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December 09, 2016
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If I can build a raised bed garden plot, you can, too!

Photos by Barbara Lewis

If I’d known how easy it is to build a raised bed garden plot, I’d have done it years ago instead of having a patchwork, haphazard home kitchen garden.

So, you may ask: Why not just turn over the soil in my backyard? Well, we tried that one, and here’s the thing…

The first spring after we moved into our country home, I decided to plant all of my favorite vegetables and try my hand at gardening. It was the first time I’d ever had my own house with my own dirt to dig in. The front yard was the only option, as our woods come right up behind the house, and there’s not enough sun to grow much of anything back there—except for a lot of moss that grows there naturally. Besides that, we live on the top of a hill on a rocky ledge, where the soil is thin, poor and, well, rocky. That first summer, the only vegetables that grew were quickly eaten by a groundhog. (What is it with groundhogs? They could have any weed or blade of grass in the yard, but they apparently think that fresh veggies are candy, and candy’s better than weeds any day!)

After the first season’s failure, a friend suggested growing things in oversized flowerpots with purchased topsoil, and so for many successive summers, I planted tomatoes and basil this way, plus a variety of herbs. This method was sufficient up to a point, but as time went on, I wanted to grow more vegetables.

And then, two years ago, I had the chance to help a local sustainability organization build a community garden with 25 raised beds. I discovered that even I, who grew up in a family with three boys and never had to wield any kind of tool to build or repair anything—even I could build a raised bed garden plot.

I want to share with you how simple it is.

Basically, you’re going to build a four-sided open wooden box (4 feet x 8 feet x 10 inches tall) and fill it with dirt.

Here’s what you need:

2 pieces rough-cut sawmill hemlock – 8 feet long by 10 inches wide by 2 inches thick

2 pieces rough-cut sawmill hemlock – 4 feet long by 10 inches wide by 2 inches thick

(Note: Our community garden chose hemlock because it’s more resistant to rot and to insects; cedar is also good, but more expensive. Whatever you do, don’t use pressure-treated wood that’s been treated with chemicals.)

Lay out the wood on the ground where you will build your four-sided wooden box, placing the two 8-foot sides opposite each other (four feet apart) and then placing the two 4-foot pieces at either end to form 90-degree angles to complete the box.

12 coarse-thread deck screws – 3.5 inches long