I offer this gallery of raised bed garden designs to encourage you to start your own raised bed vegetable garden.
The range of possible designs is as varied as people's creativity. The photographs below are intended to help spark your own creative muse into thinking "outside the box". You can even combine design ideas, once you get a feel for how things are put together.
The sides of a raised bed vegetable garden are under a lot of pressure because of the weight of all the soil, water, and plants pushing against it. This means that the corners need to be very strong.
I featured this raised bed first because it is so beautiful. It's also the most complicated to build (but even that is pretty easy).
The higher tier is made of 3 stacked-on-edge 2x6s, and the lower tier of 2 stacked-on-edge 2x6s. The higher bed was built first (minus the flat 2x6 "bench" on top), and then the shorter bed in the front was added on, using the higher bed as its back wall.
The corners are joined by a hidden 4x4 on the inside corners, into which the sides are fastened with long deck screws. (I would have used 1/4" hex head lag screws instead, they're stronger.)
When both beds were done, the top-cap 2x6s were screwed onto the tops. The 4x4s are important for this, too, because they give the 2x6 toppers a wider support base to rest on; otherwise they would be just sitting on a 1 1/2" board edge, and would be wobbly and insecure to sit on.
This design is very sturdy and is simple to build, but it does require dead-straight 4x4s: paw through the pile at the lumberyard to make sure they're dead straight, or you'll have trouble lining things up.
On this particular bed the 5 tiers of 4x4s are connected together by rebar rods that go all the way through the tiers from top to bottom, even extending down 6" into the ground. There are two of these, spaced evenly apart, on the long sides. If you build it this way you will need a very long auger bit and at very large bore drill to build it this way. However, there is an easier way.
Fasten each tier on to the one below as you build it up using 6" long x 3/8" diameter hex screws. Stagger where you place the lag screws as you move up the tiers to prevent the screws above from running into the screws below. Countersink the heads so they don't prevent the next tier from sitting flat.
Now, as you build each tier, fasten sturdy L-brackets on the inside corners with exterior screws.
This one is EASY! House builders will be familiar with "Simpson Ties", a line of stamped steel fasteners that come in a dizzying array of shapes and sizes for every imaginable way of connecting wood together. This raised bed design is strong, beautiful, fast and easy, because it takes advantage of the simplicity of Simpson Ties.
The two part numbers you need to build this bed are:
The RTB22 connector is a bit hidden in the photo, but it can be seen at the step where the single tier becomes a double tier.
If you can't find these at Home Depot, try a good lumberyard or contractors supply. They are really cheap, really strong, and really easy to use.
This raised bed design can be universally adapted for any length, width, and height you choose. The trick is to use the 4x4 on the inside corner to anchor the screws. Nothing could be easier than building this design.
The reason you can't just screw one board directly into the other at the ends is because screws driven into the end-grain of wood don't bite very well.
They will not hold the corners together over time under the pressure of all the soil, water and plants pushing outward.
By driving the screws into the side-grain of the 4x4, you avoid this.
I would suggest a small improvement of this design though: use 3 staggered deck screws on each board. Even better, use 3 staggered 1/4" diameter lag screws for added bite and strength.
This is the most popular raised bed design throughout the community gardens run by Denver Urban Gardens, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting gardening and healthy eating in the greater Denver area.
They build these because they are practically indestructible over time, they can be built high enough for wheelchair accessibility, and they are rock-solid beautiful.
Similar to the 4x4 bed described in #2, they are held together by rebar rods that go all the way top-to-bottom through the tiers. You can't really see this in the photo, but they are there. The corners are bolted together (yes... into the end grain) for alignment, but the rebar rods are what really keep it from blowing out at the corners.
I love this one! A simple saber saw or even a handsaw and chisel is all that is required for its construction. No fasteners.
I think if a person moved around a lot, like a military family, this one would be a great choice. Just pick up your lumber and head out.
The interlocking notches are cut a third of the way through the width of the board, and a good 6" away from the end of the board. If you cut it too close to the end, the little flaps left over are weak and can break off.
One disadvantage of this design is that there are spaces left along the sides. In theory, the dirt could spill out through these spaces.
In practice, though, especially if you have lots of good compost in your soil, the soil will have good structure and will stay in place. For no spaces, you could cut the notches halfway through the width of the board instead of only a third. The remaining "flap" may not be as strong though.
I found this raised bed vegetable garden design at another community garden. The owner used concrete blocks stood on end, and held together by a tensioned cable wrapped around the outside to keep them from splaying.
Concrete block is a bit tricky though. You want to be sure of its source, as not all concrete block is the same. Some concrete block is made of straight cement and aggregate, and this kind would be fine for a raised bed vegetable garden.
Some "cinder block", however, is made with slag, which is mining waste. It is what's left over after raw ore is smelted at high temperature with chemicals added. It can contain metal oxides and sulfides which can leach into the garden and end up in your vegetables (not a good thing.)
If you like this design, I would recommend finding a reputable masonry supply store or quality lumber yard which will know the source of its concrete block. The salespeople at Home Depot probably won't be able to tell you where their cinder block is sourced or what it is made from, but a good local lumberyard or masonry supply probably will.
This raised bed is made with pre-manufactured corners from Gardener's Supply Company. They are strong extruded aluminum, and all you have to do is screw the boards into the corners through pre-drilled holes on the inside. You can purchase them here.
Okay, so on one of the earlier designs I think I said something like "nothing could be easier". Except this one.
This raised bed is sold by Grower's Supply Company (aka FarmTek), and it is truly inexpensive (4'x10' for $99), durable, a snap to put up (and take down if you have to move), and functional.
It comes with metal stakes that you drive into the ground, through sleeves sown into the very durable, UV resistant heavy-weave fabric. Fill with soil. Plant. Poof, you're done. You can buy them here.
The only disadvantage I can see is that it's not the most beautiful creation in the world. But when it's spilling over with peppers and tomatoes, whose looking at the sides, anyway?
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