Your First Step into Gardening with Raised Beds, by H.R.

Up until last year, I had never had a garden or even worked in one for that matter.  I decided to start one because of the rising problems with chemicals and pesticide risks that are being put on vegetables, not to mention how much the cost going up.  We started off small with one raised garden box. (The soil is harsh here).  What I mean by small is that we started with a 4 ft x 8 ft x 14 in. deep bed.  By going 14 inches deep we could ensure that we would have plenty of good soil to be rotated around.  We started by simply planting broccoli and carrots.  We have two 50 gal. rain barrels feeding a soaker hose that is snaked throughout the garden.  The garden started producing results before the times suggested on the seed packs.  By starting with the raised boxes it allowed us to start out with a good soil base and not have to build upon the horrible ground.

20x bags of Topsoil
5x bags of cow manure
1x bag of Peat Moss (3cu.ft.)
1x bag of Miracle Grow garden soil
12x 4x4s 8ft. long – cedar or redwood
2x 2x4s 8ft. long – cedar or redwood
1x Roll of 4ft. wide Weed screen
1x Roll 4ft. wide Aluminum screen door screen
1x 25ft. Soaker hose
4x ¾ inch Outdoor electrical conduit 10 ft. long (gray plastic)
18x ¾ inch Conduit clamps
10x Plastic tent stakes (if you space everything out in 2ft. sections)
2x 50 gal. Rain barrel
¾ inch Water certified PVC tubing
1x cup of earthworms

Step 1:  Layout – Place the bottom layer of 4×4’s down in a box pattern to get the right spacing for your side supporting stakes.  I just took 4 of the 4×4’s and cut them in half for the short sides (4ft. wide).  They were placed on the inside of the 8ft. long 4×4’s.

Step 2:  Place the weed screen edges under the bottom layer of 4×4’s that you have laid out.  On top of that, place the screen door screen.  The screen door screen will stop the moles from digging up into you food source and the weed screen is self-explanatory.

Step 3:  Cut your 2×4’s into 8 pieces 3ft. long.  They will be places 8 inches from each end of your sides and only leaving 14 inches above ground level.  The reason for 14 inches?  The 4×4 boards are actually 3-1/2 inches square not 4 inches.  So, 4 boards stacked 3-1/2 inches each equals 14 inches (just for those that have not dealt a lot with wood).  You could leave an inch or so more above ground and use a reciprocating saw (saws all) and trim off the excess when you have finished.

Side note:  Being a Machinist turned Tool and Die Maker for 10 years turned Mechanical Engineer now for the past 8 years I am a little bit on the anal side when it comes to building something for myself.  I have the philosophy of “Most things can not be over built or over engineered so, build it right the first time and you will never have to worry about again!”

Step 4:  Start with your 8ft. long boards first.  Place a level on top of one to ensure your box will be level when finished.  If your ground is not level, go to the highest end and screw it into the 2×4 that you have staked into the ground.  Now raise the lower end up until it is level and screw it to the next 2×4 on the same side.  If there is a fairly significant difference, you can place dirt or rocks under the boards to make it up.  If this is the case, you must ensure that the screen and the weed screen are affixed to the bottom of the boards and that you back fill under your base!

Step 5:  After you have Step 4 complete, add on a short side making sure that you keep it level and at the same height as the first 4×4.  Attach both ends to the 2×4’s that you have for that end and continue on around each side doing the same.

Step 6:  Continue stacking the boards on top of the other until you are done.

Step 7:  I dumped half of the bags of topsoil into the box and then added the earthworms.  I have read on many web sites that earthworms add a good supply of fertilizer back into your box.  I then made sure that they were covered good with topsoil and then added the Peat Moss, a couple more bags of topsoil and then all of the manure, a little more topsoil and then to finish it off with the Miracle Grow garden soil.  I mixed it up pretty good with a pitchfork after everything was added.

Step 8:  Measure out the spacing that you will need for your plants/seeds and insert the tent stakes into the dirt as close to the sides as you can.  Run the string from stake to stake to section off each growing area so that you know to look in the center of the square if you have planted seeds to check progress.  Not to mention that it makes planning out your garden much easier before you plant or transplant.

Step 9:  I ran 2 raised rows down the length of the box with a valley on each side that was 1 to 1-1/2 inches lower than the depth of what I planted on the ridge.  In the valleys, I snaked the soaker hose through.  The hose was running down each side of the ridge.  I then covered the hose with dirt so that it was the 1 to 1-1/2 inches below the depth of the seeds.  I then added some Miracle Grow plant food shake on top of the dirt in the valleys’.  This would allow for a slow release of the nutrients to be added to the dirt and the seeds.  Be sure that you start your soaker hose in the center of one of your short sides.

Step 10:  This is where the electrical conduit comes in.  Space the conduit out evenly along the 8ft. length and roughly 2 inches from the ground screw in a conduit clamp.  Before you tighten the clamp down, be sure to insert the conduit first.  Also clamp it down a couple of inches from the top.  NOTE: One end is flared out 2 inches from the end.  Used a simple pipe cutter or hacksaw, wood hand saw (you get the idea) and cut that portion off.  Bend the conduit over to the other side of the garden box and screw in the clamps the same way as the previous side.  These are now the braces for your cover.

Step 11:  After you have your rain barrel in place comes the hardest part, digging in the water lines.  I wouldn’t really worry about digging them in below the freeze line unless you are going to try and grow something that can withstand frosts.  Run your tubing from your rain barrel to your box and up and over the top board.  Add a spigot and attach you soaker hose.  NOTE: Use pipe glue in the joints that is certified for water flow!

That’s it!  This is a simple task that can be built in 1 short day.  If you started this project on a Saturday morning to acquire the materials, you can easily be finished before supper.  One thing that you could do is to add a liner inside the sides of the garden box to ensure that the wood would last longer.  I used a 6 mil thickness plastic and stapled it 2 inches below the top edge of the box and made sure that the soil covered over it.  Plastic will reflect the sun and add unwanted heat to your soil drying it out.

With the great results of the first one, we have stepped up and added three more boxes of the same size and are producing lots of foods for normal eating and for canning.  One box is dedicated to just strawberries for jellies, jams and just for the fact that we love them right off of the bush.  We have even talked about adding a couple more because of the fact that the current ones are producing so well that we could start selling some of the foods for added money to purchase more sliver before there is no more to be bought amongst other things like Beans, Bullets, and Band-Aids

I hope that this helps so of you out there and saves you some time.  I wish you all happy gardening and God bless.