To understand why I was doing an awkward elaine-esq version of a happy dance around a couple of these babies that magically appeared in my yard this weekend…
(And by “magically appeared” I mean “were brought into existence by the blood, sweat, and tears of yours truly“) you first have to understand that this was not my first foray into the fantastical land of building raised garden beds. Oh no, this journey began four fricking years ago, when I built the mother of all raised beds at Memorial using $150 worth of cedar 2×6’s and 4×4’s. (You can read more about the construction of those behemoths here.)
You want to talk about a sturdy piece of landscaping? MysteryMan’s grandpa almost ran over one of these things with the tractor and it was like the buick of raised beds… didn’t even dent the damn fender.
I built two of them, and while I wasn’t ever able to turn this into the garden of my dreams (since I was, you know, living in a garage and somewhat occupied with building a house at the time) I knew I wanted to use similar raised beds at Liberty. But I did not want to spend $150 per bed because, hello, I have a dozen mouths to feed on this property all of the sudden. And then I was loitering outside the harware store, looking at fencing for yet another project, when the skies parted and the angels started to sing because there, right in front of my face, were 6′ long 1×6 fence posts for $2.25 apiece.
They’re obviously not nearly as indestructible as a 2×6, but for less than three bucks I figured it was worth knocking a couple of boxes together to see how they held up. And by “a couple” I mean six. For $25 each.
This is what six boxes worth of lumber (plus a few 2x4s for my in-progress chicken coop) look like stacked in the back of my vehicle. Along with a spare tire (don’t ask.)
- 6 -6″ cedar fence pickets (5/8″ thick, 6′ long)
- 1+ cedar 2×4 (6 19″ sections per bed)
- 1-5/8″ deck screws
- Bigass miter saw
They measure just under 3’x6′, are about 11″ deep, and are light enough that I could pick them up and haul them around the property on my own, which is not an insignificant feature.
The first step was to cut the last inch of each board that was dog-eared off so that I’d have 36 straight boards. Since 6′ is too long to set up the guard on my saw and I didn’t want to measure each board, I used the “line ‘er up and cut” method of measurement.
Basically I just cut the first board, then set it on top of two uncut boards, lined the ends up and used it to mark where to cut. Zipping through two at a time made fast work of it.
For the short pieces I cut a third of the boards in half using the actual stops on the miter saw stand.
I remember when my dad taught me this trick a decade ago. It was totally mind-blowing that I didn’t have to measure every. single. board. For this reason alone, I’d highly recommend having a stand for your miter saw if you’ve got room for one.
I used the same trick to cut the 2×4’s for the posts down to 19″ (five to a board) and at the end of thirty minutes had six piles of lumber ready to be assembled into boxes.
Then came the pre-drilling portion of our program, which, honestly, pre-drilling is like the nails-on-chalkboard of building shit for me… it drives me crazy and I don’t know why, but with a 5/8″ thick board, I didn’t want to risk any splitting so the Makita and I spent some quality time together…
I heart this drill.
So, I kept the pre-drilled holes for the short sides closer to the ends, and for the long sides closer to the middle so that the screws wouldn’t intersect in the posts.
Then, the assembly.
Once the long sides were done I flipped them up on end and attached the short sides…
Just like that.
If you’re looking for a beginner woodworking or outdoor project, I would highly recommend this one. It’s cheap and there’s almost no way to mess it up. There is a way to get a centimeter long splinter in your finger though so, you know, run your hands lovingly over rough-cut cedar at your own risk.
On Sunday I assembled four of the six boxes. I haven’t installed any at Liberty yet because I’m still finalizing plans for the garden and chicken coop, but two of the boxes were for some friends, and we did get those in the ground…
They were actually much sturdier than I expected once they were set in the ground. To finish them off we’ll install some weed barrier fabric (or cardboard) in the bottom of the boxes, fill them with topsoil, and farm away.
I’m also planning to install a weed barrier around the boxes and fill the “walking paths” with some pea gravel. A ridiculously large pile of which was conveniently deposited in my driveway this weekend.
That’s going to be a not insignificant amount of time spent with a shovel and wheelbarrow this spring.
Next up for the garden will be assembling the final two boxes, and building a couple of these ingenious vertical gardens…