Thursday, July 5, 2007

Building a Cedar Raised Bed Garden

In my previous post, I detailed the design and plan for my raised bed garden. After a couple months building it on a limited time basis, I've completed the garden. There some change to my original plan like adding a drip irrigation system and putting blue stones in the pathways. The following is my journal of getting it from design to completion. Before I start, here are a few photos of my finished garden with vegetables!

Cutting the Lumber

I started cross cutting the 4x4 into size (28 inches). Next is to dado out a slot (3/4 deep) from the 4x4 pieces. Because my table saw can't dado out more than 3/4 at a time, I have to run 3 passes for each slot. The most challenging part is creating the 45 degree slots.

Next came the cross cutting of the 2x6 pieces. 4ft. and 32" lengths. Now we're ready for assembly.


Originally, I planned to use outdoor wood glue to tie the pieces together, but I decided that would be too much of a hassle and I ended up using deck screws. The assembly is pretty straight forward. You build your raised bed containers upside down. It's important to assembly it in a level surface, I did it in my car garage. Just slide the 2x6 pieces into the 4x4 slots. This is where a rubber mallet comes handy for those tight fits. Once in it's in place, I used a 2 1/2 inch screws to toe-nail (screen) the 2x6 into the 4x4 post. For the first level, I recommend using 2 screws, 1 toe-nail and 1 from the side of the post. On the other levels, just a toe-nail is good enough.

All the raised beds assembled and sitting my garage. Now I just need some muscles to move them into my yard. Because it's made from cedar lumber it's surprisingly light.

Installing the beds

Because the area where I'm installing is basically my old garden, so digging a 8 inch deep hole is not a big effort because the soil is relatively soft and easily dig into. The spacing I chose between the corner beds is dictate by my arbor, which around 42 inches wide.

After installing the raised beds and arbor.

One of the biggest pain in my old garden is watering the plants and vegetables. I don't mine doing the regular watering, but the pain is that the nearest water spout is 60 feet away. Dragging the hose 60 feet every time I want to water is not what I enjoy. After some research, I decided on a drip irrigation system. If you Google on drip irrigation, there are lots of links that'll get you started, I definitely recommend reading these URLs:

I bought most of my irrigation parts from the Drip Store, which have some excellent articles about drip irrigation in general. My plan was just to water my raised bed garden, but I ended up running hose to all my plants around my house. I'm very happy with the results so far. Now back to the garden, I used mostly 1 G.P.H. emmiters and a 10 G.P.H. mister in each raised bed container.

Adding the Soil
This is perhaps the most difficult part of the project. I estimate I would need 5 cu. yard of soil to fill the beds. So I order the soil from my local nursery, 3 cu. yards of mushroom soil and 2 cu. yards of "organic" soil mix together before delivery to my driveway. In order to get the soil into the beds, I have to use a ramp so my wheelbarrow to clear the top of the raised top so I can dump the soil into them. Moving 5 cu. yard of heavy soil is not fun!!!. My plan is to top off my beds annually with compost and work it into the existing soil.

Finishing Touches
  • I decided to install 5/4 x 4 boards on top of the edge of the corner raised bed. It'll allow you to sit on the bed while working on the garden.
  • I put 18x18 and 12x12 cut Pennsylvania blue stone in the pathway and fill the gaps with medium size river gravel I got from Home Depot.
  • I also built 5 ft tall trellises for climbing vegetables.

Overall, the raised beds turn out great. It's early July and with all the benefits of a raised bed garden, my vegetables have never look better. Because of this, I'm planning of expanding it next spring, maybe 2 more containers and multi-level.

UPDATED (Feb 16, 2009), some of you requested more photos of my build, I've uploaded all the photos I taken during this project to my personal photo site. All the photos can be view here.