Introduction: Raised Beds in My Garden – Building With Oak

About: Around here you'll find we love to: refinish old furniture, re-purpose old pieces, build it from scratch and continue bettering our home one step at a time!

Building raised beds in my garden using up wood from my barn stash. I made the HUGE mistake of using hay in my garden the year before last to help keep the weeds down. I really really really researched it too and everywhere online said that hay would work just as well as straw. Well now we all know that to be very very very wrong and you can easily find that to be true online now too! I should’ve known better! Hay is a perennial and I was growing it four feet tall in my garden last year. So, this is how my garden looked when I started lol

I had used weed fabric under the hay so I honestly thought I would be able to rip it up and take my hay field with it… How wrong I was. This was actually HARDER then that one time I took the sod off of the top of my lawn to make my circular fire pit.

This was more akin to my taking my little shovel out to an abandoned cow pasture and deciding to dig a garden. This was ROUGH. Every bit of dirt here was ALL roots right down to the concrete slab beneath it. It only took one year for my hay field to go all the way through that weed fabric like it wasn’t even there! I was supposed to be going to my mom’s for dinner and be at her place around 4. I messaged her at 1: “Is it ok if we make it more like 6?” Because I knew after an hour in my garden that three hours was not going to be enough time to finish this project. I took a break from digging to build the outside walls of my raised beds. Out in my barn I have quite a bit of wood left from my grandparents that I’ve been using up as I go. As most of you know my barn took a major hit this last winter and I need to get anything I want to save out of there ASAP.

Of the wood left to me I’ve been hoarding a pile of VERY OLD rough-sawn oak in numerous different lengths and dimensions. I didn’t have anything in mind specifically for it but if I tried to have wood of this quality milled for me now I most certainly wouldn’t be able to afford it – if it was even possible! I’ve talked a lot here on the blog about “saving for nice” and I know a lot of folks (especially older folks) who have a whole bunch of stuff stashed somewhere because its “worth” something. So they never touch or see it literally as long as they live. (My grandparents’ fifty year old wedding china that we found in the attic comes to mind…)

Ok, so, I could either build my raised beds out of the OTHER wood I had left out in the barn (mostly damp pine that really doesn’t mean much to me and its all pretty big as I’ve used up just about every 1x out there) or I could use my carefully wrapped up and dry oak that I’ve been “saving” …

Or, I could plan to haul ALL of that oak out of the barn this summer and store it in my garage… I stood there and stared at it for a LONG time and could not come up with a single project more worthy than this. Oak raised beds it is!

Step 1: Building the Walls Out of Oak

And then I was reminded that there was another reason I hadn’t used much of this oak for anything: OAK IS SO DAMNED HEAVY!

But once I made the decision I felt really good about it. Oak will last a lot longer for me out here then the pine I would have used otherwise. Someday I will have to replace it for sure… just like ANY kind of wood left outside. (As long as I have material that will work on hand I will NOT buy new.)

With my exterior walls finished I got back to digging *groans* and cleared out the center by piling my dirt (sod/hay field) to the edges. Then I returned to the barn and built my interior walls one by one, connecting them on the inside as I went. (I used 3″ deck screws.) (The cement slab I built my garden on top of was here when I bought the place and was used as a parking spot for cleaning off machinery.)

My new raised beds ended up about 30 inches tall and about 29 inches wide which is PLENTY. I actually had initially planned on not making them that wide but this is how it worked out and I’m happy

These are really my all time favorite wood projects. Nothing needs to be perfect, I’m using up material I have on hand that may have went to waste otherwise and its a simple cut and assemble!

Oh, and I got to get really dirty! (This project would have been a joy through and through for me if I hadn’t had a hay field to move!) I lined the inside of all the walls with weed fabric to help hold the dirt in place.

Once my walls were built I moved my “hay field dirt” to the lowest portion between the walls and railroad ties and then completely covered it in newspaper. My hope is that the newspaper will help kill the hay field I had planted here! I held the newspaper down with some old sticks and boards. After all that time inside this winter I was out of shape! I gimped around sore as heck for DAYS after this!

Step 2: Completion and New Dirt Added

But I am SO thrilled with my new raised beds!

From there I added six 40 pound bags of peat moss. Ten 20 pound bags of top soil, thirty five 40 pound bags of garden soil and then sixteen 30 pound bags of miracle grow garden soil. Yeah it took over double what I thought it would lol finally though my raised beds were full.

All in I still spent less than $200 on this project. Around here I certainly could have spent a LOT less on dirt if I was willing to borrow a pickup and shovel it for around $10 a load but, honestly, all the decent dirt I know of around here is coming with who knows what kind of weeds with it as its generally been just dug out of a pasture somewhere. And I’ll only ever have to add this much dirt once so I’m happy to buy the “good” stuff. I went through all of the oak except for ONE board.

(A board that is literally a true 4×12 and the only thing I can think to do with that six foot long oak monster is to make a bench out of it lol.) That also meant that I used up a portion of the other wood I have out there too so that was good!

I’m really happy I decided to use the oak, its really a relief to finally have it out of the barn as I’ve been worried about it.

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