Our fence line running North to South receives a ridiculous amount of Midwest sun, but the soil is terrible and nothing wanted to grow in the modest 3'x4' plot I've tried to work over the years. I wanted to create more space for daylilies and daylily seedlings, so a raised bed seemed like a logical project. I had leftover wood from a broken fence and a bundle of boards picked up from the roadside. I reasoned that it would be an easy afternoon project.
Here's what I learned. If a board has five nails or screws that need to be removed, four of them will pull out easily, but you'll spend five or ten minutes wrestling with the last one. The time quickly adds up.
Also, the boards I selected were of different widths and thicknesses. The project became like Jenga or Tetris, with heavy lifting. I found no amount of creative math would make it work. Soon, the free wood felt like a curse.
So, I gave up on the free wood for the raised bed. "The Perfect Raised Bed" instructions from Sunset Magazine online seemed too easy. All of the math involved whole numbers. Better yet, I could walk into The Home Depot with the measurements and have the dudes cut the lumber for me for free. And, suddenly, the probability of me losing a finger to a saw accident went to zero.
After I returned with the pre-cut lumber, the Sunset instructions were as easy as they appeared. In fact, I added an extra layer of lumber after following the lead of the article's comment section. It took longer than an afternoon, but not a whole lot longer, and I didn't have to pull out any rusty nails.