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How to Build a Raised Vegetable Garden

If you have a kid who loves helping out in the garden but you're always brushing the dirt off their knees, a raised bed may be the perfect addition to your landscape

Age Range: 6 and up

Here's a great project for the budding gardener in your family. This Old House TV landscape contractor Roger Cook recently showed a few young friends how to make a raised garden. It's a simple frame of rot-resistant lumber that holds soil in place and brings it to a height that's easy for everyone to reach without stepping onto precious plants—plus no more dirty knees (or at least fewer dirty knees).

Plant a vegetable patch in your new DIY raised garden bed. Kids will have tons of fun caring for their seedlings as they mature. And what better reward is there for a garden well tended than a crisp carrot straight from the earth (washed, of course) or a nice ripe tomato right from the vine. Read the following steps to learn how to build a raised vegetable garden.

Step 1

Overview

Illustration by Carl Wiens

Roger and the kids made this bed with rot-resistant cedar, a material that's safe around the edible plants it will contain. Cedar will also turn a nice silvery gray as it weathers.

The bed here is 10 feet long, but you can make yours as long as the lumber allows. However, it should be no more than 4 feet wide so that little arms can reach the plants in the middle. Roger cut stakes from 2x4s and angled one end to a point to hold the frame in place and keep the sides from bowing once it's filled with heavy soil.

Vegetable gardens need a lot of light, so Roger and his helpers placed the bed in an area that gets sun for most of the day. To improve drainage and prevent weeds from growing up into the garden, he removed the grass beneath the bed and tilled the earth before adding soil.

Step 2

Cut and assemble the frame

Photo by Ask This Old House TV

Using a jigsaw or circular saw, cut an 8-foot length of 2x10 cedar in half.

Hold one of the 10-foot 2x10s on edge, and butt the end of a 4-foot 2x10 up to it so that the face of the longer board overlaps the end of the shorter board. Using the drill/driver, sink three 3-inch screws through the face of the long side and into the end of the short side.

Attach the other sides together, using three 3-inch screws on each corner and overlapping the long sides over the short sides.

Step 3

Square up the frame

Photo by Ask This Old House TV

With the four sides assembled, place a framing square in each corner, one at a time, and adjust the frame until the corner lines up square. After aligning the entire frame, check all four corners again with the framing square.

Roger Cook says: "The great thing about a raised garden is that you can put in the perfect soil for whatever you want to grow."

Step 4

Brace the corners

Photo by Ask This Old House TV

Leaving the corners perfectly square, tack scrap lumber across each one with 3-inch screws to hold it in position.

Step 5

Mark the perimeter

Photo by Ask This Old House TV

Move the raised garden bed frame to the sunny spot you've picked out for the bed. Using an edger or spade, mark the ground around the perimeter of the frame.

Step 6

Prepare the soil

Photo by Ask This Old House TV

Set the raised garden bed frame aside. Using a sod cutter or grub hoe, skim away the grass layer. Increase drainage for your garden by turning the soil beneath the bed area with a pitchfork or rotary tiller.

Step 7

Level the frame

Photo by Ask This Old House TV

Set the frame back in place over the tilled area. Using a 4-foot level, check the position of the frame. Dig out the soil beneath the frame until it sits level on all sides.

Step 8

Stake the frame

Photo by Ask This Old House TV

Cut ten 2-foot-long pieces of 2x4. Make two diagonal cuts on one end of each piece to create a point. Using a sledgehammer, drive these stakes at least 18 inches into the ground along the outside of the long sides of the frame at 2½-foot intervals. Using the drill/driver, secure each stake to the frame with three 3-inch screws.

Remove the temporary corner braces. Drive a stake inside each corner. On one short side of the bed, secure the stakes with screws driven through the frame on both sides of each corner. On the other short side, leave the screws off.

Step 9

Fill the bed

Photo by Ask This Old House TV

Remove the unscrewed short side of the bed. Using a wheelbarrow, fill the bed with a mixture of soil and compost. Level out the soil and continue filling until it is 2 to 3 inches from the top of the frame.

Step 10

Reassemble the frame

Photo by Ask This Old House TV

Replace the short side of the bed and, using a drill/driver, secure it to the long sides and to the corner stakes with 3-inch screws. Using a reciprocating saw or handsaw, cut the top of each stake flush with the top of the frame.

Step 11

Plant the vegetables

Photo by Ask This Old House TV

Plant seeds or seedlings for your vegetables. Dig a small hole for each one, mix in the appropriate amount of starter fertilizer, set the seed or seedling into the hole, then cover it with soil.

Step 12

Water and mulch the bed

Photo by Ask This Old House TV

Once the bed is planted, water it thoroughly. Then cover the soil with about an inch of mulch made from grass clippings.

Roger Cook says: “Use grass clippings to mulch around the plants. This will help keep the soil moist and stop weeds from growing.”


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