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Published April 17, 2024 by Nicole Burke

How to Start a Garden Part 4: Building a Raised Bed

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how to build raised beds

It's Time to Build Your Garden Boxes

Constructing a raised bed can be one of the more challenging aspects of installing a garden, especially if you’re not accustomed to using power tools.

For one of my first installations, I needed to measure and cut wood on site. So I headed to the hardware store and bought myself my first electric saw. When my husband came home and saw me in the garage next to my new tool, he canceled our evening plans and spent the next few hours coaching me on how to actually use it. I’m proud to say I didn't have any mishaps with the saw, but I hired a carpenter to do all the cutting and construction for my company the minute I was able.

This part of our "How to Start a Garden" series includes different methods of building a raised bed so that you can find something that suits you and your comfort level with power tools, especially electric saws. And if you're more of a click-and-add-to-cart person, I've got tips to help you assemble raised bed kits, as well.

Gardenary signature style raised beds

Wood Raised Beds

How to Build a Wood Raised Bed

Building wood raised beds is an easy and fairly inexpensive way to get set up and growing. You can build your own raised beds (don't worry, you don't need prior carpentry experience), buy a wood raised bed kit, or hire a carpenter to build them for you.

Let's look at how to build your own.

tools to build raised bed

Tools & Supplies

  • 2" x 6" x 8' cedar planks
  • 1" x 6" x 8' cedar trim (optional)
  • 1-1/2"-thick deck screws
  • 1" finishing screws
  • Sand paper
  • Framing square
  • Drill
  • Saw
  • Pencil
  • Measuring tape
  • Safety glasses
  • Gloves

Here are step-by-step directions to build your own raised beds out of cedar.

tools and materials needed to build your own wood raised bed

Step One

To start, measure the thickness of your wood. Keep in mind that as you connect the boards, you’ll be adding the thickness of two long boards to every short board. This means you’ll need to subtract twice the board’s thickness from the total length of the short board before cutting.

For example, if your boards are 1-1/2 inches thick and you’re creating a 4' x 6' garden, you’ll need to cut two sides of the garden at 6 feet long and the other two sides at 3 feet, 9 inches.

cedar boards to build raised garden bed

Step Two

Now that you know the measurement for the long boards and the adjusted measurement for the short ones, measure your boards to the correct dimensions and mark the cutting line on each. Cut the boards. (Remember, if you know your measurements before you shop for wood at the hardware store, you can ask them to cut all your boards for you.)

cutting boards to build raised garden box

Step Three

After cutting the boards, it’s time to connect them. Use 1-1/2" screws to connect the long boards to both sides of a short board so the angles are straight and flush.

step-by-step directions to build raised beds

Step Four

Build each complete box separately before connecting them, ensuring the corners meet at a right angle every time. If you’ve followed my suggestion and purchased 6"-wide boards, you’ll need two complete boxes for every foot of your raised garden bed. For example, there should be two layers if you’re building a 1' garden and four layers if you’re building a 2' garden.

Once you’ve created all your boxes, stack all the layers and attach them. Drill down from the top of each layer to the one below it and then connect them with a 1-1/2" screw. Do this at every corner.

how to build raised beds DIY

Step Five

Reinforce your raised beds by attaching a trim piece measured to the height of the garden box in the center of each panel. Secure the reinforcement with 1-1/2" screws.

how to reinforce a wood raised bed

Step Six

If you’d like, add trim to the corners and tops of your garden boxes. You can trim the garden with any board width, but we generally use a 1" x 6" board. Cut mitered edges for the top trim and attach with the finishing screws.

This step is optional, but it really gives your wooden box a more polished feel. This is the Gardenary Signature look. You can find a more detailed tutorial for building our Gardenary Signature raised beds inside our Gardenary Raised Beds ebook.

how to trim wood raised bed

Alternative Way to Build a Wood Raised Bed

If these directions seemed a wee bit too complicated for you, don't worry. When I first started my kitchen garden company, I had to build all the raised beds myself. I came up with a simple way to build wood boxes using only a drill and bolt tightener. Basically, I'd have the boards cut at the hardware store and grab some framing angles from the decking section. I'd use these framing angles to connect each corner by drilling holes in the corresponding spots at the end of each board.

I've got directions for how to use framing angles to build your raised beds here.

how to build a simple raised bed

How to Assemble a Wood Raised Bed Kit

I wasn't very impressed with the quality of the wood raised bed kits on the market, so I created my own. Our kits can ship right to your house and be assembled in about 30 minutes—no sawing, measuring, or hammering required. All you have to do is slide the pre-cut boards into the corner pieces (they're designed to dovetail) and then add the trim pieces using a drill. And voila! You've got your very own Gardenary-style raised beds.

The boards are made of premium untreated kiln-dried Red Inland Cedar, and we include a small amount of beeswax in every kit to apply to the corners of each board to make assembly even easier. Learn more about how to assemble Gardenary's cedar raised bed kits here.

Whichever kind of kit you're assembling, make sure to check over every board for markings or imperfections you don't like so you can face that side toward the inside, if possible. Also, only tighten screws until they're snug. Over-tightening screws might cause your boards to crack or strip the threads in the pre-drilled holes.

wood raised bed kit assembly

Shop Our Cedar Raised Beds

Gardenary's new line of quality cedar garden beds are easy to assemble and will provide years of gardening enjoyment. Choose from numerous different garden sizes to fit your space.

Steel Raised Bed

How to Build a Steel Raised Bed

Unless you're a steel artist, someone else is going to do the hard work of building your steel raised bed for you. Of course, you'll likely have to assemble any raised bed kits you've purchased, especially if they're shipped to you. Assembling metal raised bed kits is usually pretty straightforward and will mostly involve tightening a bunch of tiny screws.

There is way to DIY a steel raised bed, and that is to turn a large steel tub (aka a feeding trough) into a planter. All you have to do is add drainage holes and, if you want it to be moveable, place it on casters. (I've got step-by-step instructions below.) If you live in a big city, the biggest challenge might just be locating the steel tub. If you can find one, this is an easy and inexpensive way to start growing in a durable raised bed.

Let's look in more detail at three different ways to source or build your own steel raised bed.

powder coated steel raised beds

Convert a Large Steel Tub into a DIY Steel Raised Bed

This type of rolling steel planter is perfect if you're gardening on a patio or deck since it has a bottom. A stainless steel or galvanized steel tub that's at least 1 foot deep can grow loads of herbs, leafy greens, and flowers.

If you already own or can borrow all the tools you'll need, then you can build this raised bed for under $200 (that's factoring in about $160 for a stock tank from somewhere like Tractor Supply).

DIY raised bed from water trough or large steel tub

Tools & Supplies

In addition to the large steel tub, you'll need the following tools and supplies:

  • 4 casters with brakes
  • 16 nuts, bolts, and washers
  • weed barrier cloth or burlap
  • a drill with a drill bit that matches size of bolts
  • a bolt tightener, if you have one
  • scissors, tape measure, and permanent marker
  • gloves and safety glasses
supplies to build steel raised bed on wheels

Steps to DIY Rolling Steel Raised Bed

  1. Mark proper holes for the casters at each corner with your Sharpie. Make sure to measure from the center of the tub so that the casters will be evenly spaced.
  2. Drill the holes for each caster. (Don't forget your safety goggles!)
  3. Connect the casters to each corner of the bed with washers and nuts. Use a bolt tightener once you've got them screwed in by hand. 
  4. Drill drainage holes every square foot inside the trough.
  5. Cover the bottom of the trough with weed barrier cloth or burlap to contain soil.

You can find a more detailed tutorial for building this raised bed on wheels here.

how to build a raised bed on wheels

Order & Assemble a Steel Raised Bed Kit from Online

It's easy to find steel raised bed kits online these days. We have several wonderful options in the Gardenary shop. Make sure you're selecting a durable, rust-resistant material like galvanized steel, Corten steel, or powder-coated steel.

Most metal raised beds you'll order online will be kits that arrive in a flat box and require assembly. Our steel raised bed kits are easy to put together by interlocking the pieces together. The hardest part is just keeping track of the teeny tiny screws. All you need is a small screwdriver, a wrench to tighten the bolts, and gloves to protect your hands.

steel raised bed kit assembly

Tips to Assemble Raised Bed Kits

Lay out a blanket or towel if you're assembling your beds on any kind of hard surface so that you don't risk scratching your steel (or floor) during assembly.

Wear noise-cancelling headphones if the sound of grating metal might set your teeth on edge. Fitting metal panels together can be noisy.

If your new raised beds are made of Corten steel, you'll want to set them on grass or gravel while they're going through the weathering process. You just don't want them on concrete or a light-colored surface that could be stained. You can speed up the weathering process by spraying your beds with a vinegar/salt solution.

Shop Gardenary's Steel Raised Bed Kits

Have a Steel Raised Bed Custom Made for You

If you'd prefer to create a custom design, search for steel designers in your area. Double check the measurements and the steel materials before confirming your order (because there's no going back!).

Be prepared to wait a while for your custom beds. Many of our custom steel pieces require several weeks before they’re ready to be installed. Good things take time, you know?

When your beds are ready to be delivered, verify whether the delivery truck drivers will stay to help you with installation. These beds can be extremely heavy since they're typically arriving in one piece. I've ordered beds that took four or more grown men to carry them off the truck and maneuver them into the yard. It's also a good idea to measure the narrowest part of the path the bed will have to travel to make sure it'll fit.

custom-made corten steel raised beds

Stone Raised Bed

How to Build a Stone Garden

If you want your stone garden to be as permanent as possible, you'll need to dig and fill a footer with cement. This ensures the stone walls won't crack or give way as the earth below it expands and contracts throughout the year. The recommendations for this footer vary based on your location, the height of your boxes, and your unique weather conditions. Honestly, I suggest calling in a professional for this part.

For a more temporary stone garden, you can dig down about 8 inches to create a trench as wide as your building materials, fill in the trench with sand, and then dry stack your materials on top.

how to build a stone raised bed

Your Dream Garden Is Becoming a Reality Now

There's nothing like building your raised beds to get you excited to start growing! Make sure to have your raised beds constructed and ready to put into place before you start tearing up your garden area (that'll be Part 5). The exception would be if you're building stone or brick raised beds.

Take a picture of your beautiful raised beds and get ready to install your garden!

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How to Start a Garden Part 4: Building a Raised Bed