Tips for Raised Garden Beds

My Garden Life
May 15, 2017
Table of Contents

Putting together a raised wooden bed is one of the easiest and most rewarding garden projects. Often used to grow vegetables, bottomless wood planters provide perfect drainage and create a barrier to invading weeds. Rather than just screwing four planks together and calling it done, take a few extra steps and transform your wood planters into stylish architectural elements.


Houses, decks, retaining walls and many other features in the home landscape are built perfectly level and there is no reason why wood planters can’t join them.

  1. Start by building the planter on a level surface, such as a driveway or patio. Then, with a few helpers, carry it to the yard and set it down where it will be installed.
  2. Use a string level and a tape measure to determine how many inches the highest corner needs to go down into the soil to make the planter sit level.
  3. Move the planter aside and dig a narrow trench corresponding to the shape of the planter, using a carpenter’s level to make the base of the trench level on all sides. The trench should taper from ground level at the lowest point to the depth needed to make it level at the high point.
  4. Drop the planter into the trench and fill with soil.
Leveling Step 1 Leveling Step 2 Leveling Step 3 Leveling Step 4

Corner Posts

Pro-Tip: Even if corner posts are not needed for structural purposes (they rarely are), consider including them for architectural flair.

  • For this technique, use 4 x 4 posts and 2-inch thick lumber for the sides. Build it so the posts rise 2 inches above the side boards for every 10 inches of height.
  • The boards that form the sides should terminate into the corner posts, centered on the post face. This involves driving 3-1/2 inch screws through the boards at an angle into the posts.
  • Finish off the project with architectural post caps (available at lumber yards); or, cut a 45 degree bevel into the four edges on top of each post to create your own.

Bench Caps

Pro-Tip: 2 x 6 boards installed horizontally on top of the side boards also help to give a more finished look. If the side walls are between 15 and 20 inches in height, the caps can serve as a convenient bench.

  • Center the 2 x 6 boards on top of the side boards and attach them with 3-inch screws at 12-inch intervals.
  • A piece of 1 x 3 trim against the vertical walls underneath the “cap” (the 3-inch side faces out) makes it look even more refined.


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