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Hemlock Raised Bed Planters for raised bed gardens

Easy to build homemade raised bed planters, 4' x 16', deep tilled, homemade from  rough cut hemlock, that was our do it yourself garden project, and these raised bed gardens are great.

Our hemlock raised bed planters are great.Here is two of the raised bed gardening planters in action.  Tomatoes to the left and potatoes to the right.  My wife is the gardener, I am just the facilitator. Sorry I hadn't mowed the garden when I took this photo.  These are two of the earlier raised beds I had built.  At first I was just trying to make the beds level along the 4 foot dimension.  But I soon learned it is a good idea to make them level along the 16 foot axis as well.  With small seeds, when it rained, all the water would tend to flow down to one end of the bed carrying most the seeds with it!

The beds are primarily constructed out of 4" x 4" x 16' rough cut hemlock.  The ends of the bed use 4 foot long 4" x 4's or 3 foot 4 inch long 4 x 4's interleaved with the 16 foot 4 x 4's at the corners.  Just like a log cabin only way easier.

But first the hardest part:
P0001446 (Small).JPG (81991 bytes)tilling the soil below where the planter will be placed.  Following Ed Smith's W-O-R-D system I tilled the topsoil one foot deep and removed most of the large stone.  Man what a groaner.  It is probably 4 hours work minimum per bed to prepare the soil, not including hauling the rocks away.  My front tine tiller can really jerk you around.  But once this is tilled I just start fitting the hemlock lumber inside the perimeter.  This does make it easier to make a level bed.

P0001500 (Small).JPG (66580 bytes)With the more recent beds I have used a little more lumber and built a fully level bed.  You can see in this photo (click to enlarge) I have added a partial forth layer of 4" x 4" rough cut lumber to level things out.  Even though it is probably not best I was forced to put the long axis of the bed East to West.  The hill is too steep for a North South orientation.

I used a chain saw to cut the lumber, it is easier than any thing else, but in many cases I just selected 4 x 4 x 16' timbers that are closely matched and used them uncut.  I used TimberLock screws to fasten the timber together, but large nails could probably do just as well (with a sledge hammer!).  They say you can drive the screws in with a drill, but you are talking a high torque unit.  I predrilled the 6" deep holes required with a long drill.  Then using WD40 and sometimes soap I would rub the screw with soap and sprayed the hole with WD40.  Then my little 110 Volt electric hand drill would drive them most the way in.  There's more than enough weight in the lumber to hold the bed down, so I have no fastening to the ground itself.  Also because I used 4 x 4" lumber there are no stiffeners required across the bed.  The edge of the beds makes a great place to sit while you maintain the garden.

The lumber for the raised bed planter

I obtained these 4" x 4" x 16' pieces of rough sawn lumber from Diaz Forest Products (formerly Cornerstone Forest Products) a local mill.

Another supplier near me is CCAllis.com.  They sell rough cut hemlock.  Unfortunately there is no price list!

Rough cut lumber is true to size.  If you buy a 4" x 4" you get a piece of wood that is four inches square.  It is not dried or treated in any way.  Hemlock is rot resistant and these timbers should last a long time.  Cornerstone does not always have these timbers in stock.  They might run out for a month or two until they set the mill up to cut hemlock again.  Nine dollars for this nice piece of lumber is a great price.  Each bed typically took 5 or 6, sixteen foot timbers for the 16' sides and 2 to 3 twelve foot timbers for the ends of the bed, and, to add the fourth layer of timber at one end to make it level.  About $75 for each raised bed planter.

The soil in the raised bed

It takes about 3 cubic yards of top soil to fill each raised bed garden.  The local soil suppliers will provide you with nice garden ready mixes which are much nicer than just pure topsoil.  Forget bags, it is a lot of bags, you would need a whole pallet, and it would be far more expensive!

An alternative 

Gardener's supply has aluminum corners which will tie together 2 x 6, 2 x 8, or 2 x 10 lumber.  With the new ACQ treated lumber it should be safe to make an economical raised bed using steel manufactured corners:
There are also inline connectors as well, to join shorter lumber or make tee's to support the 2" lumber.  You will probably need a cross support of some kind for larger beds to prevent bulging of the sides.

One more expensive, but reasonable, product Gardener's carried that looked very efficient was the 3 tiered cedar raised bed.  All the lumber and hardware is included.  Good for little herb garden by the kitchen:


Hope this was helpful,
Bob

 

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BHT Created: 06 Apr 2004

BHT Revised: 22 Oct 2016

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