Picture of No irrigation raised bed gardening system (Hugelkultur)

Approximate Project Cost can be anywhere from free to $100 per bed. Here is a detailed cost breakdown based on Lowes pricing in 16066 and bolts from Tractor Supply (by weight) http://bit.ly/H8tdh5

UPDATE (2014) -

Note: the above pricing is based on my original design. You can save a TON of money by using 2x3 studs and painting them. You can save even more by using reclaimed lumber for free from craigslist.

You can save signifcant amounts of money using a "bagster" disposable dumpster available at Lowes or Home Depot for $30.

After you nail the bagster garden to your frame take a box cutter or other sharp knife and cut the bottom out of it so that it has direct contact with the ground. (outlined in the bagster step)

My garden beds are a combination of a few things I like.

1- would be raised bed gardening and in particular square foot gardening
2- Hugelkultur - this is a technique where wood is buried inside of the garden bed which greatly reduces and even can eliminate the need for irrigation. Don't take my word for it... read this, and listen to this and this For the purposes of this instruct-able I'll ask you to suspend your disbelief and lets just assume your on board with hugelkultur. If you want to debate it take it up with Paul or Jack.

Update (2014) - I never water these gardens and tomatoes and peppers and everything else grows just fine.

Tools I used
Pipe clamps (not 100% required)
Circular Saw
Miter Saw (can use circular saw for all cuts, but it makes it easier)
Tape Measure
Carpenter's Pencil or Sharpie
Mattock (not required but suggested)
Kreg Jig - I used the Jr. version
Socket Wrench

Update (2014)
I owned a Kreg Jig so that is what i used. If you do not want to buy a jig simply use 3" deck screws. Be sure to pre-drill each and every hole to prevent the wood from splitting.

3" 5/26 galvanized lag bolts Quantity: 12
5/16 lock washers Quantity: 12

Plastic cap roofing nails: 50 to 100

Plastic cap roofing nails work best for Ondura or the
bagster garden.

If using galvanized roofing please let me know what fastener you used in the comments.:

Materials to cover your garden with:

Idea #1

Ondura Corrugated Roofing Sheet ** Quantity: 2

Idea #2

Galvanized roofing. The Ondura is on it's 3rd season and still working, but it is showing signs of wear. I suspect metal roofing would be more durable

Idea #3

Break down pallets to sheet the frame. I would put the frame in it's final destination first. I would line the inside with plastic sheeting or tarp first before filling which will make it last a lot longer. Used plastic cap roofing nails.

Idea #4

Reclaimed materials from the local dump or craigslist. Any type of plastic or metal sheets, plywood etc. If you are using wood I would coat the inside with tarp or plastic and paint the outside with exterior grade paint.


Idea #1
Pressure Treated 8' 2x4 lumber* Quantity: 9 Update (2014) - Add 2 additional (approximately) 2x4s

Paint the outside of the beds after they are installed.

Idea #2 Reclaimed wood from craigslist or construction projects. This is what i used for my bagster garden. I stained them with a fence stain after they were assembled. I manually removed all the nails with a simple hammer.
If you want to save some time you can buzz everything off with an angle grinder.

Idea #3 Untreated 2x3 studs. These are $1.80 each. If you are using the bagster garden I think these would be ideal. For best results paint or stain the frame prior to installation of the bagster garden. This would bring down the price of the garden to a significant degree.


2.5" Kreg Screws Quantity: 56

Update: If not using the kreg jig get 3" deck screws and make sure you have a drill bit to predrill all the holes.

Note: I would suggest getting your bolts at a place that sells them by weight such as tractor supply. It will end up being a lot cheaper.

Cut List for 2x4s (or 2x3s)
8' (note does not require cut) Quantity: 4
4' Quantity: 4
17.5" Quantity: 14 Update (2014) - +8 additional supports.

* My research indicates that current, modern, pressure treated lumber is safe for use in the garden. Please do your own research and present facts rather than flames should you choose to comment on this material. A more expensive alternative would be cedar or redwood.

Please before you spout off about "arsenic" in the comments be aware that ACQ treated lumber does not contain this substance!


**Ondura is light, easy to work with and cheap. However if you are uncomfortable with plastic in your garden you can use traditional metal roofing for this project

1-40 of 70Next »
Thanks for the Instructable. I've been meaning to make some raised beds for a while and thought this was a very interesting concept that I had to try out. Couldn't find any Ondura around (no Lowes) but I did find some similar Suntop stuff. It was similar in price ($25) but it came in 2' x 12' sections so it fit nicely. I only had a few aged rounds to put in so I did some pruning and cut down some large branches from some of our trees as filler.
SaveOurSkills (author)  tonyprescott3 years ago
This is really cool. I love the paint you used. What a nice color combination! Remember you need to soak these down on year one really well to get the rotting process going. I'd recommend a leaf or grass mulch too to hold in moisture.
Desmeules made it!6 days ago

thanks for the Instructable. I modify it to obtain 3X13 feets with a box at the left for storage.

kivmom made it!3 months ago

Many thanks to you, SaveOurSkills! These beds are great! We
used this Instructable to get started, but made a few modifications along the
way. The height of the bed is determined by the width of the corrugated roofing
material, which was 26.5 inches instead of the nominal 2' x 8'. The pressure
treated 2x4s (copper azole treated from Home Depot) were cut in half for the
end width, and in fourths for the upright supports. As you can see in the
photos, we chose to turn all the boards sideways, which allowed for the 3"
deck screws to be driven into the uprights directly through the top and bottom
rails. There are two extra uprights on each end, to provide a surface for
nailing the roofing material to the end piece. These beds are very sturdy and
very good looking!

2015-05-16 12.29.37.jpg2015-05-09 11.45.52.jpg2015-05-16 12.30.21.jpg2015-05-16 12.32.18.jpg
sfgkimroman4 months ago

This is awesome, however a couple things from a Square Foot Gardening Certified Instructor (BTW I also have a hugel and I love it). Just wanted everyone to know the two things that distinguish a Square Foot Garden from a Raised Bed Garden . . .

1. The use of Mel's Mix growing medium - 1/3 peat (or coco coir), 1/3 coarse vermiculite (perlite only in a pinch since it doesn't hold water as well & tends to float to the top) and 1/3 of a good blended compost. It's pricy to begin with but never needs to be replaced unlike bagged soils - we only add a trowel of compost every time we harvest a square.

2. The prominent, permanent grid. Mel found that using strings, etc. don't work as well because they tend to sink into the growing medium. Grids don't have to be expensive - how about Venetian blinds from a thrift store bamboo poles, etc.?

Great job on this project!
Kim - Square Foot Gardening 4 U on FB

Moltroub1 year ago

Great instructable! I now have a use for all the cut logs I don't want to burn. As I understand the method works best with a mix of hard and soft woods. I believe sheet metal panels will need the extra supports. Sheet metal screws typically have a 1/4" head to them. Though there are some with a pan head. If water leakage would be an issue, make sure to get the screws with a neoprene washer. It's what we used when I was a commercial roofer. I do have a question on the manure. I would think if pine logs were to acidic, just a little lime would help out. How long do you wait for it to be aged enough that ecoli and other bacteria are a non-issue?

happypyro made it!1 year ago

I built these raised beds using Ondura last fall but looking at them now in the spring Im very concerned about the longevity of the Ondura for this purpose. I really liked the look and receive lots of compliments but Ive found after my soil has settled the Ondura has pushed out the sides, even tearing and cracking in some areas. I used a pretty lightweight mixture of leaf compost/topsoil, vermiculite, and peat. If I were to do it again I would use galvanized steel.

Thanks for the idea though, i do love how they turned out, just hope they will last a while!

SaveOurSkills (author)  happypyro1 year ago

Thanks for the reply. I actually now recommend adding 2 or 3 additional cross braces on the end and a few more on each side to take the stress off the panels. Unfortunately in my case I had to dig out the ends and add the braces because I had the same problem as you did. on the ends

It took about 30 minutes per bed but the result is fixing the issue.

Here is a photo of a "bagster" garden I added to my flock. FYI if you end up borrowing the idea to use a "bagster" i took a knife and cut a large square out of the bottom prior to filling it...

I do intend to update this instructable soon. I have just been very busy getting read for spring. I hope this news doesn't reach you terribly late.

Sorry for the hassle. On a side note the bagster garden supports were obtained free on craigslist, just had to remove screws and nails first. I plan to stain them all to make the wood last longer.


nice idea with the bagster, that should last a while I would think.

I think some extra supports will definitely help the ondura. how long have you had yours now? I wanted to also attach a pic of all the boxes - four 3x9 and two 3x3 in a stoned space that a previous home owner used to park an RV.

SaveOurSkills (author)  happypyro1 year ago
Btw your garden looks completely awesome!
SaveOurSkills (author)  happypyro1 year ago
This is my 3rd season with them

I love not bending over. Here is pittsburgh they lived up to the hype. I have yet to water them and they are moist even in august if you reach in

I do add mulch once my plants are established. Generally wood chips. I do mist them with compost tea but it's not enough to be considered "watering".
SaveOurSkills (author)  happypyro1 year ago

Also to retro fit the supports I added pocket holes to the support on each end.. then screwed them in. I then filled the holes with wood putty since they were facing out.

For my retro-fitted supports I used 2x3s since they are less than $2 each at the local home depot. I then stained them with some leftover fence stain i had to protect them from the elements.

Your other, possibly easier, option is to buy a sheet of cheap plywood and just screw a square to both ends and paint it.. then the Ondura could be supported by that.

tobybro1 year ago

Worked out great, thank you.

godbacon2 years ago
Pressure treated wood is poisoned with heavy metals and arsenic, to keep the bugs away. It's the kind of poison, vegetables like to suck up. It is not intended to be used around food. It is recommended that a breathing mask is worn while cutting it.

USDA certified organic producers are not allowed to use pressure treated wood of any kind in their production beds.

CCA pressure treated wood has been injected or soaked with chromate copper arsenate, or chromium, copper and ARSENIC

I would advise everyone thinking of using in their garden to do their own research as to wether it is appropriate in their garden.

Rough cut hard wood works just as well and doesn't need to be kiln dried to use. You will not find it in a big box store but maybe a ride into the county would be a nice relaxing experience.
SaveOurSkills (author)  godbacon2 years ago
One thing you are correct about is that you can not use ACQ lumber for being certified organic, however the the science and research do not back this up.

Even with CCA treated lumber the studies and soil samples taken from the soil have shown nothing above normal levels of arsenic after the first 2 inches of soil past the wood.

Again this is not relative to my project because I am using ACQ
SaveOurSkills (author)  godbacon2 years ago
You are wrong. You are talking about CCA which isn't even what is sold.

Do your homework. Newly purchased pressure treated wood is ACQ

Your information became outdated around 2004 when supplies stopped producing CCA treated lumber.

ortsa3 years ago
Since your using essentially peat and manure how often do you plan to replace the compost?
SaveOurSkills (author)  ortsa3 years ago
Also I practice "chop and drop" a permaculture principle... basically a fancy way of saying when your prune something just leave the pruning in the garden to be re-incorporated.
SaveOurSkills (author)  ortsa3 years ago
I'm not sure what you mean by replace, however you should constantly add mulch and compost to your garden. You can mulch your plants with wood chips or shredded leaves or whatever. This of course will break down into the soil as well.

As far as compost goes I generally add it at the beginning of the year. I have 3 large piles where every 3rd year one is ready to go into the garden.

Hope that helps

tim_n3 years ago
Not seen the wood method before. Just did my own raised bed system:


I find ondura too flexable. I use it on my shed roof and on top of one of my waterbutts. The cat sits on the ondura and it bends under her weight and she's a pretty small cat (with a fat bum). The wood I'm guessing will reduce the weight and the ondura will repel water into the bed which is good.

I wouldn't be happy knowing that the ondura (or my native similar stuff is, not sure about ondura) is made from oil and cardboard - I'd be worried about chemicals leaching into the soil.

Good instructable though - congrats on your first making front page!

SaveOurSkills (author)  tim_n3 years ago
Personally it's not a concern to me at all. Ondura isn't likely to break down enough in any one year to make any significant impact in my organically grown food. I'd bet my life that no more than trace amounts would be present. It would be no worse than ingesting the naturally present arsenic available in any given system.

It's better than the salad I'm probably going to eat for lunch at the restaurant next to my work, which was sprayed from start to finish with toxic chemicals and raised with petroleum fertilizer. People hold the home gardener to unreasonably high standards. It's funny how high the standards go once you have unlimited access to analyze the methods of production.

I'm not saying your wrong, you have to do what is comfortable for them. I'd suggest using traditional metal corrugated roofing for this project if you don't like plastic in the garden.
Excellent instructable! Here's a polycarbonate alternative to Ondura, Tuftex in 8' lengths. http://www.lowes.com/ProductDisplay?partNumber=71756-1115-202A&langId=-1&storeId=10151&productId=3043302&catalogId=10051&cmRelshp=rel&rel=nofollow&cId=PDIO1

More $$ but may relieve some concerns.  With or without the Hugekultur, it's a very well thought out plan.  Thank you.
pdxman3 years ago
Treated wood and uptake of chemicals by vegetables:




While I appreciate your concern regarding treated wood and gardens, the references you cite are a bit dated. CCA pressure treated lumber was banned for consumer use by the EPA in 2003. Any pressure treated lumber manufactured for consumer use after that date has no arsenic in it.
junewhosews3 years ago
Are termites a problems with this method and if so how do you countrol them organic method.?
SaveOurSkills (author)  junewhosews3 years ago
I tried to find out about your issue online. Try asking over at permies.com.

They aren't typically a problem in my area. My wood is buried under a foot or so of soil, not sure if that is a deterrent or not.

olanderd3 years ago
I have been reading Insturctables for over a year now and there are a lot of great ideas. Yours is the first one that I have executed. I have been looking for a "cheap" solution to raised planters. I love all the extra information and links that you provided. I hate to fall into the category of you doing all the work for me, but I will admit that you did do all of it and all I had to do was read. Thanks. I build four of these beds, used cedar instead of treated only because it will match my fence and used the red Ondura. It matches the trim our house perfectly. I just finish putting the large logs into them today. I will be sore tomorrow. I got mine from a landscape supply place for free. They recycle trees for mulch etc. Although I will say that I more than one person gave me weird looks and comments upon my request, including the owner of the business.

I am off to a local supplier for vermiculite, compost and peat moss tomorrow to mix up Mel's Mix and hopefully finish these off tomorrow and get them planted by the weekend.

A couple of suggestions on the build. I used the lag screws as you had mentioned but found that the cedar was too soft to hold very good after pre drilling and some of them stripped out. I reinforced the connections with 3" deck screws and should of used them by themselves. I also used them in place of the Kreg screws, one because the cedar is nominally thicker than than the treated lumber and two they are much stouter and better designed for outdoor use. The Ondura, if you want to have the color side facing out, you need to bend the ridge down because after you cut the panels in half the cut edges are "up". This is easily accomplished especially if you let them sit in the sun for while, but it doubles the use of the roofing nails to give the panels a clean edge on the top side. Overall an EXCELLENT Instructable, very well laid out and a wealth of information. Thanks again.
SaveOurSkills (author)  olanderd3 years ago
awesome, nice work. One thing to note. During your first year typically hugelkultur has less than awesome results. Sometimes people even just write it off and plant cover crops.

The wood has to soak up a ton of water and also start to break down, which will draw nitrogen from the soil.

So in the first year you have to water and also will have to watch to see if they need fertilizer.

After filling them up water the "hell" out of the beds to get them nice and soaked.

After year 1 when the rotting process starts taking hold you will start to get the benefits and also as the wood breaks down it will release nitrogen back into the soil and feed your plants.



Instead of pocket screws, would using long deck screws straight through be as good?
junewhosews3 years ago
I have totaled the diamensions and it comes to 97 1/4 long and 24 1/2 high. How is a 4 x 8 sheet suppose to work. Actually the sheets of Ondura Corrugated Roofing are 48 x 79" at Lowes??????
SaveOurSkills (author)  junewhosews3 years ago
Also a 2x4 isn't 2x4. There is something called nominal length. Regardless u can make them even taller as log as u can still nail the material in it doesn't need to be edge tO edge
SaveOurSkills (author)  junewhosews3 years ago
If you read the instuctable u will notice that u use a scrap piece from one of te 4x2 ends to complete the 8' run. You can see te overlap in one of the photos and also i illustrated the connection

Also your measurements don't need to have surgical precision. As long as you have surface area to nail the stuff to you are good. In fact I had more problems with them being a bit too short, and this the ondura hanging over a bit then the opposite

At the end of the day do this. Cut a sheet in half. Lay it on a 2x4. Where it ends make mark. Put your brace there so u can nail the ondura on it. Overlap your scrap piece and nail that in to make the 8'

Make your other brace the same distance in so it has symmetry for looks. Put the 3rd brace in the middle so it also looks nice

Anyway just use my dimensions and you will be fine

jeff-o3 years ago
www.richsoil.com is down right now. In what state should the logs and sticks be in? Freshly cut, rotting, dry, etc?
SaveOurSkills (author)  jeff-o3 years ago
A variety of states of wood is fine. Mine was all the way from fresh cut, seasoned for 1 year, and advanced rotting.. Think of it this way... the fresher the longer the effect, the more rotting the more immediate effect
Do you have any idea if dried bamboo would work? The 3-5 inch thick kind, not the running kind. I have access to a bunch of this.
SaveOurSkills (author)  Katzsta3 years ago
Ask on permies.com they would know better than I
qorlis3 years ago
I know that exact prices would be impossible to use here because of how much individual stores charge and materials used, however, could you give approximate totals on the materials for constructing each bed? In other words, about how much would I need to spend to build each bed? A range would be good such as: "between $100 to $150".  My reasons are that I want raised beds and I'm comparing material costs.

I'm not asking for costs on tools or what goes inside the beds once they are built. I'm also aware that many people viewing Instructables are not in the US, so these costs may not apply to everyone.  Thanks.
SaveOurSkills (author)  qorlis3 years ago
Ask and Ye shall receive. Pricing based on 16066 postal code and using Lowes for materials and Tractor Supply for bolts.

Thanks much. That helps. Here, we have both stores, but we also have a Bolt and Nut Supply store for screws and bolts, etc. The breakdown you gave is very helpful.
1-40 of 70Next »