This project combines a large, raised garden bed with a privacy wall to create a sheltered location for growing plants as well as displaying garden art.
If you want more options for building a raised garden bed, there are good, detailed, free instructions here.
Build a Combination Raised Bed and Privacy Wall
I created this project both to add some raised bed growing space to our garden and to improve the privacy.
Instead of dealing with fence height restrictions and neighborly negotiations, I decided to build a few feet in from the property line where I could have more jurisdiction over the details.
I’ll walk you through the building process and be sure to scroll down to see one reader’s unique variation of this idea.
First, this is the finished project:
And here it is at another time of year. I use the raised bed as a plant nursery, so most of the plants change all the time.
The Benefits of Raised Beds
When you have terrible soil like I do (sand sand sand), raised beds solve a lot of problems.
- Keep the soil in place
- Limit how much watering is needed
- Prevent good compost from washing away
- Provide better accessibility
The choices for wood vary by region, but this helps narrow down the safest and most-environmentally beneficial options: Best Wood for Raised Garden Beds.
1Build the Raised Bed
After building our new garden pond, I had a bare area next to the pond that was calling out for more plants and a giant mound of soil leftover from the pond excavation, so building a large raised bed was an obvious choice.
I shot this video while building the project and it gives a good overview of how it’s done.
Besides a contained planting space and a place to stash the soil, I also wanted a structure that would provide some privacy for a sitting area next to the pond. There’s a lot going on next door most days and it would be nice to have some sense of seclusion, even if it’s mainly imaginary.
When I build things for the garden, as much as possible I like to design to accommodate the lumber sizes so that there are minimal or no off-cuts going to waste.
For this project, I used a lot of 8-foot and 4-foot pieces.
I had to do some calculations to figure out the exact right position for the raised bed so that I would end up with the exact right distance from the patio wall, to accommodate some sort of additional privacy wall and gate.
Once I was fairly confident with my calculations, I built the raised bed and used tall 4x4s for the back corner supports.
2Add Tall 4×4 Posts
The top, horizontal 2×4 needed to be exactly level for this whole thing to look right, so I held off adding the soil (which is heavy and anchors the whole thing) until this part was perfect.
I wanted the whole thing to look professional (i.e. not as if I made it), so I added mitered top pieces to the box, and covered the corners in extra panels to give a nice, finished look.
I use a dual-bevel, compound miter saw and it makes miter cuts really easy to do because the whole thing is designed for this sort of thing.
If the thought of using a power saw has you freaked out, I have some words of encouragement here: How to Get Comfortable Using Power Tools. Once you know the tips, a whole new world of building options open up.
- Know how to properly operate all power tools and safely manage any unexpected situations.
- Wear protective safety gear including glasses, gloves, and ear protectors.
Ear protectors were a game-changer for me. As soon as I tried using them, I realized that my entire disdain for power tools was based on the noise and the fear goes away when you learn how to use the tools properly.
Once the noise was cut way down, I felt much more confident and capable. If you can reduce the noise by about 30 decibels, that is perfect so you can still hear but nothing is loud.
Here’s a pretty mitered corner:
3Attach Privacy Boards
The privacy boards are attached to the tall, back corner support 4x4s. I didn’t want the structure to seem like a boxy wall, so I left the lower portion open. This also allows air flow for the plants.
4Add Privacy Extension Panels
Next, I added more privacy ‘wings’, using 4-foot and 8-foot pieces of wood. I wanted to complete each section one-at-a-time since I wasn’t sure how often I would be able to work on it and didn’t want to leave things looking half-done.
Here it is with all of the wings added. It was quite a challenge to keep everything level while securing it in place (without helping hands), but I managed. Often, I’m working alone so I have to come up with some crazy ways to hold things in place while I’m drilling or securing posts.
Not that anyone in the world will probably ever make this project, but one tip I came up with was to use twine (suspended from one of the posts) to hold the end of a board in place at one end while I drilled the other end into the 4×4. It actually worked very well and meant I didn’t have to wait for someone to help me since patience is one of the virtues I do not wish to pursue.
5Add Fancy Footers
The pond contains a lot of rock and stone, and, to make it fit the overall look of the garden, I have been adding stones around the yard.
Here I created what I am calling gabion footings around the base of two of the 4×4 supports.
I created tall cylinders using stainless steel hardware cloth, and held them shut with cable ties (concealed at the back). I then filled them with stones.
It adds very good support to the structure and I really like how they look.
6Add Soil and Plants
I happened to find an end-of-season sale on espaliered apple trees, so this seemed perfect for the raised bed. After this photo was taken, I added turnbuckles and wire supports for the main branches of the tree.
The raised bed has also proven a good spot for various potted veggies, herbs, and annuals, plus perennials waiting to be planted in the garden. It gets just the right amount of sun now. Prior to having the privacy wall, this part of the garden used to fry in the mid-day sun.
Next I’ll build a garden gate that will line up with the privacy wall.
The privacy aspect has already been excellent. There is a lot of activity that goes on next door and I no longer feel like I’m on display when I’m working in the garden.
Plus, my unintentional old watering can collection now has a nice place to be displayed.
I cannot tell you how fun it is when someone emails me to share photos of a project inspired by something I have shown on this site.
Helen Prier did a beautiful job on her version of these raised beds with privacy walls. It’s a huge undertaking, but so worthwhile if you have a yard lacking character and privacy.
And it is a fabulous way to workaround any fence height restrictions simply by building a little higher within your own property.
A few details to note:
- The boards are cedar and everything was stained prior to assembly.
- The raised bed boards are reclaimed cedar which Helen stained black to hide any discolorations.
- The main raised beds are 3 (2×6) boards tall for a height of 24-inches. These boxes are finished with stained cedar tops to match the walls.
- The smaller raised beds between them are 2 boards tall.
Here are a few photos Helen shared of the building process.
This first photo shows a common situation: a good size garden space but no real definition to the space.
The taller raised beds were built first, complete with the tall 4×4 support posts.
3Adding Privacy Boards
Notice how the horizontal privacy boards are placed? They alternate between the front and back side of the 4×4 posts. It’s a good way to break up the effect so it looks more interesting than a solid wall of wood the whole way across.
4Ready for Planting
You can see it was big job but wow, it looks great. The alternating wall placements, different stain colors, and varying box sizes really transform it into something special.
And what a fabulous place to get really creative with art and plants.
Thank you, Helen for sharing your wonderful project. Well done!
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛