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urban garden | building raised beds

by dig the dirt editor

Urban gardens are easy if you just have a small space, a little sun, and some basic materials. This is an easy way to create a space for your very own urban vegetable garden! Get out your hammer and nails and make it yourself!

For your urban garden, it is best to make these vegetable gardening boxes no wider than four feet so that you can reach the middle of the bed easily. Length can vary, though those longer than 10 feet ought to have stakes along their sides to prevent bulging, as should ones of any size constructed of one-inch plywood. Plan to make your boxes at least 12 inches deep to allow plenty of room for roots.



  • Rot-resistant redwood or cedar is ideal for building raised beds.
  • Look for two-inch rough- or utility-grade planks.
  • Avoid using pressure-treated wood or water-repellent wood preservatives, as there are questions about the safety of these products when used near edible plants.
  • To make the four-by-eight-foot, 12-inch-deep box shown here, you’ll need three boards that are eight feet long, one foot wide, and two inches thick.
  • Also, have on hand a four-foot, two-by-four-inch piece of lumber and about a pound of 12d or 16d galvanized nails.
  • Use two of the eight-foot boards for the sides of the box; cut the remaining one in half to form the ends. To make the corner posts, cut the two-by-four into four segments, each one foot long.






  • Build the box on a hard, level surface, such as a patio or a driveway.
  • To make one side, lay one of the eight-foot boards flat, and place a corner post (with the four-inch side flat against the board) under each end. Line up each post carefully so that its edge is parallel with the end of the board and fasten the pieces with four or five nails.
  • Arrange the nails in an offset pattern to help prevent the wood from splitting.
  • Repeat this step with the other eight-foot plank and the remaining two corner posts.
  • Next, stand one of the sides, complete with corner posts, on edge and line one of the end boards up with it.
  • Drive three nails through the end board into the sawed end of the long board and three or four more nails through both end board and corner post. 
  • Nail the other end board in place, then sandwich the remaining eight-foot side between the ends and nail it into place to complete the box.





  • Carry the box to its permanent site.
  • When placing the raised bed, remember to allow at least 30 inches between it and other structures so that there is room to maneuver a wheelbarrow or lawn mower.
  • For maximum sunlight, orient it with the long sides running from north to south.
  • Use a carpenter’s level to check that the top of the box is even all the way around. If not, move the box aside temporarily and dig trenches to accommodate the sides that are too high. The box will settle unevenly if you try to level it by placing it on built-up soil or fill.






  • Loosen the top few inches of soil at the bottom of the box to aid drainage.
  • If you need to foil rodents in your garden, cut a piece of chicken wire or hardware cloth about four inches larger than the inside dimensions of the box.
  • Lay the wire inside the box, bend the edges up against the sides, and secure it to the boards and corner posts every few inches all the way around with staples or bent-over nails.
  • Now, fill the raised bed with equal parts of compost and good topsoil. Water the bed well and be prepared to add a little more soil before planting, as some settling will occur.



vegetable gardening, building raised beds, backyard gardening, urban garden