Old garden beds aren’t hard to refresh if you know what you’re doing. Landscape contractor Jenn Nawada and carpenter Nathan Gilbert show us how they help a troop of Girl Scouts breathe new life into their decade-old raised bed gardens.
How to Rebuild a Raised Garden
Nathan and Jenn are working on Girl Scout gardens, but the principles apply to standard backyard raised gardens, as well.
- Start by removing all of the reusable plants and separating them from weeds. If you’re not going to reuse the plants, consider giving them away to neighbors. Use the shovel to dig down around the plants and remove their root balls, keeping the majority of the plants intact.
- Use a pry bar to break apart the existing beds carefully. This will result in nails sticking out of the ends of the board, so use a hammer to pop them back into the board and remove them.
- Use a tape measure and measure the space around the existing bed to find the right size. You can go smaller, but it’s easier to replicate the existing beds or even size up a bit. Three 8-foot boards do make a nice 4×8-sized bed, but this can be a bit large if there isn’t 360-degree access to the bed.
- Cut the boards to length with a miter or track saw. Cut one set of boards, test the fit, and then continue cutting the rest of the boards at one time for the best workflow.
- Assemble the boards so the longer boards butt up to the shorter boards. Predrill and then screw through the face of the shorter boards and into the end grain of the long board. Repeat at all 4 corners, using at least 3 screws per joint.
- Place the box in place over the existing soil to test the fit. Wiggle it into place, and check that it’s square by measuring diagonally from corner to corner. The measurements should be the same.
- If the garden soil doesn’t have a weed barrier, consider removing the soil and placing the weed barrier down before refilling the boxes with a mix of garden soil, compost, and fertilizer.
- Place the garden plants on top of the soil and arrange them to suit your taste. Once satisfied, dig holes and plant each flower, herb, or vegetable plant according to their needs. Finish the job by watering the plants.
He then assembles the boards and secures them by drilling pilot holes for each hole to allow the screws to go in more easily. Once the main base is put together, Nathan then stacks the second level on top of the first and secures them together with screws.