Welcome back to another DIY construction build log. This one is from reddit user uscmissinglink who did an amazing job of documenting his DIY build process to our benefit. If you like this project or find it helpful be sure check out our other DIY project build logs here. Also, if you’re looking to build your own DIY raised garden with drip irragation, then we recommend using this drip irrigation system from Amazon: Flantor Garden Irrigation System.
Now let’s get into the build!
DIY Raised Garden with Drip Irrigation: Finished Photo
The finished project first!
The planters are retail – everything else was built. I was building against an existing retaining wall, had a number of features that influenced the design including:
1) a non-squared angle
2) posts that stuck out into the box, and
3) tapering height on the left-hand side.
DIY Raised Garden with Drip Irrigation: Build Log
I drew out a couple of layouts. The initial plan was a two-tiered box with a 20″ skirt that went around the entire non-retaining wall side. The problem with this was both aesthetic and functional. It looked clunky and getting physical access to the central garden part would be difficult.
I solved this by letting the design for a notch, effectively halving the skirt/shelf area. The other change I made was to construct this entirely of cedar 4x4s instead of the initial plan which was 2x6s held in place by 4×4 posts. A major reason for this change was that the design called for so many non 90-degree angles, so I wouldn’t be putting the posts in the corners.
Transferring the plan to the ground via string and stakes verified the layout would work. The complexity of the design in terms of angles, lengths, which parts had to be parallel, etc. proved quite challenging.
I had to re-try several times to get everything in the right place. Once satisfied, I used the actual staked layout rather than the drawn plan to determine lengths and angles.
Home Depot’s price match saved me hundreds! It’s worth calling around to see if any local stores have lower prices on supplies.
I tapped the existing drip line with a T junction and ran it through a trench under the (future) walls. The water you see isn’t from the pipe leaking, but from hot water I used to get the hose nice and soft to squeeze into the friction holds.
Never having done something like this, cutting the existing pipe to splice in the new one was quite exciting.
I used the existing staked layout to measure and cut the cedar 4x4s.
Although the design for this DIY raised garden with drip irrigation has many non-square angles, because the various walls were meant to run parallel, there were only two major angles that I needed to dial into the miter saw. on the project: 35 and 20. Almost every cut was one or the other.
Once again, I found it was easier to do real-time measurements rather than complex math calculations. I knew I wanted the 4x4s to alternate at the corners, which meant that boards would alternate in length by the width of another board.
The math was daunting – what’s the length of a 35 degree cross section of a 4×4? Who knows! Much easier to simply lay a 4×4 across at the proper angle and draw the cut line with a pencil.
I cut all the wood before I began assembly. I dry-fit some of the more critical parts, although because of the two longest walls overlapping, I couldn’t lay out the entire thing.
The bottom layer of the DIY raised garden with drip irrigation proved the most challenging to lay, as I needed to get it level. Eventually, I determined it was easier to trench too deep and fill in gaps underneath the wood than to try and excavate from under the wall. This was a tedious task, since each section had to not only be level itself, but level relative to the adjacent section.
Once everything was leveled, it was time to address the two sections that crossed at the center of the DIY raised garden with drip irrigation. Initially, I was going to simply have one wall straight with the other wall in separate pieces on each side.
That idea was quickly replaced since I wasn’t confident that approach would be strong enough to retain the dirt behind it. Instead, I opted for the old Lincoln Log notched wood approach. I laid out the boards, and marked each one with the location of the other log – top and bottom.
I set up each log, with the borders of the trench marked.
Using a skill saw, I adjusted the main shoe for a cut depth of 2″ (or about half of the total width). Then I cut the boundaries on the left and right sides of the trench. Then I cut thin strips between those boundaries. I proved quite simple to crack out the tabs that remained, and with a little chisel work, the notch was smooth enough to fit.
After some trial and error, I found the best pattern to use to knock out the notches was a series of lines parallel to the sides of the trench and then a single cross cut bisecting the trench (bottom left). With this pattern I could pretty well break out all the tabs by hand with minimal chisel clean-up needed.
Proof of concept: It worked! Using 3/16 inch bit, I drilled pilot holes and drove galvanized 6-inch nails into corners and along the length of the walls.
The interlocking central section proved quite stable and an anchor for the rest of the bed. The bottom 4 logs – or the base – took the most time because of all the notching necessary in the center.
Once the base was done, it was pretty fast and easy to add the top 3 rows.
As I began to research how much dirt I’d need to fill the box, I realized that we were talking tons of weight, and while most of that weight would be exerting downward pressure, I didn’t want to risk the walls falling outward.
So I added some structural support, anchoring to the retaining wall and driving stakes into the ground and then fixing to the wall with wood screws.
Some child labor to apply a healthy coat of boiled linseed oil. I opted not to use pressure treated lumber, and since I was growing food I didn’t want to use a chemical stain either. Boiled linseed oil it was!
I added two 2×6 boards to cover the section of the retaining wall that was too low. Next it was a matter of using roofing nails to install landscaping fabric to the interior. I also drilled 1″ drain holes in the interior wall, although I doubt they are necessary.
On top of the landscaping fabric the sifted topsoil. I used between 2 and 3 tons of it.
On top of the dirt for the planter shelves, more 1.5″ river rock. This surprised some of my friends who thought the bottom shelf was going to be more planter space. The idea here is
1) seating for working in the main box and
2) a shelf for planters where we can grow things that either don’t get along well with other plants or that like to try and take over a space.
It’s starting to look like what I had hoped and planned!
I’m in charge of the box, the boss is in charge of making things grow. We have rabbits, so I added some chicken wire.
I cut and tapped drip lines to the hose I ran at the beginning. We bought the planters.
The finished project looks sleek without being bulky. It goes well with the existing lines of the landscape. I’m quite pleased with how it turned out!
Calypso that cat. She’s an indoor cat, so she didn’t care too much about the project. I post her here strictly for karma.
DIY Raised Garden with Drip Irrigation: Conclusion
As is common with so many successful DIY projects, uscmissinglink did a healthy amount of planning beforehand. This is a key to accomplishing any DIY construction project, especially if you lack confidence or have little experience in construction or woodworking. Proper planning and research will give you the confidence needed to start and finish your DIY project. We see so often with many projects on Cluttter where the person doing the project is doing something for the very first time. If you do your due diligence and jump right in you’ll find yourself learning and building new skills that last a lifetime! Good luck with your next DIY project!