This in-between period when most gardens are dormant and, hopefully, the snow isn’t flying quite yet is a good time to do a few construction projects such as building wooden raised beds. Most gardeners know that raised-bed gardening has many advantages. The soil warms up faster and drains more quickly in spring, which means you can plant sooner. It’s easier keeping weeds at bay and you can concentrate your watering and feeding into a smaller space. You can build free-form raised beds, using any shape you like. However, this requires mounding the soil each spring. A more permanent solution is to build raised beds out of solid materials, such as stone, bricks, or rot-resistant wood. Although you’ll have to commit to a design, building raised beds now makes for less work in spring. All that’s required is an additional layer of compost on top that is lightly dug into the bed. Here are tips on building wooden raised beds:
Wood: Select rot-resistant wood, such as hemlock, cedar, or redwood, to build you beds. Depending on where you live, these may last for many years before they rot. Composite woods that are commonly used for decking are made out of recycled materials and are also good choices. Avoid chemically treated woods because they may leach harmful chemicals into the soil over time.
Size: Raised beds should be no wider than 4 feet, but they can be as long as you like. The height should be 6 or 8 inches in most situations. Considering the size of wood planks in most lumberyards, it’s best to keep the length between 6 and 12 feet. If the planks get much longer, you’ll need to support them in the middle so they don’t bow over time. Wood that is 2 inches thick lasts longer and is stronger than 1-inch-thick wood.
Posts: It’s a good idea to screw the planks into short posts in each corner. You can use 4 x 4-inch posts cut short. They provide good corner support, and if you make the posts a little longer, you can bury the ends in the ground to provide additional stability.