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Raised bed building

It’s finally getting close to outdoor planting time, although judging by the weather outside this seems dubious. To prepare for the planting which will happen in June judging by the weather reports,  we built a raised bed this weekend, and contrary to my expectations it was really quite easy. First we went to Home Depot and purchased some untreated cedar. You don’t want pressure treated wood for a garden because it leaches arsenic and hexavalent chromium (made popular by Erin Brockovich). Yum. I was not ready to eat arsenic tainted veggies, so untreated pine or cedar is what we went looking for. To comfortably fit the wood into the truck we went with 4 x 8 foot boards, and we picked up some metal brackets and outdoor wood screws.

cedar boards

cedar boards

Carefully sweeping out the garage we laid out the materials – table saw, cordless drill, level, square, brackets and screws. We forgot the stakes which will eventually anchor the whole thing together to the ground.


To begin with, we trimmed the ends of the boards as they’re usually not milled very precisely. You want square edges so that you end up with a square bed. Then it was pretty easy – align the edges of the long and short piece, hold firmly in place, and use the cordless drill to attach the screws. Repeat the process on sides two, three and four. When you’re done, check with the square and level the alignment of the edges to make sure nothing is too far off. Since the floor in our garage is not perfectly level either, we didn’t worry about it too much. It’s a garden bed not a museum piece.


To complete the second level was equally as easy – stack the boards on top of level one and screw in the corner brackets. Then arrange the flat side brackets and attach those too. Add a few outdoor screws to the edges of the bed if your wood is a bit warped like ours, to ensure a tighter fit. That’s it! Your raised bed is done. I estimate the whole process took about 45 minutes, and that’s going nice and slow so I could take pictures.


The bed was rather weighty when it was done, I estimate about 70-80 lbs, so we hauled it out to the backyard together and began another important step – stripping the sod. We used small rocks to delineate the edges of the bed, and went to town with a newly sharpened spade. It’s hard work. That’s why I didn’t do any of it. I tried, I really did, but even with all my weight on a sharp spade, the blade barely penetrated the thick sod. Luckily the bed wasn’t overly big and the job got done in about a half an hour.


At this point all the books tell you to shake the excess soil off the roots of the grass and till the remaining soil to give plant roots more room. That might work somewhere else, but not in Calgary. The thick, moist clay was impenetrable and resisted all our efforts to be tilled, plowed or even moved. This is uber-clay and it was liable to break the spade before it budged. So we gave in and just plopped the raised bed around the stripped area to be staked down the next day.

Somehow the photo of the entire finished thing didn’t make it off my camera, so I’ll post it tomorrow. In the meantime can someone tell the weather to smarten up? It was 0 (32F) here this morning. It’s MAY!

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