Whether you’re an experienced gardener or a beginner gardener, one thing most of us can agree on is low maintenance is best. No one really wants to battle weeds endlessly or fight packed soil. I’ve battled both weeds and soil with a traditional garden, but since we started raised bed gardening, those problems are all in the past. (For my complete run down on how to start a raised bed garden check out my post here. )
Building a cedar raised garden bed (or garden boxes) is an easy afternoon project that is a great way to take you from nothing to a complete garden in no time. Check out these easy instructions to how to build a cedar raised garden bed!
DIY Cedar Raised Garden Bed
Before we get to the garden bed plans, if you’ve been to any home improvement stores or big box stores in the spring, then chances are you’ve seen the pre-packaged vegetable garden beds. Yes, they’re convenient, but they certainly are not built for durability. Usually made of a composite material or thin wood, these planter boxes can quickly become an eyesore after a year or two.
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Now, I’m not saying they’re useless or shouldn’t be sold. In fact, if you’re not sure gardening is going to be something you enjoy or just want to test out your green thumb, then these cheap and quick options can be a great idea for trying out raised bed gardening.
However, if you’re looking to build quality, long lasting garden beds, then I strongly recommend you use durable materials. “You get what you pay for” is a statement surely meant for garden beds or really anything that will be sitting outdoors in the elements. Can I get an amen?
Why use cedar (hardwood) for garden beds?
I recommend using cedar lumber for garden beds simply because it is an incredibly durable hard wood that holds up well in the elements. Cedar wood tends to be bug and rot resistant even as an untreated wood, but almost any wood that sits on the ground will eventually break down over time. However, if you live in a place that cedar is not readily available, such as my town, you can use another quality hard wood option, or even choose pressure-treated lumber made for outdoor use. No judgement here.
As a resident of eastern North Carolina, western red cedar (the usual choice for outdoor use) is not a locally grown product. Instead, cypress is another type of wood that can easily be found and is a fantastic hard wood choice for gardening. To find out what may be available in your area as a substitute for cedar, call your local lumber yard and ask them. They should be able to point you in the right direction.
For this particular garden bed, we did use western red cedar since there is a supplier just over an hour away, but in the future, I’ll go with the more local cypress. You want to use boards that are at least 2 inches thick.
Many “DIY” cedar garden bed instructions out there are made with 1 inch cedar deck boards or cedar fence pickets, but these beds won’t hold up over time as well. And if you’re planning to use this design or another to build taller beds, then the thinner wood may bow out once filled with soil. Just a word of warning.
Can treated lumber be used for raised garden beds?
Such a great question! And the answer is yes! If budget is no issue, then I recommend cedar or another hard wood all. day. long. But the reality is cedar is much more expensive, and if you’re on a budget, then treated lumber can work in a pinch. In the past, lumber was treated with an arsenic compound, and as you can guess, you wouldn’t want any of that potentially leaching into your garden.
However, treated lumber is now preserved with a copper compound that does not carry the same toxicity as the arsenic. If you want to read up on exactly how lumber is treated, check out this great article from Natural Handyman.
Many of our first garden beds were made with treated lumber, and this design can be as well. So rest assured there’s no judgement if you decide to use treated lumber. This particular raised bed has a simple design, but for a swankier raised bed with decorative edging on the corners and top, check out our tutorial for the DIY Raised Bed.
Materials for Cedar Raised Bed Garden
- 2- 2x8x2 cedar boards
- 8- 3 in. bronze coated exterior wood screws or deck screws
- saw (if you don’t have access to a saw, many lumber stores will cut the board for you at the store)
- ruler/ tape measure
- drill (my husband’s favorite is this Bosch)
- Optional: Landscape fabric or cardboard for an initial weed barrier
How to build a cedar raised garden bed
- Begin by cutting your 8-foot boards in half. This will give you 4 4-ft segments of board.
- Place the end of one board against the interior end of a second board. Use a pencil to mark where the 2 screws will go. Pre-drill pilot holes for screws using the appropriate bit.
- Then screw the boards together using your drill and the exterior wood screws. Choosing screws that hold up out doors is important for the life of your garden bed. Repeat this step with the third, then fourth board.
- Once all boards have been attached, your bed is ready to be placed! Choose a spot that gets at least six hours of sunlight per day and does not tend to hold water during a heavy rain. Wood + standing water = bad idea.
Once your cedar raised bed garden is in place, fill it with good quality garden soil (or make your own!). Plant whatever vegetables, herbs, and flowers your heart desires and enjoy what your hard work has provided. Of course, make sure whatever you’re growing is seasonally appropriate. It’s always a good idea to reach out to your local master gardeners if you have questions or need advice before placing a raised bed.
They offer local advice to gardeners for free and can really be a wealth of information!
DIY Raised Bed FAQ’s
- Why do you not use corner posts for your raised bed? There is no need for 4×4’s in the corners as corner posts (many people ask) because the 2 inch thick boards are so sturdy, and the soil itself helps to keep the bed in place.
- What type of gardening works best in a raised bed? All types of gardening can be done in a raised bed garden. Initially, we used square foot gardening, but intensive gardening and even small rows can also work in a raised bed.
- Will new garden beds discolor over time? Yes, the color of the cedar will fade as it sits outdoors, but you can always powerwash your beds in the spring to keep them clean and in good shape.
- Are there any extra costs to having a raised garden bed? There is of course the cost of filling it with good quality soil and then the seed or plants themselves.
- What watering system do you recommend for a raised bed garden? I personally love Garden Grids by Garden in Minutes for watering a raised bed. These grids come almost fully assembled, and the company is located in Florida, so I love knowing where they’re coming from. You can see my full post about the Best Garden Watering Systems.
Do you have several raised bed gardens and need a fence to keep small animals out? Check out our DIY raised bed fence. We loved this easy to assemble fence with a gate for our raised bed gardens!
So get out there and build a raised bed garden or two! This is a simple project that doesn’t require amazing carpentry skills or an engineering degree. I’d love to know if you make this bed for yourself or if you’ve used a wood other than cedar. Comment below and let me know! Have a great week and happy gardening!
- 2- 2x8x2 cedar boards
- 8- 3 inch bronze exterior wood screws
- saw (or have boards cut at the lumber yard)
- ruler/measuring tape
- Begin by cutting 8 ft boards in half. You should then have 4 4-ft pieces.
- Place the end of one board against the side of another board, creating a corner. Use a pencil to mark where your 2 screws will go. Use a drill bit to pre drill holes into the wood.
- Use your drill to then screw boards together. Repeat with the third board, then the fourth. Corners should look like this:
- Place completed garden bed in area that receives at least 6 hours of sunlight and does not hold water in heavy rain. Fill with good quality potting soil. Enjoy!
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Bosch Power Tools Drill Driver Kit DDB181-02 - 18V Cordless Drill/Driver Tool Set with 2 Lithium Ion Batteries, 18 Volt Charger
Hillman Power Pro 48611 Premium No Strip Exterior Wood Screws, 9 x 3in, 450 per Pack, Bronze Coat
SKIL 5280-01 15-Amp 7-1/4-Inch Circular Saw with Single Beam Laser Guide
CRAFTSMAN Tape Measure, Chrome Classic, 25-Foot (CMHT37325S)