This is one of the most requested how to’s you’ve been looking for. I’ve written down a step-by-step guide on how to build your own DIY raised beds. So let’s get started!
About three years ago, we decided to build our own raised beds. It’s much more cost effective than what we saw in pricing at that time. Last year I probably wouldn’t have recommended building raised beds this way because of the cost of lumber. But now with the price coming down, it seems much more doable.
Before you go out and buy anything though, here are some tips on what you need to think about.
- Check the space where the raised bed will sit.
How big of a raised bed do you want to build? Our raised beds are 2 feet wide, 18 inches high, and 8 feet long. 3 raised beds of that size fit in our center garden area.
- Do you have a particular garden design in mind? Search Pinterest to get some inspiration. There are all different kinds of layouts for raised bed gardens. Our raised bed garden is in the shape of a U.
- How many raised beds do you want to make?
Table of Contents
What to Know Before Building a Raised Garden Bed
These instructions are for making the same size beds that we have in our garden. Our raised beds are 2 feet wide, 18 inches high, and 8 feet long. It’s not recommended that you build beds longer than 8 feet long. The soil that is later added in needs to be compensated for. The weight of the soil can cause bowing of the raised bed if they’re made longer.
In an 8 foot raised bed, we compensated for the weight of the soil by placing a post in the middle to act as a brace.
Be sure to buy untreated wood.
To do this project, you’ll need two people.
What Kind of Wood Should I Buy?
Be sure to buy untreated wood. Treated wood is treated with chemicals to prevent rotting. Past studies conducted showed that the chemicals leached from the wood. However, recent studies done by the EPA now show that they leach at safe levels. We didn’t want to have to worry about any of that so we just bought untreated wood.
Before assembling the raised bed, we treated the wood with raw linseed oil since we purchased untreated wood.
We bought Douglas fir wood because that’s what worked into our budget. The best wood you can use is cedar. However, cedar’s very expensive. Before buying wood, research which ones are best for your circumstances and budget.
Linseed Oil on Wood
Raw Linseed Oil Versus Boiled Linseed Oil versus Polymerized Linseed Oil
Linseed oil, also known as flaxseed oil, is a very popular wood finish. You’ll find different types of linseed oil at the store. Which one you buy matters.
Raw linseed oil is the purest and most natural form of this type of oil. Because it doesn’t have any solvent additives or chemicals added to decrease its drying time, it can take a few days for the wood to dry after applying. It takes weeks to fully cure.
Boiled linseed oil (BLO) isn’t actually boiled or heated in spite of its name. It used to be boiled and had lead added to it.BLO has drying agents that are added to speed up the drying process. These drying agents are either petroleum-based or heavy metal. The drying agents release volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) and therefore it’s toxic and not food-safe.
Polymerized linseed oil is heated for a long time until the oil becomes polymerized. For the oil to become polymerized, the heating process starves it of oxygen. This process allows the linseed oil to dry faster without adding additives. Thus, this type of linseed oil does not release VOCs and therefore it’s not toxic.
Why We Chose Raw Linseed Oil
We chose raw linseed oil to seal the wood because at the time it was the most cost effective, eco-friendly, food safe, and non-toxic. However, there are pros and cons to using linseed oil that I’d like to be transparent about.
It’s not the best choice to use – the pros and cons explain why.
|Pros of Linseed Oil||Cons of Linseed Oil|
Ecofriendly, food safe, and non-toxic if you use raw or polymerized
Not very durable
|Penetrates deep into the grain and provides a beautiful finish||
Has to be re-applied once a year, if not more
Overtime from being outside, the wood has darkened
|Cell||Water repellent but not resistant|
Does not protect against UV damage
Tools and Supplies You’ll Need
***These tools and supplies are for building three raised beds***
25 8 foot 2x6s
Exterior rated galvanized 3 inch screws
Raw linseed oil
Level with ruler
Tray (to hold linseed oil)
Clean paint brush
Gloves (to keep your hands clean from the oil)
Circular saw table
Plastic drop cloth
2 folding sawhorses
Note: To make these beds, we didn’t use any brackets. We opted to cut a 2×6 as the brace in the middle instead of a bracket. In watching how others built their own, they’ve used brackets on the interior of the raised bed. Additionally, we didn’t cut down the 4x4s to be even with the sides of the raised beds. Instead, we kept them taller than the sides and they’ve acted as a support on the ends for any coverings we’ve placed over the beds.
How to Build a Raised Bed with Wood
Plan ahead for this project. Don’t wait until the last minute to build and install the raised beds. There needs to be enough time for the linseed oil to dry.
Cutting the Wood and Applying Linseed Oil
Our process began with cutting the 4x4s and some of the 2x6s. Each raised bed will have a total of 4 cut 4x4s.
Decide how you want to cut the 4x4s. Do you want them to be taller than the raised bed walls, or even with the walls?
We cut ours to 24 inches. Having them taller has helped with covering the beds even though we have hoops. The 4x4s keep the bed cover up off of our plants that are at the end of the bed.
Next some of the 2x6s need to be cut. Measure out 24 inches and then cut since each of the raised beds are 2 feet wide. You’ll need to cut a total of 6 pieces for each raised bed.
Lastly, an additional 6 pieces from the 2x6s need to be cut out that are 18 inches long. These are the braces for the middle of the raised bed.
After cutting the wood, it’s now time to start applying the linseed oil.
Put on gloves to avoid getting the linseed oil on your hands. This is not to avoid getting it on your hands for toxicity reasons (it’s non-toxic) but more so because it can get messy. Don’t wear nice clothing either.
Put down a plastic drop cloth. The area where you’re working should be covered so it doesn’t ruin anything and leave stains. We also did this outside.
Set up the 2 folding sawhorses far enough apart to set the wood on top.
We were able to fit 3 2×6’s on the sawhorses at a time. After finishing the set up, we proceeded to apply the linseed oil.
We poured some of the linseed oil in a plastic tray and applied it with a paint brush. After applying to one side, we flipped the wood and applied to the other side.
Don’t forget to apply to the sides and ends of the wood!
After applying the linseed oil, we left the wood to dry for a few days. After a few days, the wood seemed to be dry enough to move onto the next batch of wood. In total, between applying and drying, it may have taken us 2 to 3 weeks to complete.
While the Wood is Drying
While the wood’s drying, there’s still plenty to do before assembling the raised beds and installing them. Start clearing the area where you plan to install the raised beds. Is there grass there? Start ripping up the grass…. OR you can get rid of the grass in a less strenuous way. Lay pieces of cardboard the length of where the raised bed will be. Place weights (a rock is useful here) on the cardboard to weigh it down. The weight will hold the cardboard in place.
Once the beds are ready for assembly, you can leave the cardboard underneath. The cardboard eventually breaks down.
Even out the ground where the raised beds will sit.
Building the Raised Beds
It’s time to start assembling the raised beds! The easiest way to assemble the raised beds is where they’ll be permanently. Once they’re assembled, they’re very heavy and you probably don’t want to have to move them around.
1. Start by screwing together 1 of the long 2x6s to 1 of the cut 2x6s ((one that was cut to 24 inches). Repeat until you’ve created a rectangle. See below image for reference. Make sure all sides are level.Insert Image
2. Next screw in the 4x4s into each corner of the raised bed. Make sure each post is squared.
3. Repeat step 1 until the raised bed is 3 boards high on all 4 sides. See below image for reference.
4. Lastly, measure out the halfway point of the raised bed to designate the middle. Screw in one of the cut 2x6s for each side of the raised bed. There should be 2 braces total for each raised bed.
5. Repeat the previous steps to build the other two raised beds.
The next essential part for building the raised beds is adding in the hardwire cloth. The hardwire cloth prevents rodents like chipmunks from burrowing underneath and up into your raised bed.
6. Cut the hardwire cloth to the length and width of the inside of the raised bed. Repeat this step 2 more times for each bed.
7. Lay the hardwire cloth in the bottom of each bed. It should be a tight squeeze putting in the hardwire cloth. You don’t want any gaps.
Your raised beds are now complete and ready to be filled in!
•To build a raised garden bed, you will need untreated wood, raw linseed oil, a level, gloves, a circular saw, and hardwire cloth.
• Cut the wood to size and apply the linseed oil. Allow it to dry for a few days.
• While the wood is drying, prepare the area where the beds will be installed by clearing any grass and leveling the ground.
• Assemble the beds by screwing together 2×6 boards and 4×4 posts into rectangles 3 boards high. Add braces in the middle of each side and hardwire cloth to keep out rodents from digging up and into the raised bed.