For one of my first large installations, (a four-garden classic), I had cedar kits ready to assemble at the job site. I’d hired a crew to handle the installation and planned to construct the beds while they worked. But, from the beginning, I realized I should’ve had the beds assembled beforehand. We needed the beds to be set out on the existing landscape to confirm the garden area calculations and to be certain I’d ordered enough soil. Having the gardens ready to go would have also meant I could focus completely on the garden setup details, which was moving more quickly than anticipated (this team worked much faster than my husband and I!).
So, lesson here: Have your raised beds constructed and ready to put into place before you start tearing up your garden area.
I have to admit that constructing a raised garden is one of the more challenging aspects of installing a kitchen garden, especially if you’re not accustomed to working with wood and tools.
For one of my first installations, I needed to measure and cut wood on site. So, I did what every sane woman would do: I headed to the hardware store and bought myself an electric saw. As soon as Jason came home, he looked at me with fear in his eyes and quickly canceled all our evening plans. He spent the next few hours coaching me on the dos and don’ts of playing with saws. I’m proud to say I still have all ten fingers (at least at the time of this writing), but I was ready to let someone else do the cutting and construction for me after he explained what could possibly go wrong.
So, whether it’s you, someone you love, or someone you’ve hired, here are the general steps to constructing a garden box from wood.
2 x 6-inch x 8-foot (5.1 x 15.2 cm x 2.4 m) cedar planks
1 x 6-inch x 8-foot (2.5 x 15.2 cm x 2.4 m) cedar trim (optional)
11/2-inch (3.8 cm) deck screws
1-inch (2.5 cm) finishing screws
Measure and cut the long and short boards to size
To start, measure the thickness of your wood. Keep in mind that as you connect the boards, you’ll be adding the thickness of two long boards to every short board. This means you’ll need to subtract twice the board’s thickness from the total length of the short board before cutting.
For example, if your boards are 11/2 inches (3.8 cm) thick and you’re creating a 4 x 6-foot (1.2 x 1.8 m) garden, you’ll need to cut two sides of the garden at 6 feet (1.8 m) long and the other two sides at 3 feet, 9 inches (0.9 m, 22.9 cm). Confused? Hang in there!
Now that you know the measurement for the long boards and the adjusted measurement for the short ones, measure your boards to the correct dimensions and mark the cutting line on each. Be certain all beds of the same measurement line up well with one another.
Connect each layer of the long and short boards to one another
After cutting the boards, it’s time to connect them. Use 11/2-inch (3.8 cm) screws to connect the long boards to both sides of a short board so the angles are straight and flush. Build each complete box separately before connecting them, ensuring the corners meet at a right angle every time. If you’ve followed my suggestion and purchased 6-inch (15.2 cm)-wide boards, you’ll need two complete boxes for every foot (0.3 m) of your raised garden bed. For example, there should be two layers if you’re building a 1-foot (0.3 m) garden and three layers if you’re building an 18-inch (0.5 m) garden.
Stack the beds on top of one another and screw each layer together
Once you’ve created all your boxes, stack all the layers and attach them: Drill down from the top of each layer to the one below it and then connect them with a 11/2-inch (3.8 cm) screw. Do this at every corner.
Place a support along the inside of the boxes to keep them together
Then, reinforce the connection by attaching a trim piece measured to the height of the garden box in the center of each panel. Secure the reinforcement with 11/2-inch (3.8 cm) screws.
Create trim for the garden corners and attach it. Cut mitered edges for the top trim and attach with screws
If you’d like, add trim to the corners and tops of your garden boxes. You can trim the garden with any board width, but we generally use a 1 x 6-inch (2.5 x 15.2 cm) board. This is optional but gives a finished, more traditional look. If you’ve chosen a more modern or simple style for your garden, leave the gardens as is.
This article originally appeared on House & Garden UK.