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DIY Garden Bed

Looking to up your gardening game this summer? Cedar garden beds are the way to go – and they can be easy to create and pretty affordable. Step away from the fancy kit and build your own in a day – for a lot less. Let’s DIY a garden bed!

Up close image of the garden dirt
Watch out for surprise roots!

Our backyard is a pretty steep hill. But it’s also the sunniest spot in the summer and our veggies grow best up there. I discovered this by accident last summer when a mystery squash started growing like crazy on the hill. I already planted some potatoes and carrots before I had the idea to build a terraced cedar garden bed into the hill.


Head over to your local home store and pick up some cedar fence pickets. There is a reason why people use cedar for fences – they are durable, last a long time, and are rot-resistant. Thus making them ideal for garden beds.

Grab some wooden garden stakes while you are there, too.

In terms of tools, you’ll need a shovel, mallet, circular saw, tape measure, level, and nail gun (or any tool that can join two pieces of wood, e.g, screwdriver, drill, or hammer)


I wasn’t looking to make anything particularly fancy. It was a Sunday morning and I had a lot of other jobs to do. Cedar fence pickets are ideal also because they come in 6 foot lengths. That seemed like a reasonable width to my garden bed.

I started out by deciding where my very first board would go. Keeping things simple, I went with a 3 foot depth for the beds. Gearing up to dig, I measured out 3 feet up hill and started digging until I was close to level with my starting point. Once I had dug out most of the soil, I started to check for level. I wasn’t looking for a perfect level, but I also didn’t want to have any major sloping.

Then, I repeated this step for the next tier until I had a rough area to work in. Next, I stacked two boards and checked to make sure they lined up with the next tier. This became the rear retaining wall of the bed.


Here’s where I started to work with the wood. I took the two retaining wall boards and placed them on my work surface. Using the nail gun, I affixed two garden stakes to the back of the boards. This was to join them together and give the wall something to grab the earth below it.

Two boards joined together
The back retaining wall

I then proceeded to hammer them into the ground and checked for level.

Checking for level.
Love it when it finally levels.

It was a quick job to measure out the halfway mark on the board to cut the sides of the bed. For the sides of the beds, I only used one row of boards. I cut the additional garden stakes down into shorter lengths and nailed one to each end of the 3 foot board.

When I installed the 3 foot boards, I hammered them level and then nailed the front board to the garden stake that was already nailed to the 3 foot board.

Attaching the boards to each other
This adds stability and keeps everything together.

And just like that I had made two tiered garden beds before lunch! Make sure that you line the bottom with weed barrier and bring in some compost and soil for your beds. Enjoy your beautiful garden and impress your friends with a DIY garden bed.

Almost finished product
Just about finished

Because I use our own compost, I will be letting this bed do it’s own thing this season. I am sure some mystery plants will pop up!

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A Good Old Fashioned Tree Planting

green leaf plant on brown soil

Happy Arbor Day! Let’s do some tree planting.

Ever since I was a kid, I make a point to plant a tree on Earth Day. This year, my order of trees and shrubs from the Albany County Soil and Water Conservation District wasn’t ready until the day after.

We live on an acre of land with a lot of older trees that are planted in soil, so they are big and they are leaning. Slowly we have to take them down before they fall down (and we’ve had that happen a few times over the past 6 years).

BUT! we never cut down a tree before making a point of planting or replanting multiple trees. I am really excited about this year’s haul!

Let’s get started!

We’ve got 2 types of cherry, 2 apples, 5 sugar maples, lilacs, and elderberry. The ACSWCD makes a point of selling seedlings, saplings, and bulbs that are all native to the area and are designed to help the immediate area, not just to serve as decoration.

Photo of tree saplings in bundles before planting.
Quite the haul!

I got straight to work planting them, as I didn’t want to have them sitting around any longer than necessary. It’s important to take a moment and plan out where you want your new plants; keep in mind some of them require certain spacing in between (e.g., elderberry needs good airflow) or specifically near other similar species (e.g., the fruit trees in order to promote pollination and fruit production).

We chose the elderberry to provide some privacy, especially in the winter when our Autumn Olive shrubs drop their leaves. And since we got rid of the ugly chain link fence last year, this is a necessity.

Photo of Elderberry seedling
The elderberry is hard to see right now, but it’s the plant that looks like a skinny stick coming out of the ground.
Photo of the street at the top of the hill.
Right now you can see straight up the hill to the road.
Photo of Arbor Vitae and Sugar Maple
Last year’s small Arbor Vitae and a Sugar Maple.

Spacing in general is an important concept, especially with shrubs like Arbor Vitae – it may be tempting to plant them close together, but remember, they will grow and fill out. Overcrowding will make pruning more challenging and might actually cause “bald” spots.

A row of baby lilac bushes
Lilacs spaced out to ensure plenty of room as they grown and mature.

As always, make sure you are watering daily and deeply to encourage wide and deep root growth. Good luck and happy planting!

Tree frog