Building Raised Garden Beds – Efficiently

It’s no secret that our family dreams of a homestead where we grow our own food, raise our own animals and live a life more connected to our planet. These goals are very real for us and we plan to pull the trigger at full FI/RE in the next 3-5 years. In the meantime while we cannot have that full dream today we can take steps to learn in the kiddy pool before jumping in the ocean.


One of the big projects I wanted to do was figure out an affordable way to build raised garden beds. I’ve seen tons of people spend a lot of time on craigslist and get free materials. That is absolutely wonderful that you can do that. I, however, do not have the time and energy to track all that down. I also live about an hour away from most of civilization so it’s gonna be a big journey and then dealing with the craigslist curse that 50% of the time the deal dies or is gone when you get there when it involves free. Free is best, but my time has value and I wanted the project to be efficient and affordable. 

Instead of sourcing the materials on craigslist or facebook market I went to our local lumber yard. I made sure to not go to a chain, but the one that is locally owned and asked if they had any 1 bys that were warped or damaged that the contractors didn’t want. Sure enough I got a sizable discount on some slightly warped or damaged wood.

The next step in the process is to get some food safe stain since this lumber is not treated there needs to be some layer of protection from the elements and the soil it’s going to hold back. I know the research says that all wood stain is food safe when it’s fully cured but it’s only about $2 more for my entire project to get the food safe stain. Even if it’s an unnecessary precaution it’s just so cheap that you might as well. 


The other benefit of buying from a lumber yard is that they cut everything exactly to my drawings. I wanted my beds to be 3’x6’, two boards tall with cedar fence posts at 18” at 6 points. I was able to have a professional with a bad ass saw make all my cuts for this project in all of three minutes. Here is the picture of the finished product. I added shelves from some scraps to mount the greenhouse (we are already close to our first frost). 

Total cost of the project, including the 3.5″ deck screws that will last me a year
$109

Not bad considering that built three 3’x6’ garden beds and I have deck screws to last many other projects. On Homedepot.com you can purchase a 3’x6’ raised garden bed kit for $93.46 plus shipping and tax. That one appears to have no additional reinforcements whereas mine has the cedar fence posts which was a large % of the total budget. 

Do it yourself to save a bunch of money, have some pride and satisfaction that you designed  and built something for yourself then go use your savings to buy you and your sweetie an ice cream cone.

Here are the instructions if you wanted to copy what I did.

To make 1 bed
6 – posts – Cedar fence posts cut to 18″ each
4 – plywood, pine, cedar, whatever, just thin and 3′ long
4 -plywood, pine, cedar, whatever, just thin and 6′ long

Position the cedar posts flush with the 3′ boards and begin drilling decking screws from the outside into the cedar posts. 6 screws in a rectangle on each board will be more than sturdy.

In the middle of the 6′ boards screw the cedar posts to both the sidewall boards. Continue fastening the cedar posts to all sides and you’re ready to fill with soil!

We have a long way to go until we are growing 80% of our food, but these first steps of sustainability will provide for us on a small scale until we are ready to fully commit and will also teach us valuable skills and lessons that are much less costly on a small scale then when you are planting on a 50x scale.

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