Home ProjectsExterior How I Didn’t Buy Lunch All Summer!

How I Didn’t Buy Lunch All Summer!

by Haylie

This project has paid for itself 12 times over.  Last summer I was able to make my lunch from our garden every day. I saved roughly $800 in 4 months by not eating out for lunch all thanks to our garden box that we built. (4 months x 4 weeks per month x 5 days a week x $10 per day = $800.)

I do not have a good history with plants. I am the kid that some how manages to kill succulents… BUT! I’m learning. So when my husband told me that he wanted to have a garden I basically told him that I would help build the raised bed but the garden would be his domain.

We picked the location of our garden box based on our lack of appreciation for the siding that we have on the back of our house. One day, we will either replace or paint our current siding and oh boy, you will want to be here for that transformation! Anyways, placing our garden box up against the house was an effort to hide our not so pretty vinyl siding…. and it kinda worked!


Our yard is not huge, but we wanted a decent sized garden so we decided to make it roughly 10ft long by 3ft wide, which actually fit pretty perfectly in the space we wanted.

We made our planter 30″ high. We wanted it to look more like hardscaping than just a raised garden. Considering that we had the intention of eventually putting in a patio in front of the garden we thought that it could also act as a ledge for guests to place their drink while we sit by the fire and socialize. (Check out our patio post here) Here’s what we used:

  • 6- 10″ x 10.5ft x 2″ untreated boards
  • 6- 4 x 4 treated posts 40″ high
  • 6- end boards 36″ x 10″x 2″
  • 2- 16ft  x  6″ x 2″ untreated boards
  • Wood screws
  • Circular saw
  • Wood working angle square
  • Pencil
  • Stain and applicators
  • Level
  • Post hole digger
  • Staple gun and staples
  • Landscaping plastic sheeting
  • Landscaping mesh
  • Filler dirt

We started by getting our materials from Home Depot. We decided that since we were growing food in our raised bed we should not get pressure treated wood for the side planks. However, our 6 support posts would be going into the ground about 8-10″ for stability, so we did opt to get treated wood for this portion.


First, we made all our cuts (see diagram above for assembly and cut list) and then assembled the two long sides of the box first. We laid out 3- 4×4 supports and then laid the first 2″x10″ so that it was flush with the top of the 4×4 supports. We put 3 screws on either end into the supports and 2 screws in the middle where the middle support was. We then grabbed the second board and butted it up to the bottom of the first and followed suit.

Once our two long sides were build, we stained the sides using Thompson’s stain and sealant.  We also made sure to stain the end pieces which we would be attaching later. It was a transparent stain and ultimately only lasted the first year. When planning our garden bed we decided not to get treated wood (the 4x4s are treated because they would be in the ground) because we didn’t want to have those chemicals around our food that we would be growing. However, we knew that the wood would need some kind of protection so we decided to stain the wood on the outer sides and line the interior with plastic sheeting to protect wood from the elements and the plants from the stain. I know that there are food grade stains that I’m sure you could find to use, should you ever decide to build your own garden box. In doing about 10 minutes of research I couldn’t find a clear answer on whether or not food grade stain was acceptable for outdoor use, so we nixed the 100% all organic thought process and went with what was easiest and readily available.

Please excuse our messy carport… this is real life right here. Cole’s car related projects mixed with my house projects.

After the stain dried. We hauled these monsters (they were heavy!) to the back, held them in place, and marked where we would need to dig holes. We used a post hole digger to dig down about 8-10 inches or until the bottom of the bottom board was sitting flush on the ground. Once the back side was in place and level we filled the dirt around the posts and tamped the dirt down. We then measured 36″ out from each post and dug the last 3 holes for the front side of our box. We put the front in place, confirmed that it was level, and filled and tamped around those posts.

With both of the long sides in place, we were able to attach our end pieces. We started with the bottom board on one side, by screwing it into place and then added the bottom board on the other side. We continued to add the boards alternating sides until all 3 boards on each side were screwed into place. Here’s what it looked like when our box began to take form.

At the time of install, we were intimidated by the 45 degree cuts that were required for the caps so we decided to go ahead and start prepping our box for our garden (aka my husband was anxious to get his garden started).

We added landscape mesh on the bottom of the garden box and stapled the plastic sheeting to the inside of the box. The mesh was for keeping existing grass/weeds from growing in our garden box. We made sure not to put the plastic on the bottom of the box so that water may drain properly. Conveniently enough, one of our french drain collection basins was right next to our box underneath our gutter drain spout (photo later down the post) so we are prepared for anything!

For the caps we used 2″ x 6″ x 16 ft boards. I measured the finished garden box’ outer most corners (see photos below). The longest sides of our box measured out to be 10ft 9inches.  The short sides measured to exactly 3 feet.

Using a wood working square I marked a 45 degree angle cut on the very end of the 16 foot board. Then I measured 10ft 9 inches from the very tip of the point on the cut board, and made my second cut completing board A. The best way to explain the way I cut these angles is depicted in the diagram below.  In Figure 2.1 my cut marks are the dashed lines. I made the angle cuts in order as you see them from left to right in the diagram. You can see that end to end of the longest side of board A is 10ft 9in.  From end to end the longest side of board B is 3 ft.  I did these measurements and cuts twice so that I had two A boards and two B boards. We made these cuts using our circular saw.To attach the boards I flipped board B so that the longest edges of both boards would touch and come to a point, creating the corner for our box. I made sure to keep the boards made by the same cut touching to get the best match and make a seamless corner. If you look at the diagram above you want to make the triangles touch like it is pictured in the diagram below.

Again, I did this twice. With all four boards’ (2-A boards and 2-B boards) ends cut at 45 degree angles, once a corner is formed from the first set of boards it is easy to follow suit and complete the puzzle.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos that shows how we cut the corners. Hopefully the diagrams are helpful. There is a completed photo of the corner later on down the post. Once the top boards were cut we screwed them directly into the 4×4 posts using two screws per board.  We used 4 screws, total, in each 4 x 4 post to ensure they were secure.  Once the tops boards were on there was nothing left to do than grow some food!


After the first year of heavy use and lots of watering and treating for pests and what not, we saw a dramatic decline in the overall appearance of our garden box. The stain we had originally picked just wasn’t as protective as we need it to be. So we headed back to the hardware store and picked up some semi-transparent stain and sealant… this time with a whopping 6yrs of protection!  We decided that this time some contrast might do us some good so we got our stain tinted walnut.

We grabbed our rubber gloves and our sheepskin applicators and stained away! We think that it made a world of difference.

Of course our fancy new patio definitely helped dress it up too! Above is a better photo of the corners from a bird’s eye view. I know my cuts aren’t perfect and they don’t meet up exactly but this is real life folks. I’m not master wood worker but I enjoy doing and learning. I’m quite proud of what we have accomplished.


This is our final product with 2017’s garden already in the making. We haven’t harvested anything yet but we have about 7 or 8 tomatoes on one of our vines and our cucumber plant is exploding with blooms. This year we have 3 different kinds of tomatoes and 2 cucumber plants…. and a few dusty miller plants just for good looks. 🙂 The little orange spouts you see in our garden is a sprinkler system that we installed. I will do a separate post on that later. Its on a timer and makes our lives sooo easy!

Above (bottom right corner of the photo) is the drain spout (brown) into our french drain… which in this photos is buried by some mulch…oops.

Damon approves of my frugal approach to summer lunches. A salad everyday means Damon gets to go to daycare and play with his puppy friends.  (In this photos he was ready for me to stop working and get him some dinner.)

We thoroughly enjoy our garden every summer and love how our yard is shaping up. One project at a time, step by step, we are making it our dream yard. As just a reminder of how far we have come, I will leave you with this lovely before photo of our yard…. Prepare yourself… its pretty scary.

Now that’s better, isn’t it? I would love to hear your tips and tricks about gardening. We are still learning but would love to do a fall/winter garden as well. If you have suggestions of what I should plant this fall let me know in the comment section! For another, slightly different design of a raised planter, check out Amber’s which includes a privacy screen.



Colleen Gentry March 8, 2018 - 12:56 pm

I love this. Thinking maybe something like this for a smaller area on our patio… making the most of condo space is a prime goal. Plus love the ‘grow your own’ and save $ at the same time idea. Our big challenge will be keeping deer and rabbits away….

Haylie March 11, 2018 - 12:23 pm

That’s a great idea. You could always build a small one and put it on the deck. You could even put a lattice up if you put it on the end where the grill was/is and create some privacy for your deck. Maybe if you sweet talk your son we can come up and help you build one. 🙂


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