Seedlings in raised bed

This DIY project will leave you with a beautiful and functional cedar raised bed to add to your homestead garden!

Raised garden beds are a popular choice for many homestead gardens. There are a few reasons for choosing a raised bed over an in-ground garden:

  • Soil Quality: Control over soil without needing to amend or wait years to build quality garden soil
  • Ergonomics: Raised garden beds allow you to work without stooping all the way to the ground
  • Pest Control: Pests and wildlife are easier to control with raised beds because the bed itself adds an extra barrier that they have to get through. 
  • Weed Control: Weeds are very manageable in raised garden beds. The weeds that are able to grow can be pulled easily while the roots are shallow.
  • Aesthetics: Raised beds look pretty. They add an extra layer of dimension to the homestead garden for an additional visual appeal. 

If you have limited space, no problem! Raised beds can be placed on gravel, asphalt, or even on your balcony or patio! Be sure to consider drainage when placing your raised garden bed on a solid surface.

You don’t have to purchase expensive pre-made raised beds in order to enjoy the benefits of this gardening method. It is actually pretty simple to build a DIY raised bed for your garden. This post will lay out the plans and supplies for a simple 4’ x 8’ cedar raised bed.

Building a DIY Raised Bed for the Homestead Garden

As mentioned in my Small Gardens Can Make a Big Difference post, I completely changed directions with my garden this year. I built my first raised bed not thinking we’d actually get it set up in time for this year’s garden, but we did.

Why Cedar is Best for Raised Beds

Choosing the right type of wood is important when building a raised bed that you want to last for years to come.

I decided to use cedar because it is a naturally rot-resistant wood and it is known to repel pests. My hope is that it will last a little longer than pine. I did not want pressure-treated lumber because I have concerns about growing food in treated lumber. While I have read that treated lumber can be safely used these days, I opted for untreated cedar deck boards. 

You can build a raised bed more cheaply with cedar fence pickets, but the cedar deck boards are a thicker piece of wood – again, I am hoping it will last a little longer this way.

Tools Needed

Raised Bed Materials

Instructions for Building a Simple Raised Bed

These plans will make a 4’ x 8’ garden bed. If you need longer or shorter beds, you can purchase boards in different sizes instead of 8’ (or cut them to the size you need) while using the same basic instructions.

2x2 board being cut by saw

STEP ONE: Cut the Boards

Cut each 2 in. x 2 in. x 48 in. baluster board into four 1 ft. lengths.

STEP TWO: Lay the Boards Out

Lay two of the 8 ft. cedar boards side-by-side with the ends flush. You can do this on the ground, but my knees do not appreciate kneeling on the ground. Luckily, we had some sawhorses with some 4 ft. x 8 ft. sheets of OSB decking sitting on them in our barn – they made a fine worktable.

Place one of the 2x2x1 ft. cedar boards you cut at each end of the 8 ft. side-by-side boards. These first two will be the corner braces. Once this section is standing up, the raised bed will be a double layer, 1 ft. tall bed.

cedar boards for building raised bed

STEP THREE: Pre-Drill Holes

I put the 2x2s underneath my 8 ft. boards so that I could drill pilot holes through the deck boards and into the 2 x 2s. One drawback of cedar is that is can split easily, so I recommend pre-drilling the holes for the screws.

I found it handy to use my speed square to first make sure the ends of the boards were lined up square and flush and then use it as a guide for the pilot holes so that they are lined up. Not required, but it makes the finished product look nice and neat.

drill, screws, and speed square on top of cedar boards

STEP FOUR: Attach the Boards to the Braces

Using outdoor/deck screws (we personally love GRK construction screws), attach the two 8 ft. boards to the two 2×2 corner braces.

Taking two more 2x2s, place them roughly dividing the 8 ft. length into thirds. This gives you a total of four supports joining the two 8 ft. length boards together. Pre-drill the holes and screw the 8 ft. boards to the 2×2 braces. 

*Note about the picture below: the 2×2 braces are shown on top of the boards to show the placement of the braces. Attach them with the 8 ft. boards on top of the 2×2 boards so that you are screwing the 8 ft. boards to the 2x2s

Long side of diy cedar raised bed

STEP FIVE: Repeat

Now repeat the whole process with two more 8 ft. boards to build the second long side of the bed.

Long side of cedar raised bed standing up

STEP SIX: Cut Boards for the Short Sides

Cut the two remaining 8 ft. boards in half.

Note: I measured my two remaining 8 ft. boards. Yes, they are supposed to be 8 feet long. But I discovered mine were a fraction of an inch longer. Better long than short, I guess?

Both of my remaining 8 ft. boards were the same length, so I cut them in half, which was just a fraction longer than 4 ft. If I had measured and cut them at four feet, two of the boards would have been longer than the other two. I wanted my short end boards all the same length.

STEP SEVEN: Attach the 4’ Boards to the 8’ Section

Take one of the 8 ft. sections and stand it up with the 2×2 braces on the inside. Place a 4 ft. board at a 90-degree angle to the long section. Using a clamp to hold the boards together, drill pilot holes through the deck board and into the 2×2 corner brace and then screw them together. Stand up the other 8 ft. section and repeat this process at the other end of the 4 ft. board. Now do it again and add the second “layer” 4 ft. board.

Holding boards together with grip

Where the ends of the short boards meet the ends of the long boards, I drilled more pilot holes and added more screws. Probably not necessary, but just gives it a little more strength.

corner of DIY Raised bed

STEP EIGHT: Repeat

Repeat the process with the remaining two 4 ft. boards on the other end and you are ready to go!

Setting up Your DIY Raised Bed

It is a good idea to use hardware cloth (or a layer of chicken wire) on the bottom of your raised garden bed to keep burrowing creatures away from your plants. To do this, you can use a staple gun to attach the hardware cloth to the bottom of the bed.

You can also place a layer of weed barrier down and set the raised bed on top of it. Landscape fabric works fine, but you can also use newspapers and cardboard. These will break down under the soil but in the meantime will also help kill the grass if you are setting your raised bed on top of a grassy area.

DIY Raised garden bed made of cedar boards with weed barrier fabric

Ready to Fill and Plant

Now all you need to do is fill it with soil. HA. That can be a little overwhelming too. There is a lot of advice on the web about creating your own soil. You can also buy a load from a landscape business. But make sure you trust the company and know the quality of the soil you are getting. It is not the cheap way to do it, but pressed for time we bought large bags of container soil, some garden soil, and bricks of peat moss and mixed them all together. Next year we will also work some compost into the soil.

Learn how to make compost from start to finish.

DIY Raised garden bed made of cedar boards with plants growing

According to my hubby (who has 10 green fingers and 10 green toes, not just a green thumb), when you are planting in a raised bed, it is basically a large container, so you do not want your soil mix to be too “heavy.”

Add Mulch on Top of the Garden Soil

Once everything is planted, add some mulch around all the plants to help retain moisture (the picture above was taken before we mulched). Containers and raised beds will dry out more quickly than in-ground gardens. It’s a good idea for in-ground gardens too. So mulch, mulch, mulch.

Straw is a common garden mulch, but we prefer to use wood chip mulch when possible. Just be sure that the wood chips are large enough to allow water to move through them. I used fine wood chips one year and it created a matting on top of the garden that sealed off any moisture that tried to reach the plant roots.

Maintaining Your DIY Raised Bed

Keep an eye on your new cedar raised bed for signs of damage or wear & tear issues. If you notice that boards are coming loose or that there is water or pest damage, replace the affected boards before the structural integrity is compromised.

Be sure to pull weeds as they appear. As I mentioned earlier, you will definitely have fewer weeds with a raised bed than you would with an in-ground garden; however, these beds are not 100% weed proof. As long as you pull them periodically, they won’t be able to develop deep roots so simply stop the issue before it starts.

Ready to Build Another One

Our DIY raised bed has worked out so well this year, I bought all the materials to build another one. I am really looking forward to another day of being unsupervised with the power tools.

Building a raised garden bed is not difficult and does not require a lot of expensive equipment or woodworking experience. You would be surprised how much food or herbs you can grow in a 4 ft. x 8 ft. bed. Being even one foot off the ground is easier to work on and the 4 ft. width makes it easy to reach everything. Next year I plan to set up soaker hoses or a drip line for effortless watering, but the 4 ft. x 8 ft. size is easy to water even when you are watering by hand.

Remember, “when you garden you grow” and “playing in the soil is good for the soul.” Now go grow something! You’ll be so glad you did.

Original content by Cheryl Aker in 2020: updated by Homesteaders of America in 2024

Learn how to build a simple cedar raised bed for your garden! Get the tools & materials needed and check out these step-by-step instructions.
Learn how to build a simple cedar raised bed for your garden! Get the tools & materials needed and check out these step-by-step instructions.