard and very inaccurately laid out some sort of bed shapes.  now granted, 2"x12"x4's are still friggin heavy, so i only carried a few out of the garage and laid out a square and then..some arms.  then i busted out the drill.  i had bought a set of specially hardened bits with blahblahblah for my [probably] concrete apartment walls.  and at this point i had absolutely no idea what kind of wood i was dealing with. 

step 4: measure brackets.  ignore my terrible nail polish and the fact that my pointer finger appears to be a little broken.  its just tilted funny i swear.  line the bracket up to the edge and draw in the center of the screw hole.
step 5:  drill that ish.  a note of advice.  try and avoid knots.  they are naturally denser than the rest of the wood and hell to drill into.  not impossible, but i was pretty sure i was going to break off a bit at this point.  and yes i did predrill *nearly* all my holes even though the exterior screws are somewhat self-tapping.  its just easier.
step 6: attach bracket with screws
step 7: line up other corner and repeat steps 4-6.
step 8: repeat step 7 3 more times.  tada!  you have a slightly wonky square!  now because these beds are not going to be moving [after their final placement] they do not need to be super sturdy.  which is good cos $.60 brackets are bendy [technical term..].  now repeat step 8 again on the other 3 piles of wood ...and leave one in the garage for good measure cos i bet your thumb hurts now from trying to hold corners together with one hand and have enough torque to use a drill with the other

step 9: order 3 cubic yards of loam/dirt.  thats for 5 beds mind you.  ive only pictured 4 here ... see last sentence of above step.  and its an additional $135 delivered.  cos ... i can't easily haul dirt in a mini cooper.

so what did this all cost you ask?  well.. do you dare?  materials total: $207.77 for 5 raised beds.  now you say, but home depot sells 4'x4' nice looking cedar beds for the low low price of $39.97 each!  with precut dovetail corners and handy post toppers to look all schmancy.  instead of $41.55 each and some serious elbow grease.  well the premade ones are only 7" high.  the fine print says if you need extra depth, just add another layer!  they fit together so neatly!  and now youre at 14" and $79.94 each.  and mine are 12" high, bitches.  well yes, i understand after milling theyre actually 11.5" high.  details.

total garden cost: about $360 including tax.  but *sigh* not including plants...

i'm pretty sure we need bi-annual raises at work.


  1. Dude, you lost me at Math. Thank goodness they have premade ones at Home Depot! Also, i have never bought lumber from the store before, and I'm sure every sales person looks at me like "why the hell are you even here" and they'd be right. Not that I'm girly or anyhting, just inept.

    I actually wish I had started to get my garden going this year, but I'm just much too busy. :(

    1. hahha home depot is intimidating. but ive been oh ... 20 times since closing a month and a half ago. turns out one of my neighbors works there. and im trolling the aisles for a hot single contractor. seriously.

      but window boxes! cute and easy! and well..they have to be outside to avoid curious kitty damage/snacking


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