Friday, May 31, 2013

DIY 3' x 6' Raised Square Foot Garden

A little late in season, I finally completed my first raised bed!  Hopefully tomorrow I'll be able to make the other two.

I used left over Fence Pickets from our new fence.  They're great to use because they're already pressure treated, and they're only @ $1.64 ea.  I used two for each long side, and one (halved) for each short side, so six total.  I then screwed exterior screws into pine stakes (@ $3.49 for a 12 pack).  The only catch is that it's tough to find 1" screws, so you have to double up on the pine stakes if you don't want to get a little poked while happily tending your beautiful garden.

I screwed the fence pickets just to the stakes, not to each other.  That way they can be easily replaced.  I put the stakes every two feet.  If you are doing it this way, put each side into the ground before screwing the corners together.  It's a lot easier to pound it into the ground that way.
Then you can line the bottom of the bed with cardboard or newspaper.  That prevents the weeds from coming up into your bed.  The plants will die and the cardboard will disintegrate.  If you use newspaper, make sure the ink is not colored.  Black newspaper ink is soy based.
To section off the feet, I just tied twine tied around nails.
Then fill your bed!

Oh--bad news for you if you (like me) thought dirt was cheap.  Filling the bed was way more expensive than building it.  Just remember--it's an investment!  You mostly just have to fill it one time with all the right stuff, and then add compost every year (I'm experimenting with composting now--I'll let you know how it goes!).

I'm doing square foot gardening, so I used "Mel's Mix," which is

  • 1/3 vermiculite
  • 1/3 peat moss
  • 1/3 compost 
Peat moss isn't a renewable resource, so I used coco peat, or beats peat, which does the same thing and works just as well or better, while being completely renewable!

I would recommend looking at craigslist or calling local farms to get compost.  Their organic compost will be lots cheaper and lots better than what you can get at a hardware or garden store.  

Just make sure you water soon enough!
A few of my five color silverbeets didn't make the transition *sniff*
Live and learn.
If building a raised bed seems overwhelming, or you're not ready to do all the landscaping required to figuring this out, it's totally fine to dig up two feet of your grass and just stick some starts in the ground.  It's not too late!  It worked for me last year.  What have you got to lose?

Happy gardening!
ps apricots on goat cheese on crackers are delicious.


  1. Way to go! I am so excited to get gardening when we hit VA. Raised beds seem like a great method... And they are so pretty too.

  2. Ariel, I'm so impressed. Your boxes are beautiful. When I first built my SFG boxes, it took me so long to get it done, it was like: a month to read the book, a month to weed the areas for my boxes, a month to get the supplies, a month to build the boxes, a month to get the soil blend in there... So grateful for year-round gardening! Glad you had those pretty sprouts ready to go in!

    I'm also glad you built pretty deep boxes (about a foot, I'm guessing?). I only built one 12" box; all of the rest were 6" deep. I remember a very experienced gardener telling me my 6" wouldn't be enough (and my soil didn't come quite to the top of the boxes), though Mel from SFG swears by them for most everything. Regarding my gardner friend, I thought, "Well, he just doesn't know how little soil plants actually need." Recently I've been reading about how beneficial it is for your roots to have more room to move around. I've seen pictures of carrot roots (not the colorful part, but the stringy roots) that go three feet under! Another gardener pro swears there's a difference in the quality of his produce when the soil is deep. ...So, I'm glad you built deeper boxes than 6". :) I put weed cloth under my boxes that sat on dirt, but I think something that will break down is a better idea, because then your plants will have more freedom. Probably worth pulling a few weeds.

    That being said, I also have plants growing right in the ground now, and the weeding can get pretty hairy. That's the best part of SFG in my opinion.

    I used twine to square off my boxes too. I think it looks very nice.

    My condolences on the loss of your silverbeets!!

    My stomach's growling. Wish I had some goat cheese, apricots, and crackers. :(

  3. The house we bought came with a pretty big garden area, all raised boxes. I confess, I find them frustrating and confining. I'd never grown anything in boxes before so I didn't really think about now difficult it would be to turn the soil while needing to watch out for the sides of the boxes... And keeping the weeds out of the space between boxes has taken over everything. I don't remember there being so many weeds in our gigantic garden when I was a teen!! I just haven't loved the boxes...

    All of our seeds got washed away when a massive rain storm came through the day after we planted, and my energy level is low enough right now, I don't think I'll be able to replant this year. We'll be taking our boxes out and planting straight into the ground next year.

    1. Oh Melissa! Frustrating!! Can I help you replant some of those seeds when I come to town next week? I will help you. Do you have extra seeds? I could bring some...

      Having planted in both the ground and boxes, there are definitely some plus-sides to the SFG method. It's very organized: if seeds are to be spaced at 6 inches, you know you can have 4 seeds in one square foot, so your seeds go a lot farther than the conventional way of thinning once they sprout (you just plant a couple in each little hole, in case one doesn't take for some reason). Saves water too. It's nice to know exactly where those seeds are within the grid. Also, I've found there are many less weeds in the raised boxes (though I always had my bottoms covered so nothing could come up from the ground, which may cause other issues, as I wrote above).

    2. So sorry to hear that! If I were you, I'd just buy some starts and stick them in the raised beds.

      As for the weeds between the boxes, if I were you, I'd cover that with mulch. I don't know about there, but here if you call a tree company, they will deliver mulch for free, because they have to pay to dump it. If you put newspaper or cardboard down under the mulch, the plants will die and not come through the mulch. Just make sure you don't get black walnut mulch, as it is toxic and nothing can grow around it!

    3. Thanks for the suggestions!!

      We would need to purchase a weed eater before we tackled the weeds between the beds. They are past my waist now with all the good rain we've had, and now sun. The mulch is a very good idea, though. Food for thought.

      When I was growing up my dad was meticulous about measuring everything before planting. I've never read SFG, but it sounds like I was raised on a similar idea. My dad never needed to thin his veggies because everything was spaced perfectly. That man amazes me!!

      Nonie, we're busy trying to establish some ducks, and get their coop built, along with some other projects in and out -- I don't know if we can spare the time to re-prepare our garden space. It is amazing how overgrown it is already. I need to learn to be okay with letting a project take a back burner here and there.... This sadly will need to be one of them, with the little surprise we have in the works right now ha ha But at least if I can't have a full garden, (I have five tomato plants still), I can farm our eggs. :) Thanks for your offer!!