Ÿ 8’ 2×8s (2)
Ÿ 4’ 2×8s (2)
Ÿ 9” 2×4s or 2×2s (4) for corner posts
Ÿ Circular saw or handsaw, if you’re cutting your lumber to size (you can also have it cut at your lumberyard)
Ÿ Drill fitted with a 1/8 inch drill bit and a driver bit to match your deck screws
Ÿ 2 1/2 inch deck screws (16) plus a few extra in case any corner needs extra reinforcing
Ÿ Clamps (2) optional, but helpful
Ÿ Small hand spade
Ÿ Garden hose
Ÿ About 1/2 yard soil of your choice
Ÿ Large shovel
Ÿ Handcart or wheelbarrow
Step 1: First, cut your boards to size: two 8-foot lengths and two 4-foot lengths from 2x8s for the walls of the bed, and 4 stakes, each 9” (or the depth of your bed walls plus 2”) from 2x4s or 2x2s.
Step 2: Place your first stake underneath one end of your first 8’ wall, aligning them at the top so the stake extends 2” past the bottom edge of the wall. Clamp them and drill 2 pilot holes into the paired pieces of wood, closer to the center than the edges to avoid splitting.
Step 3: Next, drive a deck screw into each hole.
Step 4: Repeat Steps 2 and 3 at the other end of the first 8’ board, and at both ends of the second 8’ board.
Step 5: If you’re working on grass so far, move your operation to a flat surface like a sidewalk or driveway so your bed will be neatly aligned as you add the last two walls. Clamp your first corner with the excess 2” of the stake pointing up, and drill and then screw the two longer pieces, connecting them through the stake, to form the first corner securely.
Step 6: Repeat Step 5 to join the other three corners. Your (upside-down) bed is ready to place in your yard!
Step 7: Thoroughly weed the area where you’ll place the bed. If you are dealing with tenacious menaces like dandelions, I highly recommend an efficient tool like Grandpa’s Weeder for eradicating them. For this simplified version, there is no need to remove plain grass from the bed area, but the more you can do to take care of weeds now, the better. Of course, if you have clean, plain soil to build a bed over, that is even better.
Step 8: Now carry the finished bed to the place you want it to rest, place it upside down again, and mark the 4 corners. Use a small hand spade to dig out small recesses in the dirt where the stakes will rest. Now flip the bed right side up, with the 4 stakes pressed firmly into the ground.
Step 9: When you’re ready to fill the bed with dirt, take about a week’s worth of daily papers out and unfold them to full size, layering them about 10-15 sheets thick and covering the base of the entire bed. Spray them evenly with water from a garden hose to smooth and weigh them down so you don’t end up with newspapers flying everywhere. This will stop most weeds from coming up through and infesting your garden. There are more protective materials like mesh screens available at hardware and garden supply stores if you are concerned about mice or gophers making their way in, too.
Step 10: Using a handcart or wheelbarrow, bring loads of dirt to the bed, filling it with soil from both sides if possible. There’s no need to pack the dirt extra firmly — just let it fill naturally. I like to leave a little space at the top for plants, mulch, and compost.
Step 11: When you’ve chosen your starts (or grown seedlings yourself) that are ready to transplant, plant them in the bed in neat rows, following guidelines on spacing and timing. Amend the plantings with compost or other natural fertilizers as needed.
Tailor these basic instructions to make 4×4 (or other-dimension) square beds for smaller spaces, or build the walls higher using wider or vertically layered boards.
You can also use other materials instead of wood, like scrap metal, to build your raised beds. Add extras like built-in curved PVC hoops, included in the Sunset tutorial, for the option to cover your bed with tarps or mesh if needed.
From writer and crafter Susan Beal at Craftzine.com blog