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Building a Timberframe Raised Bed

May 1st, 2013

This is the third installment in the 5×5 Garden Challenge Series. Every Wednesday I’ll be posting about the challenge, covering topics that will help all the new gardeners get started. If you haven’t heard about the challenge head on over to the 5×5 Challenge Website, we’ll also be putting up a page here that pulls in all the 5×5 Challenge posts.
5x5 garden challenge
This past weekend, Mr Chiots built a raised bed for my 5×5 Challenge garden. Since I’m starting the garden on sod, I figured it would be best to build up and add soil on top. We debated making a simple raised bed from lumber yard pine, but then Mr Chiots got involved. Since he took a timberframing class a few weeks ago, he decided to use the techniques he learned to make the raised bed a little more decorative.
building raised bed 1
building raised bed 2
While we were on a hike last week, we found a downed pine in the woods. Instead of heading out to the lumberyard to buy lumber, he decided to use his Alaskan Mill to mill the lumber for the raised bed. This way he could make them nice and sturdy.
timberframed raised bed 1
timberframed raised bed 2
timberframed raised bed 3
We have to put a few pegs in it to hold it all together, we’re thinking of using some small sapling instead of wooden dowels. Building a raised bed doesn’t have to be this complicated, it can be as simple as connecting four boards. You can even have the friendly people at your home improvement store cut it for you.

Have you ever gardened in a raised bed? Do you have any advice for newbies doing so?

17 Comments to “Building a Timberframe Raised Bed”
  1. Marina C on May 1, 2013 at 5:58 am

    Tedd Benson, a neighbor and friend, would be very proud of Brian’s raised bed! Love the idea of sapling pegs.
    He, and his business reside in Walpole where we live, and there are lots of houses, bridges and other public buildings around made by Bensonwood nearby.
    I used the lasagna method for my raised beds on grass: twigs, clippings, some leaves for the bottom, then some good rich compost for the top half. The second and third year we had to top it off a bit, but now it is all decomposed into light, worm rich, lovely soil.
    And if you have grass, and add more beds in the future, keep the beds mower width apart. It’s the easiest thing to maintain as a path, and it is already there!
    We have tried other path materials at two previous houses, gravel and mulch, they are more work at first and eventually both need weeding, the mulch especially, even with fabric under, since it decomposes into beautiful soil in a couple of years.

    Reply to Marina C's comment

  2. kathi Cook on May 1, 2013 at 7:36 am

    Depending on how rich the soil is,I like to buy a container of red wigglers from a bait shop and throw them in beds or compost to get things moving. They will not over winter,but it gives the soil a little jump start.

    Reply to kathi Cook's comment

  3. Daedre Craig on May 1, 2013 at 9:26 am

    After last year’s drought-like conditions, I’ve sworn off of raised beds! They dry out quickly, which can be an advantage during wet springs, but a disadvantage during dry/hot summers. They’re also a pain in the butt to mow around. Mulching the pathways in between is a better option, but I don’t like wasting that much space to pathways.

    I actually ripped out all my raised beds this spring…we’ll see how it goes!

    Reply to Daedre Craig's comment

    • Nebraska Dave on May 1, 2013 at 9:38 am

      Daedre, I agree that raised beds is not the solution for growing all plants. I have both. The smaller plants like lettuce, radish, etc. are great candidates for raised beds but larger plants like sweet corn, pumpkins, squash, potatoes, etc. are not really suited for raised bed growing.

      Have a great day in the garden.

      Reply to Nebraska Dave's comment

  4. Nebraska Dave on May 1, 2013 at 9:34 am

    Borders for raised beds can be just about anything. Rocks are another good material for raised bed boarders. Concrete blocks are another good source for bed borders. Just cut to length trees can be used for borders. I’m planning on using parts from free wood pallets for my next raised bed borders. In my big garden, there is no border material just a mound of dirt that marks the bed. The defining line comes from the walkway around the bed.

    Have a great 5X5 garden day to all.

    Reply to Nebraska Dave's comment

  5. Lea on May 1, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    Yes, my son and I actually used the lumber we’re using this year two years ago for a raised bed. Pretty simple 2×6’s cut in 5 foot lengths. We used nails to connect. The only difference is 2 years ago we didn’t have 5 fifty pound dogs to dig it up, so this year we planted it in the front yard. Simple to move, since there’s no bottom. Bu we did have to repurchase the dirt, limestone here in north Texas is not fun to work in. We were not as successful 2 years ago as I wanted to be because of drought conditions, so we’re hoping for a better outcome this year. So far, so good. Plants have been in the ground for 1 month today and are looking great.

    Reply to Lea's comment

  6. Val on May 1, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    For my heavy clay soil, raised beds were a must. It also gave me a real jump on amending the existing soil. Because the “lawn” is completely filled with weeds (not that I care), I took extra care with the prep. I not only dug up the sod and weeds–giving me the added benefit of removing grubs–I also placed cardboard down before filling the beds with topsoil and compost. Being not-very-handy, I purchased a raised bed kit of cedar and metal connectors, but there are plenty of more economical ways to do it. Also, I just like the way raised beds look as well the ease of maintenance.

    Reply to Val's comment

  7. Melanie in Ca on May 1, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    The ubiquitous Bermuda grass forced me to raised beds because I refused to resort to Agent Orange to get rid of the stuff. When asked how to control Bermuda grass our local extension agent’s usual response is, “asphalt”. So we dug down to a depth of 12 inches, lined the hole with rabbit wire to deter the ground squirrels, then built raised beds to a height of 24 inches. So far, so good and I’m in year #3 but agree with Nebraska Dave that raised beds aren’t good for the larger plants. I’m trying a soil sterilization plan for a larger open area, covering it with black plastic in hopes of killing off everything and starting over.

    Reply to Melanie in Ca's comment

  8. The Groundskeeper @ See You In The Garden on May 1, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    I have had several different kinds of gardens over the years. By far raised beds have been the easiest to care for in terms on not having to weed and I can put them close to my house. Last year’s drought and unusual circumstances the year before meant my garden did not do so well. I was feeling pretty down about it, then decided to step back and analyze why it wasn’t doing as well as I thought it should. My conclusions were: 1) by beds were not deep enough, 2) the soil needed to be replenished, which is something I had never heard needing done, and 3) the landscaping fabric under my raised beds meant the plants roots couldn’t extend downwards further if they needed it. I think I have fixed those problems this year and am hoping for great results. So far I am having a great crop of green onions, better than I have any of the last 4 years. Today I need to finish fencing and weedeating around the beds and fence and perhaps plant some zucchini.

    Reply to The Groundskeeper @ See You In The Garden's comment

  9. Sherri on May 1, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    Oh my WORD, that is one gorgeous raised bed! Tell your dear Mr. Chiots that he did a FANTASTIC JOB!!!!!

    Reply to Sherri's comment

    • Elyse on May 1, 2013 at 5:04 pm

      No advice to offer here (I’m a newbie!), but I also wanted to say how beautiful that raised bed is! I love that it came from wood from your land!

      Reply to Elyse's comment

  10. daisy on May 1, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    What beautiful lines on that raised bed. We have a square-foot garden (18 sf) just made out of some plain boards from the hardware store. I’m also starting some lettuce in pots so that I can move them to a shady spot as the heat rolls in.

    Reply to daisy's comment

  11. Caroline on May 1, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    I picked up compost for my 5×5 challenge garden!
    Although… I measured the garden and it’s more like, 7′ x 17′!!!

    I plan on using cinder blocks to build an in ground border, and bring it slightly above ground… not sure if that really counts as a “raised” bed though. I’d like to try to grow some plants in the cinder blocks holes as well. Thanks Pinterest for THAT idea!

    I’m loving all the stuff I’m learning here!

    Reply to Caroline's comment

  12. Maybelline on May 2, 2013 at 12:24 am

    Raised beds all year round.
    Superior soil
    In place irrigation is a must in hot Bakersfield
    Sun drenched
    Plant what you love

    Reply to Maybelline's comment

  13. KimH on May 2, 2013 at 1:53 am

    Hey, that frame is gorgeous!! Way to go Mr Chiots! Lucky Ms Chiots. ;)

    I’ve had raised beds in many of my gardens.. I think the best advice I have is dont walk on & compact them. Keep a tiller out of them & double dig them every year by hand if needed, unless of course you have perennials in them.
    Continue to feed your soil grass clippings & leaves throughout the year, including the winter. If you dont compost your veggie bits, save them to mix in your soil or just toss em in the bed & cover with leaves or straw if you’re concerned about compostables hanging out in your garden.

    Reply to KimH's comment

  14. Maria on May 3, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    That is one pretty raised bed!! Impressed.

    Reply to Maria's comment

  15. Sierra N Hampl on May 4, 2013 at 10:40 am

    That is beautiful, Susy!

    Reply to Sierra N Hampl's comment

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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