Category: Green Buildings

How To Build Your Own Raised Bed Planter

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When I look through the home and garden magazines, or really any home improvement magazine, the homes seem to all have large expansive yards with plenty of room for everything that you could dream of doing to make it more comfortable for entertaining and living.

When I look at my backyard, it is not so expansive and I am sure that many people fall into that category.  That doesn’t mean that we don’t enjoy getting out there and getting our hands dirty, it just means that we have to be more conscious of what kind of space we have to work with.  A great way to use some of this space more efficiently is to have a raised garden bed.  It is also a good way to plant without having to do as much work with tilling each year.

You can control the growth of the plants as well, without worrying about them overtaking your yard.  But for those of us that are handier in the garden and around plants than with power tools, building the raised garden bed may be a bit intimidating.  It shouldn’t be, it really is a DIY project that most anybody could attempt and complete.

You will need some tools. Get the best you can afford. If you don’t know what tools are the best then use a review site ( for example).

And building it on your own is so much more satisfying than buying a ready made one at the store.  And it is usually a little less expensive.  Here are some simple steps to follow.


Like any other endeavor, location is a very important aspect of starting your raised garden bed.  Look for the flattest spot possible.  This way you do not have to dig as much to level out the ground.  You are going to want to consider how tall to build the planter as well, knowing that the taller it is, the more dirt you will need to fill it in.  1 to 2 feet is usually sufficient.  Also, if you are building more than one planter or placing the planter near another object, give yourself enough room to maneuver through the walkway and perhaps to use a wheelbarrow or even a lawnmower.

Level the Ground

Next you will want to level the ground that you picked out.  You will want to remove the grass and any weeds, and you want the ground to be as level as possible so that the planter is level.  If you anticipate poor drainage, dig a little deeper and put in a layer or coarse stone or gravel.  If you really have a drainage problem, you can always install perforated drainage pipes under the gravel.  You will then want to place a layer of landscape fabric before filling with fresh soil.  Another good idea is to put some sort of metal meshing down to keep out the gophers and moles.  Think about all of that fresh soil with tempting vegetable roots just calling to the animals.

Build the Sides

The third major step is to build the sides of the planter.  Using treated outdoor lumber, you will want to build all four sides separately and then connect them in place.  This is the part that might scare some people off, but you can buy pre-cut lengths of 2x material at the home improvement store. 

This is where the right tools will be essential. Even if it just a ratcheting screwdriver, get the right one.

It is 1 ¾ inches thick and depending on how tall you want your planter; you can use material that is 6, 8, 10 or 12 inches wide.  You just stack two lengthwise edge to edge and take some other short pieces of lumber and fasten to both pieces in order to hold it together.

Do this with all four sides and then you just connect the corners with screws using a cordless drill.  Then you take some stakes and drive them down at the corners, you can either do this on the inside or the outside of the corners to hold them in place and attach to the planter using screws again.

Last, just attach a piece of lumber around the top edge lying flat so that you will have a place to set tools and sit down while working. Depending on how large the planter is, you may want to put support stakes in the middle of each side as well.

Once the bed is built, you can stain or paint is before filling it in to help make it even more weather proof and beautiful.   After filling it in with soil, all you have to do is decide what you want to plant.

Are you going to plant flowers or vegetables so that you have fresh produce whenever you want?  Sure, it’s a little bit of work, but this is the type of project that gives returns long after the work is done and while you are enjoying fresh vegetables that you grew with your own two hands, you can be proud of what you built to get you there.

Categories: Gardens Green Buildings

Bringing More Green Roofs to Omaha

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You’d be hard pressed not to see a daily newspaper article or a story on the evening news about some aspect of going “green.”

Going “green” is often in the context of building and developing new public and private infrastructure that is less taxing on the environment from both a construction and ongoing maintenance standpoint.

Green roofs (or perhaps more accurately put, “vegetative roofs”) have been around in Europe for years, but have only recently started to catch on here in the United States.

Photo by Dr. Richard Sutton, UNLSuch roofs offer a number of potential benefits over standard roofs.

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The growing medium and plants that comprise the green roof provide insulating and water retention benefits, in addition to prolonging the life of the roof membrane — a standard item on both a green roof and a conventional roof.

With those and other potential benefits, why are there not more green roofs here in the U.S.?

Green Roofs for Healthy Cities is an organization based out of Toronto that serves as an ambassador for green roofs. They are a recognized leader in facilitating information exchange, education, and promotion and development of green roofs.

In October 2007, the City of Omaha and Douglas County teamed to bring a local market development symposium, produced by Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (GRHC), to Omaha.

The purpose of the event was two-fold.

First, to provide a basic education and understanding of green roofs, and second, to identify obstacles and barriers to green roof use in the Omaha metropolitan area.

From that symposium a local committee, subsequently named the “Green Roof Working Committee,” was formed with the intent of taking that information and coming up with action plans that could address the aforementioned obstacles and barriers to green roof use.

The committee has been meeting monthly since February, and has divided its work up among six subcommittees: Stormwater Design Manual, Covenants, Building Codes, Appraisal and Financing, Outreach and Education, and Overall Policy Development.

While basic education is needed to show builders, developers, and others the benefits of using green roof technology, the real hurdle to getting more green roofs built is really money.

Green roofs cost more to install because there are more components, but green roofs are projected to outlast their conventional counterparts two- to three-fold.

It follows that lenders, insurers, and others associated with the building industry will need to develop policies that apply specifically to green roofs rather than relying on the standard practices associated with conventional roofs.

The Green Roof Working Committee’s charge is to identify successful policies and practices from around the country, and facilitate the implementation of appropriate policies and practices in the Omaha area.

Categories: Green Buildings