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Thread: need help with raised beds

  1. #1

    Default need help with raised beds

    Really need recommendations of what dimensions (length, width, and depth) should be.

    Which is cheaper, from catalogs or building myself? Somebody suggested using lumber from pallets, but this isn't an option, as material from pallets aren't available.

    What sort of lumber? Need sturdy and long lasting, but economical too.

    Lumber available locally, however there is extra charge for cutting to size.

    Labor is free (building myself).

    Would be for melons and squash; maybe tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant.

  2. #2
    Registered Users
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Midwest, Zone 4b


    First off welcome.

    How much space do you have and what do you have to haul your lumber home in? It will cost you in the range of 20% of buying a raised bed kit to build it yourself. For a 4'x8' 2x8 bed I would expect to spend less than $20.

    I see you needing three basic tools

    If you don't have a saw you'll probably spend less having them cut the piece than you would buying the saw. Somewhere like home depot or lowes charges 25 to 50 cents a cut and will often times give you one or two free cuts.

    I would suggest 2x8 untreated lumber for this. Treated lumber is about twice as expensive as untreated and can leach undesirable stuff into the soil (studies have pointed both ways). Treated lumber is darker than untreated and the tags will clearly indicate whether it is treated or not.

    Untreated lumber will last 4 to 6 years before it is rotted out, usually.

    Based on common lumber sizes 4'x4', 4'x8', and 3'x9' are the easiest sizes to build without scrap wood leftover. Eight foot and twelve foot lengths are the most common.

    Filling the bed will be the most expensive part of this. Here are a few ideas to look into for this:
    lasagna gardening - make layers of stuff and have it compost down in place
    straw bale gardening - place straw bales in the garden and have compost on top of them where you have the plant planted, after the season the bales will be mostly rotten out and provide the composted base for your garden just turn this over a little with a shovel and your ready for next season
    get a load of compost - this is the most expensive way to go but is instantaneous

    I've done both lasagna and strawbales and have my own compost pile to supply my garden with compost. I live on a small property in the middle of a 158 thousand person midwest city while doing this.

  3. #3


    Thank you for all the suggestions and advice given, as well as taking time to reply to my thread.

    I have a 20' x 20' plot.

    Well should the raised beds have bottoms in them? If so, should their be holes drilled for irrigation? If so, how may and how big should they be? I'd prefer to have bottoms in them simply because it will make them more portable, which is one of the things I love about container gardening.

    Regarding filling the beds, I already use a soilless mixture that I make myself. It consists of pine bark mulch, spaghnum peat moss, lime (not hydrated), and coarse vermiculite.

    One batch makes about 30-35 gallons; per batch you use 2 cubic feet of the mulch, and 5 gallons each of the rest of the 'ingredients' listed (except the lime).

    I also add a dry, pelleted fertilizer suitable for container gardening (Osmocote); 2 cups per batch.

    The plans and designs I have for the raised beds are these. I'd like one divided into four squares. This would be for root veggies; one variety of root veggie per square.

    I'd also like to do a 'stacked' raised bed. Basically it has various levels, each one higher in height than the next.

    Regarding the type of lumber, when I asked what type, I was referring to which variety of wood (cedar, pine, etc.)

    Also for root vegetables, what should the depth of the boxes be? I'd be interested in growing rutabagas and parsnips in raised beds; is this possible or are their roots just too long?

    I know this wasn't address in the initial post on the thread, however black mulch is often used to start warm weather crops early where I live.

    Is this necessary with raised beds or because raised beds are a form of container gardening, will the raised bed help to insulate the plants and soil?

    If I still have to use black mulch (plastic mulch) for raised beds, how do I put it in there and then how do I remove it once the plants have become established and the weather has become warmer? Once you put the black mulch there, does it just stay there the entire season?

    I honestly don't know, because I've never used it before.
    Last edited by Hanako; 01-21-2012 at 10:46 PM.

  4. #4


    Cedar is great for a project like that because it will last a long time. However, it is expensive. I would stay away from treated lumber as I wouldn't put any kind of chemicals near my food. Why risk it?

    I built a couple of 4' x 8' raised beds last spring out of untreated pine, I believe it was. It was the cheapest option. They have been just fine, however there was some warping. We used 2"x4"s for posts and the sides are 2" x 10".

    We picked up a truck load of river dirt from a local supplier for $20 bucks, and added our own compost to lighten up it's texture.

  5. #5
    Registered Users
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Midwest, Zone 4b


    Use the standard untreated lumber at a typical building supply. This will be either spruce or pine. I'm heading into my fourth season with my beds and this is what I used. If you want to buy an extra season or two you can brush on something like linseed oil.

    Treated will usually last twice as long but cost three times as much and have possible leaching problems.

    Cedar will look great, last three times as long but cost at least five times as much.

    Some people like bottoms on the beds but I find things grow better when they have more than 8 inches of root depth. Plants will have about equal growth below ground as above. If you are expecting a good large tomato or squash plant you need to give it leg room under ground.

    This is a link to a good blog post talking about building raised beds and the materials used.

    You say you have a 20' x 20' plot. Is this a plot in a community garden or a plot in the your own back yard?

    I have not used plastic mulches on the ground after I planted so I can't answer that based on experience.
    Last edited by Mr Yan; 01-25-2012 at 01:15 AM.

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