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How To Make A Beautiful Raised Bed For Your Garden

By Edited May 15, 2016 3 4

Here is a beautiful and strong gardening raised bed plan that is simple to make.  Below you will find the complete step-by-step plan including pictures.

You do not have to be a construction worker to build this raised bed garden.  Anybody can do it, so keep reading and get ready to garden!

Materials Needed

To make your beautiful raised bed garden, you will need the following items.

Cedar 2x12 Lumber

  • You will need 4 pieces to make your raised bed garden.  I will show in pictures how to make a 4 foot by 4 foot box, so I used 4 pieces of cedar that were 4 feet long each.  If you want a 4 foot by 8 foot garden, you simply need two 4 foot pieces and two 8 foot pieces.  
  • You can get 2x12 cedar from a lumberyard or a big box hardware store, but you might have to call and have it ordered.
  • Cedar is naturally rot resistant and does not need treatment.  You do not want treated wood in your raised bed garden as the chemicals will leach into your soil and ultimately into your food.  Cedar will last for years.
  • Get the rough cedar for your gardens.  They will probably offer a smooth finish as well, but you don't want it for this job.
  • I like to have the lumberyard cut the cedar for me since it is so easy for them to cut the 2x12 lumber.  Then, I can just pop it into my car.

Cedar 4x4 Posts

  • You will need 4 pieces to anchor the corners of your
    Raised Bed Garden Plan 1
    raised bed garden.  These should each be cut to 18 inches long.
  • Again, don't use treated lumber.  Just plain old cedar will do nicely.
  • You can have the lumberyard cut these for you too but this is a 2 second cut with a mitre saw if you have it.

Carriage Bolts, Washers, & Nuts

  • You will need 16 each of 6 inch long carriage bolts, washers, and nuts for your raised bed garden.
  • 3/8 inch size (thickness of the bolt) for all three will be just fine.  You can upgrade to 1/2 inch if you want to, but it is really not necessary for this job.


  • A drill and a drill bit made for your size of bolt.  For a carriage bolt, the drill bit is actually a bit larger than the bolt so that the bolt slides in easily.
  • A wrench to tighten the nuts.  A socket wrench is just the ticket here if you have it.
  • A clamp that is big enough to span the 4x4 and 2x12 together.  It should open to at least 6 inches.
  •  A level to make it look good at installation time.

Step 1: Build The Sides

Raised Bed Garden Plan 2

In this step you are going to make the 4 sides of your raised bed garden.

There are a few things to pay attention to here.  First, build all four sides exactly the same way.  In other words, if you are putting the 4x4 on the right side as I did in  my first picture in this section, put it on the right side for all four sides.

Second, it will look best if the 4x4 and the 2x12 are flush.  You can see from my picture that they should be flush since they are both sitting on the same flat surface, but check to be sure after you clamp them together.  If one ends up higher than the other it will not cause any issues but it will look better if they are flush.  The part now on the ground will end up being the top.

Third, tighten your nuts but don't over tighten them.  Cedar is soft and you will hear the bolt ripping into the wood a bit as you get hear the end of tightening it.  That is OK, but once the rounded head of the bolt is flush with the wood you can stop.

Raised Bed Garden Plan 3

Here are the steps:

  • clamp a 4x4 to a 2x12 at the edge so that both the edge and the surfaces near the ground are flush (see the first picture)
  • drill two holes through the face of the 2x12 and completely through the 4x4
  • insert a bolt into the hole from the 2x12 side
  • add a washer and nut to the 4x4 side and tighten

Step 2: Build The Box

Raised Bed Garden Plan 4

Now that you have four identical sides for your raised bed garden, it is time to assemble the box.

You are going to just start at one corner in this step and work your way around the box, adding 2 more bolts to each 4x4, but from the other 2x12.

One word of caution before you get into this step.  When you drill these new holes you will be drilling into the same 4x4 that already has bolts through it from the other direction.  Make sure that you drill these new holes in a different spots so that you don't drill right into an existing bolt.

Raised Bed Garden Plan 5

Here are the steps:

  • align your four sides so that they form a box
  • each 4x4 will now be in an inner corner of the box so that all that can be seen from the outside (other than the extending 4x4 legs) is your 2x12 cedar boards
  • clamp one of the 2x12 boards to its corresponding 4x4
  • drill two holes through the face of the 2x12 and completely through the 4x4
    Raised Bed Garden Plan 6
  • insert a bolt into the hole from the 2x12 side
  • add a washer and nut to the 4x4 side and tighten

Now that you have followed these steps, you have your new raised bed garden fully assembled and it's time to bring it the site where you want to install it.  You will find it heavy but manageable for one reasonably strong person but two people will make quick work of the delivery.

Step 3: Prepare The Site

Raised Bed Garden Plan 7

Since most people will be installing their raised bed garden over an existing grass surface, I'll show you a simple way to set your garden into the existing grass that makes it look great from day 1.

One thing to consider before you start this step.  I like to remove all the sod to have a clean site, but this is not absolutely necessary.  Since you will be adding loose soil to a depth of 6-8 inches you could just leave the sod alone and let it decompose over time.  If you do this, however, you still need to remove the sod from the perimeter, or where the

Raised Bed Garden Plan 8
2x12 and the four 4x4 legs will make contact with the existing ground.

Here are the steps:

  • turn your garden upside down (legs up) so that it is flush with the grass
  • get a cup of flour and sprinkle flour along the entire outside edge of the garden
  • move the garden out of the way
  • use a square spade to cut away the sod
  • remove all the sod from the site

Step 4: Level The Garden

Raised Bed Garden Plan 9

Now that the sod is out of your way it is time to take the all important step of leveling the garden.  This is the difference between a raised bed garden that looks OK and one that looks really well done.  Your sides should be level in every direction.  It will make your garden look much more pleasing to the eye and will hold your soil level over the years instead of the soil and water running to the low side.

There are a couple of finishing notes I have for you here.  First, you want the bottom of your 2x12 sides to extend below the existing surface of the grass.  This will give you a clean and professional look.

Second, it is pretty easy to dig just more than you need to on the 4 corners and, as you check for

Raised Bed Garden Plan 10
level, add some soil back along the way until all sides are level.

Here are the steps:

  • Dig out the 4 corner post holes a bit deeper since they extend below the walls of your garden
  • Test fit the garden by putting it in place and measure the level of all 4 sides.
  • Raise or lower the corners that you need to until all sides are level. 

Step 5: Fill Your Garden

Now that your garden has been installed it's time to add your soil and get going. 

To save me a trip to the compost site I turn my sod over (grass side down) and put it back into the bottom of the garden.  I feel this works fine and keeps my garden firmly in place for the first year as the soil settles.  I don't worry about the grass at all.  It will decompose and ultimately become soil, and since I have fresh new soil on top of it you'd never know the sod was still there.  Peppers and tomatoes will grow right through it.  If you are growing root crops like carrots, then you might decide to chop it up a bit moe or remove it, but I don't think it's necessary.

For the soil, I recommend a mixture of compost, vermiculite, and peat in roughly even quantities.  Don't use topsoil or potting soil.  At my local nursery I can easily find various kids of compost in 2 cubic foot bags so I added some mushroom compost, leaf compost, etc. to my vermiculite and peat.  If you have your own compost pile, why not use it in your new garden?

Once your soil is in, there is nothing left to do but the planting (and eating!).

Closing Thoughts

One thing about cedar is that it is beautiful and does not really need any special care, but it will fade rather quickly to a gray color.  Don't worry about that, it is natural.  In the picture to the right

Raised Bed Garden Plan 11
you can see two gardens that I installed last year next to two gardens I installed as I wrote this article for comparison.  By the end of this year you won't be able to tell them apart.

Another thing about raised be gardens is that you should add nutrients to them every year just as you would your normal garden.  I always figure that I pull out a certain amount of soil when I pull out the bigger plants, so adding another bag or two of compost every year doesn't seem to raise the soil level and adds fresh nutrients.

If you haven't heard of square foot garden

" target="_blank">square foot gardening you might like to check it out.  It is a popular way to plant and space vegetables in your raised bed garden and a method for keeping all the square footage of your garden in production as much as possible by rotating crops by season.

Good luck with your new raised bed garden!



Jun 10, 2011 3:46pm
Great directions and pictures for making a raised bed garden.
Jun 27, 2011 8:41am
This is the exact information I need! In the fall, I am changing my vegetable garden from rows to raised beds. So, I am bookmarking this article to use when I make these raised beds for my garden. Thank you so much for the great instructions, and your pictures are excellent.
Jun 27, 2011 9:00am
I'm glad and thank you for the comment. I spent a lot of time myself searching for raised bed plans step-by-step when I built my beds and kept getting half of the story, so I thought I could help future searchers by being thorough with pictures at every step. Good luck on your garden conversion!
Jul 30, 2014 2:57pm
Very step by step. Thanks a bunch. I really like your project ideas.
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