Raised Garden Tutorial

You might say my husband and I are a bit on the nomadic side, seeing as in our eleven years as a couple we have shared 5 apartments and 6 houses together. That’s a grand total of 11 residences (not counting the couple of times we moved in with my parents when our leases expired before we found a new home). We’ve run the gamut of living quarters. There was a 4-story loft apartment in Richmond’s Downtown area, a 1 bedroom mere blocks away from the housing projects in Church Hill, a tiny cape cod in the suburbs of Mechanicsville and a 4500 square foot McMansion just to name a few. We don’t let the grass grow under our feet for long and even though we’ve been in our current home just under a year, we’re already discussing what’s next. The difference is, this time ‘what’s next’ is going to be a purchased home, not a rental. A place where we can finally put down roots.

Speaking of putting down roots, one of our more recent houses came with an enormous vegetable garden in the back yard. Completely overgrown and ignored for years, it was in terrible shape when we moved in. I set to work on it before I so much as unpacked our boxes and by the end of that Spring we were enjoying the fruits of my labor (literally). It was eventually over run by some overzealous acorn squash, but I did manage to capture a picture before the squash took over. This was right after the first seedlings went in, so it’s not quite showing its full glory.Since leaving that home I’ve deeply missed the garden and have wanted another. I decided on a raised  bed garden because when we pull up stakes here we can take it apart if needs be. I looked around for inspiration which was a little depressing because I came up with this:

via katyelliot.com

..and this:Needless to say these weren’t going to fit my budget. Or my back yard for that matter. But I found plans for a more realistic garden which we tweaked a little to make our own and I am very pleased with the results. Here’s the How-To:


  • One 6-foot-long 4-by-4
  • Three 8-foot-long 2-by-12s
  • One 10-foot-long 1-inch PVC pipe
  • Two 10-foot-long ½-inch PVC pipes
  • 32 3½-inch #14 wood screws and 16 ½-inch #8 wood screws
  • Two 4- by 5-foot roll of ¼-inch-mesh hardware cloth
  • Eight 1-inch galvanized brackets
  • 35 cubic feet (1 1/5 cu. yd.) bagged garden soil
  • One package of protective mesh netting
  • One 2mm thick plastic drop cloth (like you use for painting)

The hardware store people will cut your lumber for you. Ask for the 4×4 to be cut into 4 separate 16-inch posts. Then have one of the 2x12s cut in half. Lastly, you want to cut the 1-inch PVC pipe into four 12-inch sections. Here’s what you’ll have at checkout: (Excuse the image quality as my camera phone is so old I’m surprised it doesn’t have an antenna.)Once home, lay out all your pieces in the shape of your bed and drill the sides into the four posts.

Notice that crack in the patio? That was from the big earthquake that hit Virginia last summer. The children are convinced it will open up to the center of the Earth at any moment. This is what you have after all the pieces are assembled. Hopefully you’ve thought ahead and built this close to where it’s going to end up, because it’s quite heavy. Next take it to its spot and mark where the posts are so you know where to dig (you could presumably do this by measuring but we didn’t have a measuring tape handy so we just lugged the entire garden back and forth a few times). Our back yard is a slope, so after digging the four holes for the posts, we also (and by “we” I mean “my husband”) dug a ditch along the top edge of the garden so that it would lay evenly when we settled it in. No special measurements were made. I just kind of pointed with the camera and said “I think you need to dig a little more out there”, and “Is that deep enough? Do you think maybe you should take it down a little further?”. I’m so helpful. Then we sunk the four 1-inch PVC pipes in until they were even with the top of the garden and drilled them in using the metal brackets. The pink hand belongs to our four-year old, who was mighty proud to be able to help with the project. Next we raked all the dirt flat and covered it with the plastic drop cloth so that weeds can’t make their way into the garden. Then we covered that with the wire mesh, to keep out moles, rabbits and gophers. We cut the mesh with wire cutters so that it fit neatly around the posts and poles. Next we dumped all the dirt in. Then we discovered that we didn’t buy enough dirt and had to go back to Home Depot for five more bags. (I put the full amount of dirt needed in the materials list so that hopefully you can leave that step out when you make your garden.) We raked all the dirt flat and inserted the long poles into the 1-inch pipes. (I took this picture before our second dirt run).Now the fun part- planting! The kids and I started these from seeds about two weeks ago in the house. No one told me that you don’t need to start beans inside and I didn’t read the instructions so naturally we were all surprised when we had 4 inches of bean growth within two days.

Here’s our finished garden! I added the trellis in the back so the pole beans have something to grow on and the protective mesh drapes over the two white poles to keep the deer from treating the garden like a salad bar. When it gets cold, we can drape that white greenhouse plastic over the arches to overwinter the garden.

No garden would be complete without a touch of Milk & Honey, so I added these: These are my own, but I also made a set for the shop with herb names on them and will be adding more sets with different vegetables over the coming weeks. Just click the photo below to go right to them:

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