Building Raised Beds

It took me forever, but I finally turned these:

Into these:

I live in one of those awful, horrible suburban developments that are encroaching on what should be agricultural space. Yes, it pains me to say that at some point in the not too distant past my little corner of the earth used to be a field. One might think this would mean that I have amazing land for gardening, but one would be wrong. I didn't know that it was common practice for developers to scrape all of the topsoil off a piece of land before building on it so that they could sell it and make an extra buck, but they do. If you peel back the sod in my yard you will find nothing but heavy, heavy clay. I'm not talkin' soil with a heavy clay component. I'm talkin', if I had a potter's wheel I could make a living making bowls from what's beneath my sod. So, building raised beds was really my only choice for having a successful garden.

I'm a frugal gal. I'll go far outside my way to save a buck and I knew that I wanted to build my raised beds out of scavenged materials if possible. Let me just interject that not having a truck makes it difficult to live as frugally as I'd like. I can't even count the number of times that I've had to pass up wonderful free things because I have no way to get them to my house. But, my parents do have a truck and last year they were making a trip down to see me anyway, so I had them gather pallets from their local businesses (that would have otherwise gone to the landfill) and bring them to me.

Getting the motivation to break them down was the hardest part; the rest was a piece of cake. I just pried off all the slats, moving two of them from the top to the sides to make a box. I saved the extra slats, along with all the nails, rusty though they were, for use in other projects. I left the middle supports to help give some structural integrity.

I picked a sunny spot in the middle of the yard, laid down big sheets of cardboard, right on top of the grass, and put the frames on top. I scattered a thin layer of almost-finished compost from my bin on top of the cardboard and let them sit for about a month to let the cardboard kill the grass. We were hoping to buy some bulk finished compost from the landfill (which is super cheap), but the timing didn't work out, so I had to compromise and buy bags of topsoil from the farm store (irony?). It took 5 bags to fill each box. The soil was the only part that I paid for. The pallets were free, I re-used the nails that I had pried out of them to attach the sides, and the cardboard was free. So, all-in-all these raised beds cost me $5 each. I have two more pallets that I need to convert and I was also thinking of using all the leftover slats to make additional boxes. This needs to get done sooner rather than tomatoes are starting to get leggy and they desperately want to get outside!


  1. what a great project! i love the way you've repurposed pallets to make these. can't wait to see all that you'll grow.

  2. Dang you weren't kidding we were in the same space today...especially with our tomatoes! lol. I LOVE your idea of reusing pallets...wish I had thought of that too! Our raised beds cost us quite a bit more! We have the same CLAY problem...and we are at the bottom of our neighborhood...perfect for all the chemical lawn run-off from the entire neighborhood behind us! Uck.