Collapsable Raised Garden Bed

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Introduction: Collapsable Raised Garden Bed

I was excited to finally have the space to plant my own garden after my wife and I moved into our first house. The only problem was that our dog loves to dig in fresh soil, so finding a place to plant my vegetables where she would not be able to dig them up was key.

I settled on building a raised bed that would sit about 2 – 3’ off the ground but still give me the depth to plant some root vegetables. Because it was January in Wisconsin and too cold to build the bed outside, the design also needed to be able to be assembled in the basement and moved outside in the spring. After some thought, I decided to design the raised bed to be a collapsable 'X' shape so that it would fit around the tight curve in the basement stairs. This way I could completely construct the raised bed in the basement, collapse it, and move it up the stairs and outside to set it up in the spring.

Supplies

  • 9 – 8 ft 2x4s ($40.00)
  • 2 – 5” X ½” carriage bolts ($5.00)
  • 2 – ½” nuts ($1.00)
  • 4 – ½” washers ($1.00)
  • Canvas, tarp, or garden cloth ($20.00)
  • 2 ½” construction screws ($6.00)
  • Left over paint house paint (optional)
  • Drill
  • Staple gun
  • Hand or power saw

Total cost: $73.00

I found all the materials to build my raised bed around the house. But if you were to buy everything new the total cost should be around $50.00 - $80.00 in 2022 prices.

Step 1: Decide on Size

The first step is to determine a size of each raised bed. To limit the number of cuts I had to make, I made the length of the bed the same that most of my spare 2x4s were which was about 5’. For height I wanted the top of the raised bed to be at least 2’ off of the ground, and the raised bed to be at least 2’ wide. I did not feel like doing the geometry to figure out the actual lengths that my legs needed to be so just left the legs long and trimmed them at the end. However, so that you don’t have to do that, the final length of each leg was 4’.

My raised bed dimensions:

  • Legs – 4’ (4 2X4s)
  • Rungs – 5’ (8 2X4s)
  • Approximate bed width: 2'
  • Approximate bed height: 3'
  • Approximate bed depth: 6" to 12"

Step 2: Cut and Build the Legs:

  • Cut four 4’ lengths of 2X4. 
  • Drill ½” hole in the center of the 2X4 about 2’ up the board.

The first step is to build two collapsible ‘X’s for the legs of your raised bed. To make it collapsible I simply used a single bolt as the pivot point for each ‘X’ and did not tighten the nut all the way. I made my hole for the bolt about halfway down the 4’ board so that the legs would be long enough to support the weight of the soil.

Step 3: Add the Rungs:

  • Cut 8, 5’ lengths of 2X4 for side rungs
  • Using construction screws attach rungs to legs working separately for each side.
  • Attach rungs starting 1-2” above bolt hole leaving ½” gap between boards.

Once I had two ‘X’ shaped legs, I used construction screws to add 4, 5’ 2X4s on each side of the raised bed to create the box of the raised bed. I worked separately for each side starting by placing the first board just above the bolt holes and leaving the 2’ below the bolt holes as legs. The bottom most 2X4 rung acted as the stop for the legs, so the closer the bottom rung is to your pivot point, the taller your ‘X’ will be. I ended up placing mine about 1” away from the bolt which seemed to give me a good height to width ratio. If you are using screws it is easy to try a few heights until you get something that works for you.

After the initial rung is added to each half of your ‘X’ you just need to add additional 2X4s separated by about ½” to allow for water drainage until you get to a width that you think will be sufficient. For my raised bed I added 4 rungs on each side which gave me a bed width of about 2’. Additional rungs would have allowed for both a deeper and wider planting area while still being stable.

Step 4: Bolt Sides Together

  • Insert bolt through holes to create 'X' with the two sides.

Once each side is constructed, you can use the holes you drilled in Step 1 to connect each side into an 'X' pattern. I did this by myself by laying both sides on top of each other on the floor, bolting them together, and then standing the structure up.

At this point the frame of the raised bed is complete, all that is left is adding a bottom and sides from canvas, thin plywood, or garden cloth.

Step 5: Create a Fabric Sling:

  • Cut fabric to approximately 4’ X 5’ for the bottom of the raised bed.
  • Cut two triangles to cover the sides of the raised bed. The dimensions will depend on your box.
  • Staple 4’ X 5’ piece of fabric onto frame to create a large ‘U’ shape.
  • Staple triangles on to each side to complete the box.

To make the raised bed hold soil while remaining collapsible, I added canvas to the bottom and sides. Keep in mind that this fabric will have to support a lot of weight and not rot quickly. Looking back, a blue plastic tarp, or an added layer of landscape fabric may have been a better option than canvas.

To shape the bottom, I cut a long fabric sling (about 4’ X 5’) to act as the bottom, and two triangles to cover the sides.

Using a staple gun, I secured the canvas to the bottom and sides. I used a lot of staples to make sure that it would be able to support the weight of wet soil.

Step 6: Finishing Touches:

  • Paint outside of 2x4s with color of choice

I had an old can of white house paint so decided to paint the outside of the raised bed to give it some weather protection and look a little nicer. I chose not to paint the inside just to limit the potential of chemicals from the paint leaking into the soil and vegetables.

Step 7: Collapse and Move:

  • Collapse and ask a friend/spouse/child to help you move your planter into a new location.

I built the raised bed in the winter, so once it got warmer outside, I had my wife help me lift the raised bed and move it from the basement to the outside. It was heavy but turned out to be much easier to move than a square bed and I think it looks a little nicer than a basic raised garden bed so I will call the design a success. Even though it failed to keep the dogs at bay, some old garden fence solved that problem easily.

Step 8: Project Summary

  • Cut 4, 4’ lengths of 2X4. 
  • Cut 8, 5’ lengths of 2X4 for side rungs
  • Drill ½” hole in the center of each 4' 2X4 about 2’ up the board.
  • Using construction screws attach 5' rung boards to legs working separately for each side.
  • Rungs should start 1-2” above bolt hole and leave ½” gap between boards.
  • Insert bolt through holes to create 'X' with the two sides.
  • Cut fabric to approximately 4’ X 5’
  • Cut two triangles to cover the sides.
  • The dimensions will depend on your box.
  • Staple 4’ X 5’ piece of fabric onto frame to create a large ‘U’ shape.
  • Staple triangles on to each side of the box.
  • Paint outside of 2x4s with color of choice
  • Collapse and ask a friend/spouse/child to help you move your planter into a new location.


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    2 Comments

    0
    seamster
    seamster

    2 days ago

    Nicely done!

    0
    PeterE46
    PeterE46

    Reply 1 day ago

    Thank you! It was a fun project to build and write up!