The Simple 4×8 Raised Bed

Value up front: Here is a drawing link to a raised bed design I made and use. It is cheap, easy to build, and easy to order from just a few local lumber store parts.

This bed costs a whopping $76.43 in April 2020 dollars from McCoy’s lumber (my preferred store). The bed has a few interesting features:

  • $76.43 price per bed
  • Only 4 parts to order: 2x10x8’s, a 4x4x12, 3″ screws, and 2 24″ rebar pins
  • 1.6 cubic yards of space to fill
  • 29.5 square feet of planting space
  • Treated lumber will last for a decade or more. As long as the treatment is not CCA (contains arsenic), the general consensus is that treated lumber is safe for gardening.
  • 4×4 nubs can be used to attach watering, trellising, row covers, etc
  • Bed can be easily taken down and re-assembled at another location

Tips for Raised Bed Gardening

  1. My number 1 tip is to get Brett Markham’s book Mini Farming and simply follow his recommendations (I’m not an affiliate and get no money from this).
  2. Fill the bottom of the raised bed with old dead wood and logs, then fill the rest with topsoil and mushroom compost (50-50 mix). Don’t use suburb soil to raised beds, the soil is terrible. However, it helps if you turn over the soil under the bed, but it’s not strictly necessary.
  3. Put the bed on top of level ground. There is no need to dig the bed into the ground or anything.
  4. Amend the soil with mushroom compost or home-made compost each year.
  5. Check your local extension office for information on how and when to plant. The extension offices are one of the few government agencies that typically put out good information.
  6. Use wood chips, leaves, brown paper, cardboard, or compost as mulch.
  7. Water plenty, raised beds drain and dry quickly.
  8. Use the cloth bags (search your local garden store or Amazon) for growing root crops: that way gophers cannot get to them before you do, and harvest is as easy as dumping the bag out and grabbing the roots.

Deciding on the Best Bed

The COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in a new era of food insecurity in the West. While people are not yet lacking for calories, they have less choices at the store. Many have responded by starting gardens. I heartily agree with gardening. The yield is knowledge, healthier food, and time outdoors. Gardening makes for a more healthful life. My own motivations for gardening occurred before the pandemic: I was dissatisfied with the produce at the store, and concerned about future supply chain problems.

When I started gardening years ago, I began with raised beds and had immediate successes, along with failures. I have experimented with many methods, including raised beds, traditional tilled fields, no-till garden, raised rows, cloth bags, and trellising. For beginners, raised beds are by far the best value-added method. To that end, I’ve decided to compare raised bed types. I did this for myself: I wanted to know the best practice for rapidly augmenting my growing capacity if need-be.

To that end, I’ve posted the comparison for the reader’s review. I’d draw your interest specifically to the pricing on the bottom. First is cost per ft^2 (CPF), then CPF over years of use, then CPF over total performance.

TypeUnits5 30Gal Cloth BagsJustin Rhodes Raised BedsJustin Rhodes Raised Beds TreatedCinder BlocksGalvanized Horse TroughsSimple Treated Wood
Overall Inner Sizeft2’ Diameter4’ x 8’4’ x 8’2.67’ x 8’2’ x 4’4’ x 8’
Square Footage Perft^23.14323221.33832
Square Footage TotalFt^215.7323221.33832
Depthin162020242418.5
Volume PerYd^30.161.981.981.580.591.83
AttributesScore
Toxicity0-5353443
Gardening Performance0-10466544
Portability0-5522042
Immediate Usability0-5511141
Longevity Years0-104361086
Asthetics0-5254333
Total0-20232222232719
Deliverywks
CostUSD$$38.99$330.00$396.00$109.10$99.00$76.53
(CFP) Cost per Ft^2USD$$2.48$10.31$12.38$5.11$12.38$2.39
CPF / Longevity~USD$$0.62$3.44$2.06$0.51$1.55$0.40
CPF / Performance~USD$$0.11$0.47$0.56$0.22$0.46$0.13