Building a Raised Bed – A Family Adventure

The snow is finally melting here in Garrett County and spring is getting warmer every day.  

My husband, Josh, had a few hours to help me build our new raised bed on Saturday. Some of you may have read my planning and budgeting blog from last month, but my building materials have changed. Josh found a yellow locust tree to cut into logs, which we sawed on our family’s circular sawmill. Be sure to check local feed stores, garden centers, or local sawmills for wooden building materials that may be very affordable. 

tools for building a raised bed

laying out a new garden

Level the area. You will need a shovel and a level. Measure out the dimensions of your raised bed. We had to dig deeper on the one side to make it level. We also used a 4-foot long level, so that made measuring the 8’ x 4’ bed pretty easy to lay out.

cutting boards for raised beds

Prepare your boards. Square the ends and cut. Pre-drill after cutting the lengths. Pre-drilling is especially important if you’re using hardwood lumber. We used 1.5 inch thick locust lumber.

boards nailed together

Lay out your boards and nail them together. Check out this video by Jon Traunfeld (1 minute 30 second mark) for more details on how to nail the boards together. Repeat until your desired height or you run out of materials. Measure diagonally from one end to the other. Those numbers should match if the bed is square.

raised bed frame

We added two middle posts that we drove one foot into the ground to be sure that the soil wouldn’t push the boards out of place. Posts were 3” x 4”  and 3 feet long.

raised bed frame

 Secure your layers together. 

raised bed with weed barrier

Add black landscape fabric (or newspaper/cardboard) to block weed growth. This photo shows all posts that were used to secure the three layers of boards.

raised bed filled with soil

We used a mixture of bulk topsoil and mushroom compost purchased from a local feed store. Here you can find more information on what you can use to fill your raised bed garden.

raised bed with square feet marked off

Lastly, I used staples, a hammer, twine, and a rule to measure out my square foot plots to prepare for planting. I have 32 square feet ready to plant as soon as the weather warms up a little more.  Check out these great resources if you need guidance on timing of when to start planting vegetables. This planting calendar is my favorite planning tool. Next month, I’ll share some ideas for critter-proofing the raised bed. 

Are you ready for vegetable gardening season? Do you have plans to add any gardening spaces this season?

By Ashley Bodkins, Senior Agent Associate and Master Gardener Coordinator, Garrett County, Maryland, edited by Christa Carignan, Coordinator, Home & Garden Information Center, University of Maryland Extension. See more posts by Ashley and Christa.

4 thoughts on “Building a Raised Bed – A Family Adventure

  1. Connie Pumphrey March 24, 2021 / 2:06 pm

    Great information and well done!

  2. Ron March 26, 2021 / 6:00 am

    Have access to wooden pallets, but reluctant to use, because of
    possible contamination from chemical treatment, Are they normally
    treated and unsafe ? Thanks / Ron

    • Ashley Bachtel-Bodkins March 30, 2021 / 10:14 am

      Pallets are a hard one… the wood could be treated, but something toxic could have been transported on the pallet too. Best guidance would be to paint with latex paint after the bed is built and then also use a plasitc liner between the soil/wood to give an extra protection.

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