DIY Raised Garden Beds

By Allan Mandell

Last spring, the first “Pandemic Project” I launched into was enlarging our home veggie garden and putting in raised beds. I wanted deep beds full of rich dark planting soil, easy to reach into with no more kneeling on the ground required. And I wanted to make use of recycled building materials I had on hand, and maybe even add a touch of rustic style to the atmosphere of the garden. Here is my relatively simple DIY method that may inspire you to build your own raised beds.

Using recycled cedar boards from an old shed and cedar shakes salvaged from a roof, I cut pieces with my chop saw to 14”, 16”, and 18” lengths. These pieces were the vertical sides of the raised beds, and the measurements corresponded to the depth of each bed. The shorter sides were just right for beds to grow salad greens, and the longer sides made deeper beds for tomatoes and plants with deeper roots.

I laid the cut pieces side by side over parallel lengths of 2×4’s and 2×2’s (See photos). I left the ends of the 2×4’s and 2×2’s long so that they would fit together nicely when assembled.

I also used a 2×4 in each corner for a stronger structure.

All the pieces were attached with 2” deck screws and the corners with 4” deck screws.

In this photo, you can see the side pieces of a bed ready to be put together to make a completed bed. This one was 4 x 6′. Other bed sizes I made were 2 x 8′ and 3 x 7′  What’s nice is you can build the raised beds to fit your own unique spatial situation.

Note: I am a fan of the Japanese technique of yakisugi (flame sealed wood) which preserves the wood from insects and the elements, so I torched the bottom 2×4’s to seal them before attaching the side pieces.  That’s why the bottom strips appear black in the photos.

The beds sit right on the ground. I lined the insides with black poly. Then I put landscape cloth on the bare soil

When the beds were fully lined, I piled in a layer of branches to create a kind of mini-hugel pile.

Then I filled each bed with a blend of peat mix and fish fertilizer (I ordered 5 yards from Adam at Island Landscape: 3 yards of peat and 2 yards of fish). This blend worked great!

This year I will top up the beds with compost and a bit more soil since things have settled slightly. But all in all, these raised beds are ready for action this season once again.

A simple & effective design that may be fun to try in your garden!

And here is a suggested *Bonus Project*: Removable instant mini-greenhouse to warm things up and get a jump on the growing season. I used wood strips and recycled greenhouse plastic sheeting.  Go for it!

Allan Mandell moved to Quadra Island 4 years ago. He serves on the Leadership Team of the Garden Club. When there is not a pandemic in progress, Allan leads small group tours to explore the elegant gardens of Kyoto, Japan.


  1. Valerie Barr

    Thanks for sharing Allan. Your garden is lovely and I like the cat feeling at home.

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