With three young boys all close in age, my wife and I are always looking for something new and mostly educational for them to enjoy. We want them to learn and grow, but sometimes you really appreciate a minute or two of cooperative and quiet playtime before the wild rumpus starts up again. Growing things has never been a strength for me, but it was undeniable that given a pandemic and three young kids stuck at home, there was never going to be a better time to learn how to garden.
I have a background in basic woodworking skills and really enjoy time in the woodshop, so it was an easy decision to build my own raised garden bed. I spent a little time planning out the yard space and the design but really wanted to keep it simple. Since this was our first attempt at a box bed, I wanted to make sure to not get too carried away with the build. I decided to go with green treat wood (AC2) and use 2x12x8 boards to construct a basic rectangle box.
I started by going to Menards and ordering the lumber. Picking it up was a bit cumbersome, and would be difficult if you are by yourself and not able to lift heavy amounts of weight. Green treated lumber is dense and those thick boards were manageable, but not the lightest wood to carry. The way I figured out how many boards I needed was to figure out the dimensions of the box I wanted to build (2’x 8’) and then figure out how many boards it takes to satisfy the total feet required of the project. If I plan on using two 8’ boards as the long sides of the rectangle and then use a third board cut into 2’ sections then I need to buy (3) boards of 2x12x8’ green treat in order to satisfy my total feet of wood required for the build.
I got the wood home and cut the sections using sawhorse legs and a circular saw with a straight edge. I used butt joints to secure the boards into the box shape after I had carried them down and set them up roughly where I wanted the box. Once I assembled the box and placed it next to my fence, I realized the slope of my yard required me to elevate the back of the bed in order for it to be level. I was lucky that laying a single 2x4 on its side under the back edge was all it needed to be level.
Instead of using a wood base as a floor for the box I decided to line the whole box with broken-down cardboard boxes. This does two things: it kills the grass in the box by blocking the sunlight, and it also provides minerals that enrich the soil as it breaks down over time. After lining the boxes I filled in the box with soil and finished it with a 2” layer of mulch to prevent weed growth. For our first year, we planted green beans, sugar snap peas, carrots, and sweet corn.
I was pleasantly surprised at the production and success of both the produce and my boys’ interaction with the garden. Everything we planted grew and we were able to eat the peas, beans, and carrots right out of the garden. The sweet corn grew but the kernels were not better than what we were getting at the store so I may need to tweak that for next year or just skip planting it. After such success, I am excited to try two more boxes next spring and plant some new tasty treats!