Make A Raised Bed and Row Cover

Provide a safe haven for your vegetables when wildlife and insects want to take a bite out of your crops.

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by Susan Mulvihill

Unwanted garden visitors can be a constant struggle in a gardener’s growing endeavors, posing a threat to fruit, leaves, or even a whole harvest. You can build this simple 3-by-8-foot raised bed and hinged cover to help keep damaging pests away from susceptible vegetable crops that don’t require pollination. This cover is mainly intended to be a floating row cover top, but bird netting is another option in place of row cover to protect lettuce plantings from a variety of nibbling critters.
Use this bed on a three-year crop rotation plan by growing cabbage family crops one year (to keep away aphids, cabbage loopers, cabbageworms, and diamondback moth larvae), beet family crops the next year (to thwart leaf miners), and perhaps onions in the third year (if onion maggots are a problem in your area).

For the raised bed:

  • Circular saw or chop saw 9⁄64-inch drill bit
  • Electric or cordless drill
  • Screwdriver bit
  • Tape measure
  • Level
  • 2×10-inch boards, 8 feet long (3), made of fir, pine, larch, cedar, or redwood
  • 10×3-inch deck screws (20)

For the cover:

  • Pipe cutters
  • Nail gun or finish nails and hammer
  • Tape measure
  • Screwdriver bit
  • 1⁄8-inch drill bit
  • Electric or cordless drill
  • 2×2s, 8 feet long (3)
  • 2×2s, 8 feet long (2), cut into 36-inch (2), 8-inch (2), and 18-inch (2) segments
  • 4-inch 90-degree metal flat corner braces with screws (4)
  • Wood glue
  • #8×3-inch screws (8)
  • #8×2-inch screws (4)
  • ¾-inch poly pipe insert plugs (10)
  • #8×5⁄8-inch screws (10)
  • ¾-inch black poly sprinkler pipe, 25 feet long
  • #8×1½-inch screws (5)
  • 6×12-foot floating row cover or bird netting
  • ¼×¾-inch wooden window screen molding,
  • 8 feet long (3)
  • 3½-inch square hinges with screws (2)
  • 31⁄8-inch metal handle with screws
  • 1×34-inch nylon straps (2)

Build the Raised Bed

1. Cut two 3-foot-long boards from one of the 2-by-10-inch boards.

wooden boards with holes drilled in the ends

2. Use the 9⁄64-inch drill bit to pre-drill 5 holes along each short edge of the 3-foot long boards.

person screwing boards together

3. On a level surface, screw those boards onto the ends of the 8-foot boards.

4. Measure diagonally from opposite corners to determine if the bed is square. If unequal, make adjustments by tapping the long sides with a hammer so the two measurements are the same.

5. Place the raised bed in its permanent location, and use a level to determine if the bed is level on the ends and sides. Make it as level as possible to avoid water and soil running over the sides when watering the bed.

Build the Cover

1a. Make the frame base. First, place two 8-foot 2×2s 36 inches apart from each other. Then, attach the 36-inch 2x2s on each end with nails to make a rectangular frame base.

1b. Measure diagonally from opposite corners to determine if the frame base is square; make adjustments as necessary.

wooden boards with an L shaped metal piece holding them together

1c. Screw the metal flat corner braces to each corner, as shown on Page 38. These braces will be on the bottom side of the finished cover.

Note: Before screwing all of the 2×2 seams together, pre-drill the screw holes with an 1⁄8-inch drill bit, and then apply a coat of wood glue to each joint. Glue and a 3-inch screw will secure each 2×2 corner joint.

a wooden board with a smaller board screwed to the top

2a. Assemble and install the two upright supports. Pre-drill 2 holes into the side of an 8-inch 2×2, and then place it onto an 18-inch 2×2, 1½ inches from the top. Screw the 8-inch board in place with 2-inch screws. Repeat the process with the other 18-inch upright.

2b. Mark the center (18 inches) on each 36-inch board of the frame base, and pre-drill a hole through that marker from the top to the bottom (the bottom being the side with the flat corner braces).

man using an electric drill on the base of the garden bed frame

2c. Use 3-inch screws and glue to attach uprights, with the top bar supports facing inward. (The 8-inch 2x2s will provide support for the 8-foot 2×2 top bar in Step 3.)

raised bed frame sitting on a sawhorse

3. Rest the remaining 8-foot 2×2 on top of the upright supports, and attach each end with glue and 3-inch screws.

4a. Attach poly pipe insert plugs to the frame base. Pre-drill an 1⁄8-inch hole through the bottom end of each poly pipe insert plug.

4b. To help position the plugs, temporarily place a length of wood screen molding onto the top outside edge of one of the frame base’s long sides. (This will ensure the wood screen molding won’t hang over the top of the frame base once the plugs are installed). Space 3 insert plugs across the board every 2 feet. Screw the plugs into place with the 5⁄8-inch screws. Repeat along the frame base’s other long side.

Note: If your plugs have tabs on them, make sure you position the tabs parallel to the length of the boards.

raised bed frame with poly pipe insert plugs set along the edges

4c. Screw the 4 outer corner plugs in line with the others, securing them onto the 3-foot-long end boards, approximately ¾-inch in from the edges. If your plugs have tabs on them, trim off the outer tab with a hacksaw or other tool.

5a. Attach hoops to the frame. Cut five 58-inch-long pieces of black poly sprinkler pipe.

5b. Place the frame on the ground, and then push the hoops onto the plugs. The easiest way to push each hoop onto a plug is to dip the end of the pipe into a container of very hot water for about 30 seconds and push the pipe onto the plug. Repeat the process until all 5 hoops are in place.

hoops attached to a raised bed cover frame

5c. Drill an 1⁄8-inch hole through the top center of each hoop and down into the top bar. Use 1½-inch screws to attach the hoops to the bar.

6a. Cover the frame. Place the floating row cover over the hoops, with the excess draped evenly all the way around.

6b. Cut the window screen molding strips into two 5-foot pieces, two 39¼-inch pieces, and two 3-foot pieces.

person using a staple gun to attach plastic sheeting to the hoop cover

6c. Working on the long sides first, place the 5-foot and 39¼-inch pieces lengthwise on top of the floating row cover next to the insert plugs. Secure them with a nail gun or finish nails about every 6 inches.

6d. Move to the opposite side of the frame. Carefully pull the floating row cover taut over the hoops. Place the 5-foot and 39¼-inch molding strips next to the plugs, and nail down the strips.

6e. Moving to one end of the frame, neatly tuck together the excess row cover, place a 3-foot molding strip along the outer edge of the 2×2, and nail the strip into place. Repeat the same process on the opposite end. Then, carefully trim the excess row cover all the way around the frame’s base.

7. Place the completed cover onto the raised bed. Attach 2 hinges on the back of the cover and bed, about 24 inches from each end.

8. Install the metal handle at the front center of the cover.

9. To ensure the cover won’t open too far, screw a nylon strap on the inside of one end of the raised bed, approximately 10½ inches from the front. Screw the other end of the strap to the inside of the cover at 13½ inches from the front. Repeat on the opposite end.

Excerpted with permission from The Vegetable Garden Pest Handbook by Susan Mulvihill (Cool Springs Press).

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