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.
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The Benefits of Raised Beds
When you have terrible soil like I do (sand sand sand), raised beds solve a lot of problems. Amongst other benefits, they keep the soil in place, limit how much watering is needed, and prevent good compost from washing away.
The choices for wood vary by region, but this helps narrow down the safest and most-environmentally beneficial options.
Building a Combination Raised Bed and Privacy Wall
Here’s a peak at the final(ish) project:
Here’s a video overview:
Here’s an updated photo a year later. I use the raised bed as a plant nursery, so most of the plants change all the time.
After building our new garden pond, I had a bare area next to the pond that was calling out for more plants.
I also had a giant mound of soil leftover from the pond excavation. It’s hard to see in the next photo, but it is piled up behind the plants in the upper, far right side.
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.
Trust me, I had to stretch my brain to get this right. Poor me, poor little brain.
So, once I was fairly confident with my calculations, I first built the raised bed and used tall 4x4s for the back corner supports.
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 for you. I used to avoid noisy power tools until I realized some keys to overcoming my discomfort with them.
1. Know how to properly operate all power tools and safely manage any unexpected situations.
2. 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:
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.
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, 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.
The pond contains a lot of rock and stone, and, to make it fit the overall look of the garden, I have been adding various stone touches 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 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.
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.
I still need to add some sort of privacy gate at the far left side (not shown). I positioned everything so that the (far left) 4×4 would match up with the patio wall. This will all make sense in a future blog post.
I just have to wait for the right repurposed something-something to appear at the second-hand store. I’m thinking some lightweight metal shutters would be good but we’ll see what shows up and calls my name. One must be patient to heed the call of the thrift shop muse.
The area in front of the raised bed also needs to be levelled and a bit of retaining wall added to create a seating area by the pond.
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.
Cheers for a privacy and a good growing space.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛