Build Cheap and Productive Raised Garden Beds

January 9, 2019
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Here’s how to build cheap raised garden beds with cedar or concrete, as well as what to plant in them!

Every time I open a plant catalog or see a television commercial for sale-priced $99 raised garden bed kits, I cringe! You don’t need to spend that kind of money to build your own four-by-four-foot bed (or even a 20-foot-long one).

How to Build Cheap Raised Garden Beds

Building Raised Garden Beds with Cedar

My husband builds mine. He buys two 1x8-inch cedar boards, which don’t rot with age. They come in 8-foot lengths, which is perfect for 4x4-foot beds. Cut each plank in half, so that it is 4-feet long. Or, you can have a home improvement/lumber store make the cuts. Many places will do it for free.

My husband also buys a 3-foot length of a 1x1-inch pine stake; he cuts it into four pieces and uses them to nail the cedar boards at the corners for bracing. That’s all!

how to build raised garden beds

I place the boxes on cleared ground. We cut and roll up our turf, but many gardeners do not think it is necessary. The added 6 inches of soil will bury most of the grass and weeds beneath. After I situate the boxes (four or five grouped together makes a good sized garden), I put down three layers of newspaper to suppress errant weed or grass seeds that might sprout. Paper degrades fully within weeks and feeds the soil.

Building Raised Garden Beds with Concrete Cinder Blocks

Another fast, cheap method of building raised beds is to use concrete construction (cinder) blocks. They have a big bonus. Their holes can be filled with soil mix and planted with herbs or strawberries.

The extra gathered heat from concrete is perfect for Mediterranean-type herbs such as rosemary and lavender. Strawberry plants grow huge and fruit fast in the holes. Each block is 16 inches long by 8 inches high; I purchase mine at big box stores as find the price most reasonable. Beds of 13 feet or longer by 4 feet wide are cheaper to build using blocks than with cedar boards.

Get more tips on how to build raised garden beds

Planting in a Raised Garden Bed

Grouping together several raised beds makes a substantial vegetable garden that is easy to maintain, with no weeding and crops that mature fast.

You will be planting seeds and transplants close, because the beds are smaller and the soil is richer. But plants grown close together in raised beds mature faster, because they compete for nutrients and sunlight. Each plant senses the distance of others and adjusts its metabolism to compete. Several university studies have proven this competition syndrome by identifying how plants perceive others nearby using the green light spectrum.

This 4 x 4-foot bed is crowded with productive peppers, cucumbers, a tomato plant and insect-repelling flowers that are edible.

Get more tips for planting in raised garden beds.

Raised Garden Bed Soil Mix

The more organic matter there is in soil, the better. Soil microbes are fed, oxygen and water readily reach roots and plants thrive. Here’s the recipe I’ve developed in the last decade that works best for my garden.

For one 4 x 4-foot raised bed. (Multiply amounts to fill larger beds.)
2 bags (2-cubic-feet each) top soil
1 pail (3-cubic-feet) peat moss
1 bag (2 to 3-cubic feet) compost or composted cow manure
2-inch layer of shredded leaves or grass clipping.

If you use grass, make sure the clippings are not from a lawn that has been sprayed with herbicides or been fertilized with a food that contains granular herbicides to kill weeds. Both persist and will kill plants beds up to three years after the initial application.

Mix all materials with a hoe or cultivator and water well. Be sure to mulch well with organic matter such as more leaves or clippings or straw.

Watch our helpful video on building and planting in a raised garden bed! Plus, get more tips on building a raised vegetable garden.

Have you built your own raised garden beds, or do you have more questions on how to? Let us know below!

About This Blog

A lifelong gardener shares the endless lessons she’s learned from her garden over the years, in hopes of making your own gardening just that much easier! Read along for advice, photos, and more.

2019 Garden Guide

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I'm thinking of using a metal trough as a raised bed, but it's only 8" deep. Can I grow tomatoes and squash successfully in something so shallow?

paths between raised beds

I had a large garden with raised beds. I lined the paths with large pieces of cardboard, from the recycling dumpster(with permission) behind the local pool store. And then covered the cardboard with 6 - 8 inches of free wood chips (2 loads, courtesy of the township). The wood chips decomposed in about 2 years, then I shoveled up the lovely "soil" and sifted it through a hardware cloth-lined sifter (made from scrap lumber by my husband) into a wheelbarrow. The soil went into my shade garden. The remaining pieces went back into the pathway and were supplemented by more wood chips. If weeds were a problem, I laid down more cardboard, cut to size before adding more wood chips. A recycling win-win.

My EASY cheap solution to raised beds...functional and beautiful

I have many raised beds. I built them myself even though I am not remotely handy. I taught my 7 year old how to build them and he has built two of my beds. That is how easy it is.

The following will make exactly 2 raised beds
Go to Home Depot and buy 12 cedar fence pickets. I use the 6' x 5 1/2" pickets. They are around $2.50 each, but I have bought on sale for less than $2 a piece.

Buy 1 4"x4"x8' cedar post. These are $20...less when on sale.

So far, that's $50 worth of lumber when it's not on sale...closer to $40 if everything is on sale.

I have the Home Depot make my cuts because I don't want to be bothered, but the cuts are easy either way.

4 of the pickets need to be cut exactly in half (do not worry about the tapered ends. Cut in half from each end point).

Have the post cut into 8 equal lengths (I ask them to cut on the 11 7/8" line. Since some of the length will be taken away with each cut...approx 1/8", Cutting at 11 7/8 will give you 8 pieces that are the same.)

Buy a box of outdoor (galvanized) screws. I use the 3 1/2" screws, but any length 2"- 4" should if you have some of those in your shed hanging around, no need to buy anything else. You will need a total of 24 screws at the most...16 screws at the least.

This is assuming you have a power drill and a power screwdriver. You can of course make these with the old fashioned kind, but sounds tedious to me.

So put two of the 11 7/8" posts on your driveway (or a flat and level workbench...I use my concrete driveway). Lay one of the uncut fence pickets across the top of the post cuts. You want to make the edge of the picket even with the post end. Each end of the picket where it attaches to the post is a corner of your bed. Attach one picket end to the side of the post (with he post still lying on its side). I use 3 screws for this. Attach the other picket end to the other post that you have lying down. Make sure the edge of the picket is flush with the top of the post (post still lying on its side.).

After the first picket is attached to the two post cuts on either end (everything flush with the top and sides), attach a second picket below the first picket. Push it up to the first picket so that there are no gaps between the pickets. There should be a small bit of post left beneath the two pickets. This is the bottom of the bed. Having that little lip there helps to hold the bed it place..Gives it a little traction. I kind of push that bit down in the soil before I fill the bed. Consider, the pickets are 5 1/2" a piece and you post cuts are 11 7/8. so basically there's not quite 1 inch of post that will be peeking out the bottom. The top will be flush and level.

From there, repeat this exact process with two more posts and two more pickets. Then stand the posts on end so that the 7/8" post bits are on top...basically it's like your bed is upside down. Take cut picket and position it between the two posts to connect the two longer sides. Make the cut picket flush on both side with the post and flush with your flat level driveway or workbench. Attach the picket to the post on both ends using at least two screws...three to be thorough. Repeat with a second cut picket just below the first one you just attached.

You should have 3 sides of your bed made now...flush on the bottom and 7/8" of post sticking out of the top.

Repeat the process on the 4th and final side to close in the bed. The whole thing is upside down. When you flip it over and place it in your garden, the 7/8" extra on the bottom can be pushed into the ground before filling with soil.

Depending on if you get things on sale or not and depending on if you have screw already or need to purchase new ones...this brings your total to somewhere between $20-$30 per bed. The finished beds are 3.5' x 6' x 11".

Hope this helps someone out there. Mine are in their 3rd season and still looking great.

Typos and dimensions

It looks like I can't edit from here, so sorry for the typos above and the finished dimensions are 3'X6'x11" :)

raised veggie beds

Hi everyone........I was wondering about raised veggie beds. Can I build any of these beds on legs? I have 2 replaced knees and have a hard time getting up and down. I love gardening....have a few flower beds but would love to try veggie beds. I was thinking of putting it up on my deck in the back yard. any suggestions?

Raised Bed Alternative

At my age it is getting difficult to bend over or kneel while tending the standard raised beds. So I bought some used 35 gallon plastic barrels, removed the tops, drilled holes for drainage in the bottoms, painted them brown to help hold in heat, and filled them with layers of garden soil and compost. Then I planted seeds and transplants for all types of vegetables. The result was a very prolific garden (I have 14 barrels now but plan on adding more).and no more bending or kneeling to tend my plants. Added benefits are very few weeds, which are really easy to remove, less water used, easy rotation gardening, easy to protect plants during cold or windy times, and more fun with much less effort to tend the garden. I even used barrels that previously held RoundUp. I simply called the manufacturer and they explained that if you rinse the barrels well three times in a row there will be no residual material to damage the environment or the plantings. I have been using this system now for 5 years and have had no bad results. These have been the best and easiest raised bed style gardens I ever had. If you are concerned about using old RoundUp barrels you can always look for old pickle barrels or such. They are easy to find on Craig's list or local ads. NOTE: Every year I top the barrels off with compost at seasons end to replace any lost soil that seeps out of the bottom drain holes.

raised beds

use untreated wood pallets ,u can put plastic underneath or straw and newspapers ,just put your topsoil and compost through the slats.u can get untreated pallets for free

Bermudagrqass must be removed

I feel compelled to point out that Bermudagrass and other warm season grasses that spread by runners must be removed before placing a raised bed. Bermudagrass will have no problem reaching through 8 inches or more of soil and you will then have entrenched perennial weeds which you will not be able to dig out.

Raised Bed lumber

Great gardening idea! My question is, where does your husband buy the "1x8-inch cedar boards"? From my experience (at Lowe's and Home Depot) these are very expensive. If you have found a cheaper source for lumber, my gardening problem would be solved!

Raised Bed Lumber

I built my garden boxes using decking and 2x4s from Lowes. I personally built three 4x12 garden boxes about a month ago, now I'm leveling out my spot for where they will actually go. I stacked two of the 5/4 inch by 6 inch (actually 1 inch and 5 1/2 inch) decking on top of each other, and screwed them into brace made out of an 8 inch length of 2x4 every 4 feet along the length to help keep it stable. Each corner had a 2x4 piece that held the corners together, and the additional two 2x4 bracing in the middle of the 12 foot long length seems to have it pretty solid. x4 of the 5/4 inch by 6 inch by 16 foot decking pieces and a 8 foot 2x4, plus screws, were all the materials I needed to build one of them. I found the 12 foot beds the most economical - a 4x4 bed would need x2 16 foot pieces of decking and 4 feet of a 2x4 to make one, or you could double the same materials to make a 4x12. The 5/4 x 6 x 16 foot pieces were roughly $9.50 each, and the 2 x 4 x 8 foot was less than $5.

Gardening in a 2' x 4' heavy plastic Deck box

I will drill holes in the bottom and low on the sides, fill with rocks, straw, peat, compost and organic raised bed soil mixture. The deck boxes have covers that I can put down over nite when the plants are small in the spring. Do you see any problems with using plastic in place of wood for raised beds. I will brace the center of each deck box with a stake to stabilize. Ideas please?

Plastic Deck Box

The Editors's picture

Hi Jane,

You can use plastic, but know that since it will not be touching other soil, you’ll have to fertilize regularly. Unless this bed will be placed on a deck, it would be better to use something that does not have a bottom. The stake system for bracing the sides sounds perfect, no change there. It sounds like you have it under control!


You both are looking good, thanks for sharing such a useful and helpful tips and ideas for Garden Beds.

I will probably go off of the ingredients listed here to put in the bed but I was not sure if it was okay to just put the raised bed on top of leaves if i put newspaper down first?

First Layer for Raised Beds

Hi, thanks for writing!

Yes, you can just put down newspaper and then leaves; you don’t need to clear the sod. The layers of soil on top of the ground will kill all grass and weeds, but the newspaper helps to ensure that.

cats pooping in beds

Neighbors cats are digging in soil to poop in beds. They damage plants when they are young and dig up seeds. Suggestions?

cats pooping

large & mean dogs without the leash--

Cats in garden

You might try cat repellents; it’s said that citrus rinds, such as from oranges, can repel cats in the garden. You’d have to replace them fairly frequently, and make sure that they don’t attract other animals. Plant the herb rue to repel cats, or sprinkle the dried herb over the garden. There are also commercial cat repellents that you can get at garden centers or online at pet supply stores and gardening supply centers. Make sure that the repellent that you get is safe for any children, plants, pets, or other animals etc. that may be around. The repellents vary as to how often you need to apply them. For more ideas, try calling a local veterinarian or animal shelter. Hope this helps–good luck!

cats pooping in beds

I had same issue with my cats, not only pooping but laying in them, taking a shortcut...

I put bird netting over mine, using the PVC T-bars I wire to the berry poles later in the season but tomato cages or stakes would work as well. I haven't seen one in there since I put it up but I have been getting a lot of nasty looks from the cats every time they have to take the long way around

I had thought about putting up a low fence of chicken wire that would be easy to reach over but that may be expensive and a hassle, depending on how much area. I also thought about using some old woven wire fencing (the ones with 2x3 or 2x4 rectangles) but my plants were already planted; will definitely give it a try next year for the plants that have their veggies above ground because there is much space for them to dig between the wires

good luck

Raised Garden

I would like to build mine higher so my elderly mother would not have to bend down. Any suggestions? She loves to garden.

Just brainstorming, but I

Just brainstorming, but I think increasing the width of boards or the amount of blocks used for building the sides could easily be increased! I wouldn't fill the entire bed with the soil mix, I would add scrap wood underneath to kind of "raise" the bottom of the bed up, so less soil is needed.
Another idea would be to build a box that could be adjusted to different heights, but a solid bottom raises drainage concerns. Best of luck!

Easy Higher Raised Beds

Build your raised bed like normal, except add a bottom. Then plop it on top of straw bales, piled as high as you like them. Easy-Peasy!

raised garden for mother

what Beth said about adding scrap wood is actually a version of a gardening technique used in Canada and Europe called Hugelkulture. essentially a tree is cut up and buried, either entirely above ground to make a berm (easily picked as well) or partially sunken. on a smaller scale if you have a brush pile you keep adding to like I do the wood is already breaking down at the bottom. when I expanded my raised beds recently I stretched my garden soil by raising the sides, raking everything to one side (putting some on a tarp if needed) so I could add a couple inches of old brush, pieces of rotten log and fallen limbs, then added a layer of grass clippings on top before watering. If you do this I would put a pretty dense layer of woody material and a fairly thick layer of clippings, since the dirt will wash down to fill in the holes eventually. straw is another material that could be used on the bottom of the bed (or in Hugelkulture) to raise the soil level pretty fast; depending on how much you are raising it either leave the bales whole (cut off the string and use it for something else) of break it apart into flakes about 4-6 inches thick. better yet- if there is a farm nearby ask them if they have any that has spoiled from getting wet, especially round bales that sat on the ground over winter

I would raise the sides of the beds by making another bottomless bed to put on top, except extend the corner blocks below where it would sit on the ground so it will lock into the layer below. I have also seen various stools and rolling trolleys that can be sat on as well as carrying stuff, so if she can sit and lean over fairly well the beds may not need to be as tall

good luck!

Garden beds

Hi could you make these beds and raise them up onto bales of straw?

school garden

This looks just like what I want to have our students build, but I was thinking 4x8 foot gardens. Is there a reason that you do the 4x4 instead? I am also thinking about irrigation. I thought it would be easier to irrigate if it was one longer bed.

Four-by-whatever you like

The Editors's picture

Hi  Carrie, Of course you can make 4-by-8 beds! You can make them whatever size suits you and your needs. And long maybe easier to irrigate; if you are laying hose of any sort, you will not have an interruption. The longer length is fine; we are only making a suggestion. Good luck and happy harvest!

Raised flower bed on cement

I don't have soil in my yard space. I built a decorator block 3'x 20' flower bed on cement do I need to use a plastic liner before I put in soil and plants. I'm using perforated pipe and gravel
for drainage

Raised beds

How much is a pail of three cubic foot of peat moss? Are moles attracted to raised garden beds?

raised garden beds and moles

Hi David, The use of “pail” there is confusing, isn’t it. It should be bag, like the other measures, not “pail.” You need about 8 cubic feet of soil mix— 2 bags of top soil (4 cubic feet), 1 bag of peat moss (3 cubic feet), 1 bag of compost (2 to 3 cubic feet).

This is a generous mix, but too much is better then too little. (Use any remainder in a container.) As for moles, there are no guarantees, but it is less likely. We hope this helps.

raised beds (moles)

I see this message is from last year but I'll respond anyway

I use hardware mesh (sometimes called hardware cloth) like a rabbit coop is made of. I use 1/2" holes- they are about as big as the tip of your pinky so worms can go back and forth but small enough to keep out moles. I recently expanded my garden by moving two square beds apart and filling in the middle- after several years of being buried the hardware mesh was like almost new because the air can't get to it, and several mole holes were underneath but they could not get through.

word of caution though- the worms sometimes wind themselves through there so if you use a shovel (which I don't recommend because it cuts worms up) do not scrape along the bottom because it will kill any worms poking through. also use caution if using a pick or the like as it can tear the mesh. also potato cages can get through but the plastic covered metal stakes can't; I put my stakes on the outside or make a tripod/quadpod of them if support is need in the middle


Hey! I am interested in trying this, but my back yard is concrete!... Is this still do-able? What kind of bottom do you need on a garden box? Thanks!

Sam's (WM) has composite kits

Sam's (WM) has composite kits 42x84 for $40

where to buy

I feel the same way you do about the $99 4 x 4 raised beds, but cannot find cedar boards for sale. Any Suggestions?


BYW, I live in NJ, (I think you do too). In the central part and with a house at the Shore.

cedar boards for raised beds

Unfortunately, Doreen is no longer with us. We will miss her dearly.  We can only add that you could go to a lumber yard to ask for cedar boards if you can’t find them at a local home improvement store for a good price.

where to buy (cedar boards)

I made beds out of dog-ear planks for fencing; mine are salvaged but a new fence panel taken apart would work too. I left them dogeared and staggered the holes for additional drainage. to temporarily seal the seam until the soil settles, I use the paper from the inner layers of paper feed sacks (dog, bird, cat food) cut into strips 3-4 inches wide, and place them between the seam and soil. the paper will rot away eventually but will keep the soil from coming out of any gaps in the planks. for the corners I had initially purchase a 2x2 pole to cut down to size, but during my expansion I used 1x1s that you find wrapped in plastic bundles for fire pits and grills- just the right length to make stakes and stuff plus you get about 25 for a few dollars

Interesting Idea - POSSIBLY TOXIC

A simple google search will yield results on how building raised gardens with concrete blocks can be dangerous. Please do your research.

Raised Bed Gardening

There are some concerns that concrete blocks can leach toxic chemicals into the soil. Whether they would actually make their way into edible produce growing within the beds in large enough quantities to be dangerous is not categorically proven. Some people who use concrete blocks as raised beds line them with plastic to be on the safe side but I can’t say for sure if this if necessary or if it will work I’m afraid—hard science on this doesn’t seem to be available. –The gardening experts at GrowVeg and The Old Farmer’s Almanac

Disabled ex-gardener

I am now a senior and disabled: cane, bad hip, tired. I miss gardening, gardened for over 30 years. I don't have one of those modern conveniences that you have, called a husband, and I'd have to drag or roll big or heavy items in a wheelbarrow, load after load. My soil is just caliche and crumbled granite. I gave up three years ago. At first I tried used kiddie pools that had seen their last days anyway, they are shallow enough and I drilled holes for drainage. They only last a season because of intense UV where I live, and the water is alkaline, which ruins the potting soil that cost $12 a bag at Costco. I thought about just stabbing holes in a sack of soil laying flat on the ground, and planting in the hole. I feel foolish buying tomatoes and summer squash. I organic gardened for at least three decades but my body can't do it any more. There are no volunteers or free help where I live. In the final two years, I used 20-gallon pots filled with potting soil to grow heirloom tomatoes and herbs, but minerals built up and so on. Then the tomatoes got a blight identified by the County Extension Service as cucumber mosaic virus. They assured me it wasn't spread by insects, and said I didn't need to sterilize. They were wrong, I got it again the second year. All that money, water and labor for nothing. I still have an entire collection of drip irrigation equipment, never used, in cartons in the house. It would have eliminated the effort and time needed to hand-water. That is when I gave up. I am trying to figure out a way to have higher beds so that I can just bend halfway down, and I don't have a ton of money to buy a ton of soil to fill something deep. The business that composts and delivers composted soil here will only dump the mountain in my driveway, and when I think of shoveling and dragging it, bit by bit, from the driveway to the back yard, I can't do it. I can't jump on shovels any more, either, if it's not loose. My landlord won't let me compost, so all that good stuff just goes in the garbage can. I was a really knowledgable gardener, and miss the smell of tomato vines on my fingers when I checked for hornworms and their eggs, peeking under squash leaves for beetle eggs, admiring all the heirloom plants I grew. I miss combing through heirloom seed catalogs. I think cinder blocks would be the way for me to go, if I could find someone to transport them home for me. I could lay the top row with the holes sideways every three blocks, so I can sit on the ledge. Getting up and down is getting harder for me. I don't want to use wood because it would deteriorate over time, and I would prefer material that doesn't require repeated expensive replacement. I envy all of you.

Dear Mary,

The Editors's picture

Dear Mary,

Thanks for writing! You are a wonderful and passionate gardener. We hope that you can find a way to garden again by using raised beds, trellises, window boxes or other containers. Contact your local cooperative extension service to see if they can help you out. Some extension services have master gardeners who can lend a hand.

Here’s an inspiring article about gardening with a disability.

We wish you the very best!

From NZ

I live in NZ , I wish I could come help you with your garden. I admire your passion.

Hi are the beds just 8 in.

Hi are the beds just 8 in. Deep? I am building my firt raised bed how deep does a bed need to be ideally to grow all sorts of veggies? Im on a patio. Also because i wont have worms and such will compost be enough to keep my plants happy? Please let me know. I have spent a months agonizing over the garden.

Hi Tersa,  Yes, 8 inches will

Hi Tersa,  Yes, 8 inches will be deep enough for many vegetables, but for root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots and parsnips you’d need at least 12 inches. You may find that worms will make their way into your raised beds. The compost will contain lots of beneficial micro-organisms that will help provide a good growing medium, but mixing compost with garden soil will help to introduce more.

Here I was looking at all of

Here I was looking at all of the raised bed items available at Home Depot. Then I came upon your site. Hallelujah!!!!! Such great ideas from so many people. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!! I am going to save a ton of money (and no, not with Geico), not worry about the kits not quite fitting the area I have in mind and go with the cement blocks. Not as attractive, but MUCH more practical. I can live with that, no problem. Can't wait to get started!

This is going to be the first

This is going to be the first time I've tried raised bed gardening. I used to garden with my father as a child and the gardens were always successful. I have not had that same touch to my own gardens. I'm very excited to try this now as we have a very short growing season in Wisconsin and I've started plants in the house to give them a head start, even potatoes! I've started them from food scraps. All of them are ready to go outside. We finally stopped getting snow and the weather warmed up the last 2 days, so it's go time! Thanks for the great tips.

Is there an advantage to 4x4

Is there an advantage to 4x4 boxes vs. 4x8 boxes? If the cedar comes in 8' lengths, it seems simpler. Not sure if there is a reason to keep the plots smaller?

Beginner question: I would

Beginner question: I would like to give raised bed gardening a try, but since I don't know if I will like it or not, I didn't want to spend much. I have a tree that died not that long ago. I am pretty certain it was disease because we have another on the property that also died. Would using the dead, possibly diseased tree logs as the borders be a bad idea? Is it likely to contaminate my soil and cause problems with my vegetables/herbs? Thanks.

Avoid using diseased wood.You

Avoid using diseased wood.You are guaranteeing failure AND transfer of disease to other woody plants in the area.

If you want to try a small raised bed, considered buying enough cement construction blocks to make a 4 X 4 bed. See the photo above.

Morning! I'm new to the

Morning! I'm new to the gardening thing. My husband usually does the prep work w/the tiller but we've been too busy lately so I like the ideas of the boxes...seems easy enough that I can do it or my kids can help me out. Questions abound though: For years, I've used Specticide and Ortho weed/grass killers to kill the any and everything. Didn't use it this year or last, though, but will all the years of using it seep thru the layers of newspaper/cardboard and get into the newer soil? Then, I live on the Tx/NM/Mex borders...think the cinder block ideas would be too hot for our summers? Finally, would you just lay the cinder blocks down? is anything used to hold them together? I think that's it for now....any and all comments, ideas and suggestions are very welcomed Thank you ;-)

When I lived on the Texas

When I lived on the Texas Gulf Coast, south of Houston, I used cinder blocks for my raised beds.  they did very well.  The blocks are heavy, so they need nothing to connect them. Just line them up, end to end.

About the soil.  Don't use any more pestcides and chemicals.  Line the ground with at least six  layers of newspaper and add new layers of compost at the beginning of each new growing season.

Raised beds... I am going to

Raised beds...
I am going to try raised beds this year. I am too old (lazy) to weed on my hands and knees anymore. I have a large number of Eastern white cedar boards, rough-sawn, live edge, approx. 1 1/4" thick to use. I can buy locally ( central Mass.), compost for about $32.00 /yd. Will I have to add anything to it? My beds will be 4' x 6' and run long side east/west. I would like to attach a bean trellis to one side. Any suggestions as to which side?

Compost is great, but add a

Compost is great, but add a sack or two of top soil to each bed.  Put your bean trellis on the north side of beds.  They won't shadow other plants and will get plenty of sun.

Hi- Where in central ma did

Hi- Where in central ma did you get the rough cut cedar?

I'm so excited to try this.

I'm so excited to try this. We just moved and are renting. I've got bare spot in the yard where previous renters had built a patio platform that was very unstable. My landlord took it down and just covered the space with straw. Perfect solution for such an ugly space? We do however have moles and I was wondering if the layers of newspaper would be enough or should I be more aggressive with the chicken wire?

As long as it's a sunny spot,

As long as it's a sunny spot, raised garden beds sound like a really great solution. In terms of moles and other pests: when you build your beds, line them with hardware cloth.

Hi! So glad I found this..


So glad I found this.. My yard in northern nj is sizeable but doesn't get great sun. I have an area that is uneven behind some rocks where my lawn ends.... And it's sloped down eventually turning to thick brush and woods. I thought I should utilize this sunny sera since it's my property. So, it slopes down and has lots of pachysandra. My dad and I were thinking that landscape cloth could be laid on bottom. Do you recommend newspaper over that? Also, the slope is going to cause us to build up the back quite a bit. Any tips for a garden bed on uneven ground? I could use a lot of help. Also, what should one use if they don't have clippings to mix with the soil?

When do you build yours (since you sound like you're from NJ)? When do you plant? Any tips for deer, squirrels, etc? Do you use chicken wire?


Hi Shannon, Doreen is on a

Hi Shannon,
Doreen is on a break, but we'll try to help you out.
Landscape fabric will help to suppress unwanted plants—if you buy good quality fabric you shouldn't need to supplement it with newspaper or any other material. Alternatively, thick overlapping layers of newspaper or cardboard can be used at the bottom of your beds. You can build raised beds at any time of year, and the easiest way to create garden beds on very sloping ground is to create terraced beds that fit into the hillside.
If you don't already have home-made compost you can buy bags of potting soil to help enrich your garden soil. Yearly application of mulch in the form of compost, manure, leaves etc will also help develop great soil structure and keep fertility high.
Our Garden Planner can recommend ideal times for sowing and planting based on your location - please visit for more information and to take out a 30 day free trial. The Garden Planner also has a custom filter which can be used to show only plants that can be grown in partial shade (so making use of the less sunny parts of your garden), or only plants that are easy to grow, can be sown during a particular month in your area etc.
Every pest is different but for deer and rabbits the best way to deal with them is to simply keep them out—which can mean a very high fence in the case of deer! Squirrels can sometimes be foiled by placing chicken wire over containers after planting, but it's not normally feasible on garden beds unless they're very small.
I hope that helps!

Starting my first ever

Starting my first ever garden, excited about the SFG method. Need some advice, I am planting in the back of my yard which is uneven clay covered in pine straw. Wht do you recommend? I was thinking of buying several bags of cheap dirt to level the land where the SFG box will go and then build on top of that according to your suggestions. Would love confirmation on whether or not that is a good plan!

That sounds like a good

That sounds like a good idea—raised beds are great where the underlying soil is unworkable, and levelling off the ground will prevent them from sitting in a hollow which might result in waterlogging. Good luck!

A question about lining the

A question about lining the garden beds, I don't have a bunch of newspaper lying around but I do however have boxes and boxes of crumpled up bounty paper towels I thought might be a good substitute to line the bed of my raised veggie garden (I constructed it last night, this is the first test bed that's 11x5.5 ft ).

I was also thinking of supplementing some of the bed dirt with some of the yard dirt (since it's such a big bed to cut costs a little).

This is my first time really getting into this kinda stuff, so any ideas and opinions are appreciated and welcome.

Thick layers of newspaper

Thick layers of newspaper laid with a wide overlap creates a flat barrier that is almost impossible for grass and weeds to grow up through -- I doubt scrunched up paper towels would suffice I'm afraid, as the weeds will be able to work their way up through them.
You can mix in your yard dirt, but make sure to sieve it to remove any large stones or weeds first. You will probably find that some weed seeds are lying dormant in it though, so be aware that there might be some weeding to be done!

Thanks, I actually put down a

Thanks, I actually put down a layer of cardboard on the bottom and covered that with the paper towels that were left over from the move. The potting soil wasn't to bad (all things considered, since the bed was pretty sizable).

And I broke down and grabbed 6 more bags of potting soil (carrying 12 of those bad boys up a few flights of stairs to the back yard was fun :P). After evaluating the yard I decided it'd be alot easier and cheaper then trying to sieve all the crap out of it, the potential weed pulling is a non issue.

Thanks for the input :D

A great cheap underlayment is

A great cheap underlayment is find a carpet installer or your local recycler plant for disgarded carpet nothing grows thru or digs thru on top of carpet which is turned bottom side up i use pea gravel and cover the entire area beond fence area this stops weeds from growing thru fence in connecticut we have chipmonk wars so you can also buy new lumber which is warped notty splitting on ends and adjust your beds to size of good lumber you get cheap

I am completely new to

I am completely new to growing anything! I plan on starting out with these raised beds for next spring 2014. When would be the time to start this project?

Hi Cindee, You can build the

The Editors's picture

Hi Cindee,
You can build the frames for the beds now and put down cardboard or newspapers to kill the grass and weeds. In the spring fill the beds with soil mix and start planting.

I live in oklahoma and i

I live in oklahoma and i lo
ve the thought of cinder blocks. i have always wanted a garden. most places wont allow unless they are attractive and well kept. i just love the cinder block idea. and plus when i move they can go with me. cant wait to plant some tomatoes

For those concerned about the

For those concerned about the price of lumber, you should try watching the "free" section of Craigslist; I often see scrap lumber and other leftover building/landscaping materials listed on there for free.

You have to be careful with

You have to be careful with free lumber from Craigslist. Old pressure treated wood contained arsenic. Would not want that next to my veggies!

Hi Doreen, I read your reply

Hi Doreen, I read your reply to the post about using cement block or wood for planters in Arizona and you recommended wood because of the night heat. I'm in San Diego and the nights are mostly cool, but it is dry here. We do have warm nights for a month or so. Would you suggest block or wood? Or maybe like the post above, a combination of the two. And, what about redwood?

I went to the local home

I went to the local home depot, and couldnt find any of the cedar boards. I opted for the untreated douglas fir. The boards were around $5.50 each, for 1x6x8. I actually doubled the height for the bed and made them 4x4x1. The total cost for the project was around $27.00 with the vertical braces. I just finished the first one yesterday and cant wait to finish the second one today. Thank you for the great idea! I was debating to put some chicken wire on the bottom to keep out the gophers. Has anyone else had any problems with gophers in the raised beds?

To keep gophers from going

To keep gophers from going under the garden beds, I bought some hardware cloth at Home Depot.

Don't know where you're

Don't know where you're sourcing your cedar boards but where I live, New Jersey, they're $15 and up. In fact I just paid $300 for lumber to build 2 beds 4 feet x 8 feet. And I know I won't get that many vegetables lol.

Since I wrote this blog

Since I wrote this blog nearly two years ago, lumber prices have escalated due to several factors. In your area, the Superstorm Sandy drove up prices immediately due to repairs and new construction. Why don't you build your beds with concrete construction blocks. They have gone up in price, too, but they are still reasonable in price--much cheaper than $2000-$300 raised bed kits being sold.

I simply build my raised beds

I simply build my raised beds with cheap (untreated, of course) pine boards. They last long enough--several years, at least. Replacing them eventually with more cheap pine is no big deal.

I buy cedar fence panels and

I buy cedar fence panels and take them apart. Way cheaper than buying boards!

Do I have to kill the grass

Do I have to kill the grass if I place it on the ground? My first idea was to build a raised bed 3 feet from the ground 6ft x 6ft but I am wondering what I should put on the bottom to hold the soil. Would chicken wire work?

You can simply put down

You can simply put down cardboard or layers of newspaper and then the mix of soil on top of that.

The cheapest pine in southern

The cheapest pine in southern CA was $8.59 for an 8 ft board 8" wide. Cedar was out of site.

That should have read

That should have read 1"x8"x8'

I am wanting to have a raised

I am wanting to have a raised garden bed this year. Question I have is do I just lay bed on the ground or do I put it on something? I really want to try these this year.

You might want to put down

You might want to put down cardboard or newspaper in the area where you'll put your boxes or boards. This will keep the weed and grass seeds buried. Then fill your boxes or beds with a 4 to 12 inches of compost, composted manure, and soil. Good luck!

I used railroad ties from the

I used railroad ties from the garden center that were left behind when we bought our home. I covered the ties and the ground with plastic cuz I was worried what was there before me. Planted strawberries and they have progressed nicely over the last 4 years. Except for Mr. Bunny and his family. So I'm going to replace this bed with the concrete blocks. Q: Since 6 layers of newspaper disintegrates at the end of the growing season, does that mean I have to dig it all up next year and put down another 6 layers of paper?

No, you don't have to dig up

No, you don't have to dig up dirt and replace newspaper. By the end of the first season, weeds are killed. The second season and thereafter, layer more compost and leaf mulch on beds in spring before planting. I dump my shredded leaves in the autumn on the raised beds and let them rot all winter. Then I just add a 2-3 inch layer of compost before planting.

I have been wanting to make a

I have been wanting to make a raised garden can old railroad ties work or will the chemicals in them go to the plants?
I live in centeral florida and our yard is reclaimed phosphate land our "yard" is so hard sometimes takes a stick of dynamite to plant a tree or anyting.
got any tips?

I'd avoid railroad ties, even

I'd avoid railroad ties, even old ones. They leach toxic chemicals for decades. Concrete blocks are an inexpensive substitute.

Can I cut down small trees to

Can I cut down small trees to make a raised bed garden. Also will white pine needles kill my plants as there is a huge w- pine near my intended spot.

White pine needles make great

White pine needles make great mulch; they don't harm plants. I wouldn't put a bed over a freshly-cut-down tree. Remaining tree roots sprout new growth many times. Wait a couple of seasons before putting a garden there.

I am trying to start a

I am trying to start a garden, my mom had always gardened when I was younger. I am now a college student. I live in NC and the soil near my house is nonexistent, it is mostly clay. I was wondering if I do a raised garden bed and just put newspaper on the bottom and then buy the soil from the store will that work? I will probably go off of the ingredients listed here to put in the bed but I was not sure if it was okay to just put the raised bed on top of leaves if i put newspaper down first?

Yes, do put newspapers down

Yes, do put newspapers down first. If there is turf, mow it as low as possible or scalp the soil with a hoe first. Four layers of paper is best; then layer the organic materials. Garden soil, sold in 3 cubic-foot bags is heavy and really needs peat moss or light compost added to losen up the texture. Good luck!

I was wondering what material

I was wondering what material you are using in this picture for the walking area of the garden? Did you also put it under the raised beds?

Dirt with straw over it.

Dirt with straw over it. Weeds are a constant problem in the paths for me. So I scalp them all at season's beginning and then toss straw, shredded leaves or any other slow-to-decay mulch over the paths.

I wish I could find cedar

I wish I could find cedar this cheap. I 1x6x8 is almost 16 dollars so multiply that by 2 and you are already up to 32 bucks not including screws and a piece of wood for the stake. Still love the ideas and it is still cheaper than buying them already made.

Same here! The cheapest I

Same here! The cheapest I could find was $16 per board of that size, then add in the cost of stakes, galvanized nails, garden cloth, gravel for proper drainage, soil, and compost, and the cost is a lot more. This article is great, but it would be helpful if the author shared some ideas of where to find cheaper lumber that is still safe to use with veggies.

Would the cinder block bed

Would the cinder block bed work in the desert? We live in SW CA where the ground is hard sand.

Cement blocks will hold heat

Cement blocks will hold heat at night and add to the bed's heat during torrid days. You'd be better off with cedar boards, as they won't hold the heat.

I wanted a raised vegetable

I wanted a raised vegetable bed at our leased camping lot. The ground there is full of rocks. I used vinyl clad garden fencing cut to the height of 19". This was bent into the shape of a "U" by using a 2x4 as a metal break (that I stood on while bending). This left aprox 3.5" bottom of the "U" and the sides of 7.75". I used 18" rebar in the corners and every 3' inside to make it stay more sturdy. Then I got buckets of rocks from my neighbor (who has a huge pile he didn't want) and filled in the whole "U" with rocks. I placed black plastic on the inside of the bed on the walls to keep the dirt inside. The fencing was wired from the outside of the "U" to the inside of "U" on top and all were attached to the rebar also. It retained the soil very well and was very unique looking. Used material I already had or given to me for free, but, don't believe it would cost so much if you had to buy it and it.

I've read that concrete

I've read that concrete blocks contain chemicals that can leach into the soil and it's not good to use them for food gardens (vs flower). Have you heard of this or know anything about it? I'd LOVE to use blocks if it's safe!

I've never seen any evidence

I've never seen any evidence that concrete blocks contain harmful chemicals. But...if block are scavenged, you don't know what has been sprayed on them or what they have absorbed. Stick with new blocks.

Concrete is made up of lots

Concrete is made up of lots of chemicals, retarders and C-ash and F-ash and cement and ....I used to make it. Ran a concrete plant. Will it harm your plants or you? I dunno...but if you're worried about the chemicals in there, use wood. :)

Prices do vary by region.

Prices do vary by region. You could salvage bricks and blocks from demolition sites for free. I've done that when younger and my budget was very tight. Large rocks work, too, if you can find a siet where you can dig them up for free.

We have been in our home for

We have been in our home for a year now and had a fairly successful garden for a brand new garden. I would really like to make it a series of raised gardens but the cost of cedar in Ontario is aprox $20 per plank and the cement block is $3.62 per block. Both options work out to be about $100 per bed sized 4x12. Sigh any other suggestions?

Hey 49hillbilly, did the

Hey 49hillbilly, did the gophers stay out of the raised garden? I've thought I'd have to put down some hardware cloth to keep them out, because I'm over run with them.

I'm planting garlic and

I'm planting garlic and onions. Could I add Vermiculite to the mixture? How much?

Yes, you can add vermiculite

Yes, you can add vermiculite or perlite or shredded pine bark. All of them will create loose soil that bulbing veggies love. Don't use shredded cedar bark, as it has a growth inhibitor in it. That's why it makes good mulch for flower beds to keep weeds away.

I'm knew to raised beds and

I'm knew to raised beds and gardening in general. The reason I want to use raised beds to keep it as organic as possible. Just bought out house and don't know the history of the ground where I am placing the garden but using chemical lawn service is big in the neighborhood. Is there a bottom on the raised bed that would separate it from the ground? If not, do typical garden plants (lettuce, tomatoes, zucchini etc) have shallow enough roots that they won't grow in to the ground below the bed? Thanks! I am looking forward to my new garden planning this fall and winter!

Chemical pollution is a good

Chemical pollution is a good reason to garden in raised beds. Try placing 6 layers of newspaper on the ground before filling beds. The paper degrades, but it becomes part of the organic stew of soil in the bed you created. There, soil microbes thrive to feed and protect your plants. Eventually, these microbes colonize in the soil below the beds. And, yes, most of the veggies you mention have fairly shallow root systems; plus they stay where nutrients and water are available.

I really like the cement

I really like the cement brick idea. I already have a bed made of wood that I put my green house over at the begining of growing season or to extend the season. but I am expanding and the cost of a cement one is less. it would be approx 30.00 and it does not rot. Thanks for the info.
And a bonus the hole in the bricks I could use to grow flowers and herbs. Thanks Hillbilly.

I plan on making some beds

I plan on making some beds this year and have been doing a little research. I came across a blog by Ana-White who used cedar fence boards to make her boxes by just squaring off the top inch of the board. I thought it was very clever, and much cheaper!

I have several cedar boards

I have several cedar boards in my garage already. Can't touvh them without getting splinters, will they be ok to use?

alternative raised bed gardening

I read an article on gardening without having to plow up the soil, and will try it next year. Buy one or more bales of hay (not straw or pine needles) and soak with water for 4 or 5 days. Then use a trowel to make holes in the bales for your plants. The bales will provide nutrients and keep the plants virtually weed-free. Great for apartment or condo dwellers with limited space.

I've used haybales for the

I've used haybales for the past two years to grow my tomatoes. They work great! No weeding and no blight. If you google or search haybale gardening there is a web site that will tell you all about. MN

That would work well for

That would work well for those of us who aren't allergic to hay (like I am).

I tried this method last

I tried this method last year.. The bales ended up sprouting a lot of little grasses and were a HEAVEN home for slugs.. Those little creeps demolished my veggies! I tried the beer method with some success but there were so many of them I was using a ton of beer! Eventually just gave up to the slugs. :-(

Raised Beds

I wish I had the gumption to give this a try. I've tried and tried over the past 15 years to have a garden with almost no success. I plant and plant and nothing comes up. I've turned the soil, mulched, fertilized, begged and pleaded and nothing comes up. Peppers, lavender, lima beans, onions, carrots, peas, melons, green beans....nothing grows. Oh, one or two might pop-up, but quickly die. The only thing that has ever grown were zucchinis. This year two green bean plants sprung up from last year's attempt and they're doing fine. I didn't plant anything this year. Just pulled the weeds, covered the plot with mulch & bark and let the mint and nasturtiums take over. At least the mint smells good and the nasturtiums are pretty!

do a soil test

Have you taken a soil sample to your Co-operative Extension Office yet? They'll test your soil for a small fee. And as far as fertilizing goes if your using "Miracle Grow" or even one of the other type that you dilute with water it's possible to over fertilize if your using it more often than the 7 to 14 days recommended. A few years ago I ruined my soil for bell peppers by watering every other day with it. 3 years later all I succeed in doing is growing stunted pepper plants.

Hello sorry to tell you


Your lack of punctuation and

Your lack of punctuation and all caps rambling doesn't give me confidence in your opinion, Georgie. Thanks for trying to help, I think.

I really wanted to read this.

I really wanted to read this. It seemed to contain lots of useful information, but I started over three times and couldn't make sense of it. Did anyone else understand? Care to summerize?

Any chance you have a Walnut

Any chance you have a Walnut Tree nearby ?

Raised Beds

I've been using cement blocks for several years now. The marigolds and herbs are planted in the holes. Thanks for the strawberry idea. How do you contain the runners?

Re: Raised Beds

I let the runners ramble and root somewhere.  Then, I cut the runner off, dig up the rooted plant and put it elsewhere.  When I have too many, I pinch off runners and discard or share with friends.

Additional tip -

You can use the same three layer method of newspaper along the bottom and seams of both kinds of raised beds in the article to prevent soil wash-out. The newspaper is porous enough to drain adequately and will degrade by the end of the season to be composted into the soil.

Raised Garden/Flower/Shrub Beds - Compost Bin

Thank you for your post. These provide flexability in size/ shape/ and being up, they make maintenance and harvesting easier.
I'm with you DOREEN I don't like the cost or limited sizes/shapes of the pre-fab ones.
I've used these raised beds for years with great success in Calif. & Kansas & now in Arizona … YES the desert where 'soil' is not easy to find. (I'm jealous of your soil in the picture). I've always used 'Cinder Blocks' without cementing them together (up to - two high). I like the cinder block as it also acts to wick moisture and prevent over watering where drainage may pose a problem [KS - clay]. For looks this time, I used the split faced cinder block & topped with some red pavers, again not cemented. This was for a planter that runs the length of our Block wall fence 50+ ft..
I had to make some soil by mixing gypsum/ Peat moss/ sulpher/ and some planter mix [on sale close out stuff] and mixed with the 'native SAND.' [the mix is always dependant on the Native ground & Chemicals used in the Water Supply] Through composting (*see below) & incorporating back to the planters they seem to get better & more productive each year. They serve as all year Shrub planters with veggies in between during the seasons.
* Also made a 'compost' bin this way by leaving one half of a 4ft side open & four blocks high - blocks filled with sand to keep in place & staggered joints - a plywood top and a piece of peg board with (painted w/water seal) for the side opening to allow air circulation/mixing the pile & getting the compost out. Works great.
Happy Gardening to all & hope I've maybe given a helpful idea to someone.

Raised Bed gardens

Moved to SE Alabama over a year ago. Was busy with the house the first year, this year I am starting to construct my raised beds. I noticed that there were a lot of Gopher tortoises and Rabbits on my property, so decided to go with the raised beds. I constructed mine with cement blocks on the bottom row and 2"x 12" cedar on top of them, using 2"x2" 4' in each corner. This way I can cover is we have a frost in the cooler growing season or use PVC lattice to cover if it get too hot and when the plants are young. My neighbor says I need to put fake wheels on them and they will look like covered wagons.

I find that these beds hold water much better than ground plantings. Once the plants mature the whole bed is shaded and I only have to water every other day, even in 3 digit temps. I wish I could attach a picture of the beds, 2 are completed and planted and 2 are on the way. The other advantage is I don't have to bend over, with my bad hips and knees.

Raised Garden Beds.

I enjoyed your post. I'm glad to hear that someone else uses PVC for a cover/shelter. I've been using it for many years myself. Never glued but pushed together {some I had to drill and add a fininsh nail to keep together) makes it easy to store when not necessary. It also makes it easy to either cover with burlap for sun protection/ retaining the moisture/ or even helping with the frost. an old sheet works well for the frost.
Thanks - I'm going to move my wagon wheels to the outside of the planter. Have fun in your 'prarie scooner.'

49hillbilly, did the gophers

49hillbilly, did the gophers stay out of the raised garden? I've thought I'd have to put down some hardware cloth to keep them out, because I'm over run with them.

49hillbilly, I would love to

49hillbilly, I would love to understand how you make the PVC lattice to cover this raised bed. I seem to have the latest and the earliest frost in my neighborhood. I need an easy way to protect for a little longer growing season. Any more detailed description would be appreciated!

Raised beds

My beds are made with untreated boards 2"x 10"x 16' & 3' wide. I live in Western NC & ground is rocky so I started them out with leaf loam from woods, bags of top soil & bags of compost. I also added some leftover fishing I mulch with bales of wheat straw that I shred up with push mower & use rabbit manure & fish emulsion for feeding & compost when available. So far...looking good :~)

Rabbit manure is great! I

Rabbit manure is great! I used to have rabbits and had huge plants and veggies.

raised beds

I love both these ideas Doreen! Sometimes simplest is best :)


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