Looking for a great DIY project? Learn how to build a basic raised garden bed like a pro, using Southern Yellow Pine.

April Wilkerson Keeps it Simple and Safe with Top-Performing Material

Want to join the garden-to-table movement? Why wait? Imagine the sense of pride you’ll feel serving gourmet greens freshly picked from your backyard. There are many other benefits too. Tending to your own garden fosters a connection to nature, provides better nutrition, cuts down on produce bills – to name just a few reasons to start planting. 

First step? Well, unless you’re lucky enough to have designated plots of fertile land on your property, you’re going to need a raised garden bed. And who better to show us how to build one than April Wilkerson. The woman is a truly gifted woodworker, but also a really gifted teacher with a knack for designing projects for every DIY skillset. This planter is no exception.

Planning for Bigger, Better Bounties

When you’re building a structure to grow your own veggies in, not just any building material will do. You want a safe natural product so you can control the health of your soil, thereby controlling the health of your plants. You also want a resilient product so that you can harvest fresh produce for decades to come without having to rebuild or repair your garden bed.

That’s where Southern Yellow Pine (SYP) comes in. It’s a strong, durable wood, making it ideal for containing large volumes of heavy dirt without warping. It also boasts a unique cellular structure, which is why it’s the preferred species for pressure treatment. And those natural, preservatives extend the wood’s life by making it even more rot resistant, ensuring a long-lasting habitat for growing healthy fruits and veggies.

For a celebrated woodworker like Wilkerson, choosing the right material for her projects is really important – perhaps even more so for her gardening structures. That’s why she thoroughly researched pressure-treated lumber during the planning phase of this project.

Building Greener Gardens with Sustainable Material

Her research concluded that pressure-treated SYP is in fact a great option for raised garden beds. Not only is it perfectly safe for edible plants. But, it’s also a green choice. In fact, preserved SYP leaves an even smaller carbon footprint compared to untreated materials because it doesn’t need to be replaced as often.

Plus, every part of the SYP tree gets used for other products including landscaping mulch and paper. So, zero waste. And like all wood products, SYP captures and retains carbon which really helps keep the atmosphere clean. SYP is also a renewable resource, whereas man made materials are not. From an environmental perspective, SYP is definitely a top performer.     

Making it a Smooth Build for All DIY Levels

Once Wilkerson had sourced out her SYP, she got started on the design and build. As a champion of growing one’s own food and making home projects accessible to everybody, Wilkerson made this project really easy to build. She did this in two ways. First, she created really uncomplicated, step-by-step instructions and the second, she opted for a very DIY-friendly wood.

Yep, SYP is not only a climate stabilizing material, it’s also a breeze to work with. It holds nails and fasteners particularly well, which is why so many building pros and hobbyists use it for residential construction.

“This is a very simple project so if a raised garden bed is on your to-do list, I definitely recommend trying to tackle it,” says Wilkerson.

That’s right and if you appreciate wood’s natural beauty, you’re going to love SYP’s distinct grain pattern and warm golden colour. Let’s get started, shall we?

A Beautiful Raised Garden Bed in Six Easy Steps

1.Prep Wood – Measure and cut all boards down to length according to material list. Pro tip: If you’re working with a circular saw, use a speed square as a guide to ensure a straight line.

2. Build Sides – Align two 5/4 sideboards on your work bench and fasten them together by screwing in evenly spaced short vertical boards along what will be the outside of the box. Add a vertical board on each end to create a corner connection with the walls. Repeat for other side.

3. Build Walls – Align two long boards on your work bench and clamp them together to keep lumber straight as you screw in the short vertical boards. Repeat for other side. Pro tip: use a spacer to make this step go faster.

4. Assemble Body – Place all four walls so they’re upright and forming a rectangular shape, with the long walls sliding inside the side wall end pieces. Once in place, clamp one corner together and attach. Repeat on each corner. Pro tip: make sure the tops of each wall are flush with each other before screwing into place, otherwise the top caps won’t sit properly.

Options for Different Woodworking Skillsets

5. Add Caps – Before installing caps, take a level and make sure all four sides are on the same plane. Since it’s a raised garden bed, you don’t have to get it perfect, but as close to as possible. If one side is much higher, you can simply dig out some of the ground beneath it to even it out with the other side. Place top caps over each wall and then cut at a 90° (or more advanced builders can miter them so that both caps can be secured to the corner piece). Then screw into place.

Note: Top caps will give it a more polished look but also stabilize the entire structure.

6. Install Cross member – Place it in the middle from one end to the other and attach to the main body of the bed.

To get started on this Southern Yellow Pine project, visit a local lumber retail yard near you. And for more detailed instructions, visit April Wilkerson’s DIY Plans page.