BSIY Elevated Garden Bed

When it comes to making decisions at 36, I typically opt for the choice that doesn’t require me to bend or kneel. Thus, when it came time to think about building a garden at the new house, I didn’t want to repeat our last mistake of a raised garden bed, i.e., that it was still on the ground. So, after Dom showed me a few pictures of elevated garden beds, I looked at my wall-o-tools and decided I can build that.

I can’t remember where she saw the original picture, and I didn’t feel like downloading plans, which meant it was time for a good, ol’ fashioned Bullshit It Yourself project.

If you’re a Master Craftsman, you can already see from the picture above how simple this design is and how easily it will be to build. For the rest of us, we’re just gonna wing it.

Step 1 — The sides

Since the legs will be sitting directly in the dirt, you’ll likely need some weather-treated wood. This is just a guess, since I didn’t bother to look it up first.

Cut two 8' 2x4s in half. Cut the ends at 45 degrees to level with ground and top of bed. Mark the center point on each leg; this is where you will join them together. Because of the way we’re going to attach the slats, you’ll need a shim at the join point.

I used wood glue and exterior-grade screws to put everything together. The slats aren’t weather-treated, so I’m guessing this will fall apart within a year or two.

Since there are no plans, you’ll need to measure, cut, angle, and attach each slat individually. I used two 8' 1x4s; you can save some wood if you cut it down on 45 degree angles. If you mounted the legs completely perpendicular, you should be able to make 45 degree cuts on the slats and have them line up. Keep adding smaller slats until you reach the shim. If you’re not lazy, maybe fill in that last bit between the slats and the shim with a triangle piece. I’m lazy, so I didn’t.

Obvious tip: pre-drill the holes to keep the wood from splitting. Also, if the wood is soft, be careful not to sink the screws too much.

Step 2 — Connect the sides together

If you’ve got time, you can continue to use 1x4 slats to make the front and back of the garden. I’m sure it would look very nice. If you’re lazy, just use larger slats! I can’t remember the exact measurements of the boards I used, but they were 6' long and 1" thick. I needed 2 for each side.

You can choose any length you want, depending on how big you want the garden to be. Note that because of the way the legs are positioned, you may have to notch one side to get it to sit right. In the picture above, I notched the other side of the board unnecessarily.

See in the foreground how my slats don’t sit flush with the other boards? That’s just shoddy craftsmanship. Do a better job than me.

Step 3 — Bracing

It was at this point that I realized just how much dirt the bed was going to hold. At six feet long, I knew I need some additional bracing to keep the longer panels from bowing out.

I started with some inner bracing to connect the panels together.

The 2x4s are joined to the legs, and the panels are secured from the outside in. See that metal bracer on the right? That’s because I didn’t have an extra six foot 2x4 and damned if I was going to go back to Home Depot for a fifth time that day.

I actually started staining and sealing the wood before I decided to add even more bracing. With most of the weight centered over the gap at the bottom, I needed something behind those panels to keep them straight. Two 8' weather-treated 2x4s cut to size did the trick.

Step 4 — Mind the gap

I’ll admit that I really had no idea what I was going to do about the bottom of this garden bed. Even with the sealing and the plastic sheeting (later), I didn’t want the brunt of the wet soil sitting on wood. I settled on using PVC to form the bottom. I could put some holes in it to let the water drain freely, or just use it to force water to the sides. Unfortunately, Home Depot only had 4" diameter, and the gap was just a little bigger.

Time for some teeth!

I cut up some 1x1 pieces to form the teeth. And now, as I sit here looking at it, I realize the PVC will be bearing the weight for the soil, and the teeth will be bearing the weight of the PVC. Luckily, those teeth are secured with 3" screws going through the panels and 2x4 brace. We’ll see how long they hold!

The PVC does fit nicely inside now, and there are more channels for the water runoff:

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Step 5 — Pictures

We placed the elevated garden bed next to the fence just outside our dining nook windows. It’s high enough that we’ll be able to see the plants through all stages of growth, and should be more pleasant to look at than the boring fence.

What Did We Learn?

Here are some of things I learned while working on this project:

  • You should probably have plans before starting a project.
  • The more tools you have, the more options you have for accomplishing a task. I used a circular saw, hacksaw, multiple drills, shavers, sanders, clamps, a t-square, a quick square, line chalk, etc., etc. Buy more tools!
  • Two days of woodwork equals three days of lower back pain.
  • Safety goggles save eyes.
  • Point a fan at your workbench when you’re cutting with the circular saw and blow all that sawdust to the side.

Dom and I are putting the finishing touches on a valet project that we are also BSIYing our way through. It looks much better than my garden.

Comments are open below. What did I do wrong? How long do you think this garden bed will last? If you build a better version, link to the pics!