Getting started

Raised beds make gardening easy. Filled with soil mix, they provide the excellent drainage needed to grow picture-perfect vegetables and flowers.

You can build the basic raised bed pictured here in a few hours, then add versatility by mounting PVC pipes inside to hold hoops that elevate bird netting or row covers over your crops. Orient your bed north-south for maximum sun exposure.

Use redwood or cedar ― both are beautiful and rot-resistant. You’ll need a table or power saw to cut the wood. After cutting, paint the wood on all sides with an oil-based sealer. An electric drill is helpful, though not required.

Our total cost: $187.

Design: David C. Becker

Materials

  • One 6-foot-long four-by-four ($15)
  • Six 8-foot-long two-by-sixes ($75)
  • One 10-foot-long 1-inch PVC pipe ($3)
  • Two 10-foot-long half-inch PVC pipes ($6)
  • A half-gallon semitransparent exterior oil stain ($15)
  • 32 3-and-a-half-inch No. 14 wood screws and 16 half-inch No. 8 wood screws ($29)
  • One 4-by-10-foot roll of quarter-inch-mesh hardware cloth ($15)
  • Eight 1-inch galvanized tube straps (semicircular brackets; $3.60)

32 cubic feet (1-and-a-fifth  cubic yard) planting mix ($25 in bulk or $100 in bags)

Assemble

Prep first, then build the bed in five simple steps.

With a table or power saw, cut the four-by-four into four 16-inch-tall corner posts. Cut two of the two-by-sixes in half. Cut the 1-inch PVC pipe into four 12-inch-long pieces and the half-inch PVC pipes into 6-foot-long pieces. Stain the lumber; let dry overnight.

Assemble the pieces on a hard, flat surface. Build the bed upside down. Set a 4-foot-long two-by-six on its thin edge on the pavement, and place a 16-inch post at one end. Secure post with two 3-and-a-half-inch screws. Repeat at the other end of board. Repeat with the other short board.

Join the short sides with an 8-foot-long board and secure with two screws. Add the other long side. Add a second layer of two-by-sixes.

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Position

With help from a buddy, flip the bed right side up. Move it into position in the yard, marking with a trowel each corner post’s location. Move the bed aside; dig a 5- to 6-inch-deep hole for each post.

Put the bed back into place, with the posts in the holes; fill around the posts with soil.

Install lining

Rake the existing soil at the bottom of the bed to level it, then tamp it smooth. Line the bed with hardware cloth to keep out gophers and moles; trim the cloth with shears to fit around the corner posts.

Attach pipe

To hold hoops for bird netting or row covers, attach four 12-inch pieces of 1-inch PVC pipe inside the bed: On the long sides, space the pipes 4 feet apart, 2 feet from each end; screw on two tube straps to secure each pipe.

Fill the bed with planting mix; rake it smooth, and moisten it with a gentle spray from the hose.


Insert the hoops

To cover newly planted seedlings with bird netting or season-extending row covers, simply bend two 6-foot pieces of half-inch PVC pipe to form semicircles, and slip their ends into the 1-inch pipes inside the bed.

Then drape the bird netting or row covers over them.

By Jim McCausland, Sunset