There are many reasons why you might want to build a raised bed in your garden this summer. Perhaps you’d like an isolated spot where you can plant herbs, without fear of them taking over the whole garden. Or maybe you want an easy-access area where you can teach the kids to grow fruit and veg. Our guide to how to build a raised garden bed is therefore exactly what you need.
Get everything from the lawn to the flowerbeds in shape with our garden ideas
What’s more, this step by step comes from none other than the ultimate DIYer, Escape to the Chateau’s Dick Strawbridge. Using leftover deck boards and offcuts of wood, he has created beds across his French estate for next to nothing. And now you can, too!
It’s one of eight projects Dick and Angel have put together for Homebase as part of their new ‘Give It A Go’ series. And one we can’t wait to try ourselves.
What you’ll need to make a raised garden bed
‘This is a really good project to start with,’ says Dick, ‘because you don’t need much to make it all happen.’
- A hand saw
- Stainless steel screws
- Tape measure
- Small clamps (optional)
- Decking boards
- Offcuts of wood
- Compost and plants
You’ll also need a workbench or sturdy surface for sawing your wood safely. Or you could use a mitre saw for speed and a neat cut.
How to make a raised garden bed
1. Measure your deck boards
Dick is using boards leftover from building garden decking to make his planters. you could also use wooden sleepers, readily available at most DIY sheds.
Once you’ve decided where to place your planter, you can work out how big it should be. Dick is clever, and, once he has decided on the length of his raised bed, that its width should correspond to the offcuts he’s left with once he’s sawn his wood planks to length.
‘By making the bit that’s left over the width of our bed, we get the most out of every individual piece,’ says Dick, who also advises making sure you can always reach the middle of your bed. ‘If you’re growing something nice to eat, you want to be able to get to it,’ he points out.
For the second level up, he makes the lengths a little shorter, and the widths a little longer to create an overlap.
When Dick measures where to cut, he takes the old adage ‘measure twice cut once’ even further by measuring out three marks on the wood – one to the left side, once to the right side and one in the middle. He then joins the marks up with a line, so he’s ready to cut.
When marking, he uses a little v rather than a large dot for a more accurate pinpoint. He also scribbles in pencil on the ‘waste’ side so he knows which bit to use!
2. Cut the deck boards to size
Before you begin, make sure your saw is sharp.
To start cutting on the line exactly, use your knuckle to support one side of the saw. Keep the saw upright, to avoid, as Dick puts it ‘a bit of a wonk’ on the edge of your wood. Pull up the saw, and cut on the down motion.
3. Clamp the wood to stop it splintering
When you reach about two thirds in to your cut, there’s a danger you could snap the end of the wood off. To avoid this and the splintering it causes, clamp the wood together where you’ve already cut, then continue to saw through.
Continue to cut all your pieces out.
4. Screw the deck boards together
Dick drills three screws into the first piece of wood, with the tips of the screws popping out the other side. He then rests the wood onto the next piece, and drills down into the wood. He continues this process for the next level of the framework.
5. Secure the framework with leftover wood
To hold the two frames one on top of the other, Dick uses offcuts of wood. He screws from the outside frame into the ‘dog end’ of wood, and everything holds together.
6. Add your compost
Dick fills his planter with good quality compost. ‘Don’t spare the compost,’ he says. ‘You’ll know if it’s good quality because it smells good!’
You could even have a go at making your own and feed your garden for free with our guide to how to make compost.
7. Start planting
Dick plants ‘herbs and salads and things I know we’ll be able to harvest and use this summer’. He also plants tomatoes and strawberries, getting son Arthur into help. That’s the joy of raised beds – they’re great for getting the kids into gardening.
Want more tips for shaping your space? Try our garden landscaping ideas
What are the benefits of a raised garden bed?
1. You can create the right conditions for the plants you want to grow
One good reason to build a raised bed or planter is to contain an area of your garden. ‘A planter with compost in it heats up nice and quickly with the sun, and you can control the nutrients in the soil very easily,’ says Dick.
So if you have a particular natural soil type in your garden that’s not ideal for the plants you want to grow (for example, a very clay-based or lime-based soil), a raised bed may be the answer.
2. Weeding the garden is less daunting
‘If I want to weed this planter, it will take me minutes,’ says Dick. ‘I’m not think “Urgh, I’ve got the whole garden to do”. It’s a nice little bit at a time. I can weed this planter, weed the next planter, and it’s not a huge job and your gardening becomes easier.’
3. They’re accessible for all ages
As Dick demonstrates by getting son Arthur involved, raised beds are so accessible that it’s easy to get the whole family involved in planting, watering and harvesting them. They’re a good choice if you have mobility issues, as you can set them at a height and width that minimises the need to bend and stretch.
How high should my raised bed be?
In our example, the bed is two deck boards high, because the main purpose of this raised bed or planter is to ‘contain’ the planting on this piece of ground.
‘However, if you want to make a raised be that’s convenient to get into, perhaps if you’re older and can’t bed over so easily, the higher you build the bed, the easier it is to work in it,’ advises Dick. You would therefore want your bed to be three or four planks high.