View Full Version : Spin-off: Raised Garden Beds

Mar. 23, 2011, 02:17 PM
Reading the soil additive threads inspired this spin-off. I want to put in a vegetable garden this year. I have done this before, but I'm on a new property that doesn't have the best drainage and is low to begin with, so I'm leaning towards putting in raised beds this time.

I'm wondering what would be inexpensive material to use for the beds themselves. I hear a lot of recommendations for treated lumber, but I'm not thrilled about using something chemically treated for a garden. Trying to be eco-friendly without breaking the bank. I'm assuming non-treated lumber would just end up rotting...

Also, is there anything different about maintaining a raised bed vs. a traditional one? I've heard maintenance is actually easier, which would be a good thing - I do NOT have the greenest thumb in the world and this is going to be my first time doing the garden thing on my own.

Mar. 23, 2011, 02:38 PM
My mother is into gardening and her and my father (slave assistant #1) built their raised garden beds this past spring. Let me tell you, when I showed up I thought my mother was growing the Amazon jungle in the back yard. The plants were HUGE and thriving. She is still getting carrots out of the garden in the middle of this interesting New England winter!

My father used pressure treated lumber to put it all together. They as well weren't thrilled using something chemically treated in their garden, but so far it seems to have no ill effects and everything has held up great!

Not too sure about the maintenance, but I know she had some nice mixture of soils (can ask for specifics when I talk to her) and tilled it before planting all her seeds. I kid you not when I say that it was the most maintenance free space and the plants were gigantic! Almost too big to be honest.

I'll press her for more details when I see her, hope that was somewhat helpful. I have zero green thumb, but when I used to visit and watch her tend it it all seemed stupid easy....

Mar. 23, 2011, 03:10 PM
I asked this on OT day.

Best idea I got was old haybales as the walls. Cheap, friendly, makes mulch when your done.

Or use cinderblox if this is forever.

Dad Said Not To
Mar. 23, 2011, 03:14 PM
We used pressure-treated landscaping timbers and lined the bed with 5 mil polyester film to keep the chemicals from the timbers from leaching into the garden soil.

Mar. 23, 2011, 03:31 PM
I have some with PT lumber and some with white pine bought at the home improvement store. Some others are southern yellow pine milled from some trees we cut down on the property. None of it is going to last forever sitting there in contact with the ground and being watered regularly.

I vaguely recall a study showing that the stuff in the PT lumber doesn't migrate too far, but in general I figure I'll die of something far less interesting. Unless you're trying to be certified organic I wouldn't worry too much about it.

There is some new plastic lumber sold for use as deck boards that looks interesting, but it's expensive!

And this is HR because I'm growing carrots for the pony. :)

Mar. 23, 2011, 03:59 PM
I can't remember where I read it but the treated lumber is not all that terrible as Organic Gardening likes us to believe. But if you have old bails, those work fine, Cinder block (which will leach calcium into the soil, only important when you want to grow azaleas or blueberries...)

A great alternative are those planks made from recycled materials.

Mar. 23, 2011, 04:14 PM
^^ I recall reading the same but don't remember where.

my raised beds are basically mounded with PT framing.

I am commandeering a forgotten portion of a neighbor's yard (with permission of course :) ) and too lazy and cheap to make a new raised bed. I'm also overflowing with rich heavy compost this year so I'm doing smart pots: http://www.smartpots.com/why-better

I also half thought about this:

and this:

Mar. 23, 2011, 04:22 PM
We put in 9 more raised beds last year because our soil is terrible and super wet and nearly impossible to get prepared in the spring. We bought PT wood (can't remember the height) but they are 6' x 10'. We put landscape fabric down then put the wood on top and bought a really nice 4-way soil mixture. We made sure to place them far enough apart that we could get the riding lawnmower between them to mow. That way it is really easy to maintain the area around them and it looks really nice with grass.

Something to consider when building raised beds is the size. My neighbors but in one large bed instead of many smaller ones. It ended up being a PITA because it was so big that they couldn't reach all the plants from outside of the bed so they had to leave areas unplanted to walk in.

Mar. 23, 2011, 04:31 PM
I'm using scrap lumber from some farm buildings that are falling down. Also have used cinder blocks, old hay/straw bales, railroad ties, and even just mounded the dirt. All worked well and no health problems noted....from my understanding any leaching of chemicals usually goes downward with the water flow so not out into the beds anyway. You can always line them with some kind of plastic liner if you wanted to. I'm making mine 24 inches tall which sounds pretty tall (and is) but it 1) keeps the rabbits out...even the jackrabbits aren't climbing that tall and 2) makes the beds very accessible to me when I'm a bit stiff and sore or to older friends that stop by or even elderly guests (looking at doing adult care in my home). I'm making sure they aren't too wide to reach across and that there's space enough for walkers/wheelchairs to go between (using gravel or wood shavings for walk ways...over layers of cardboard or newspaper to block weed growth.

Mar. 23, 2011, 05:03 PM
I recycled old decking that was 17 years old when I put the beds in. I lined each of them with heavy duty plastic just in case… :) Here it is all cleaned up & ready for the growing season. ( http://www.flickr.com/photos/creaghgal/5554143946/)

In case it needs to be HR, I used composted straw bedding.

Mar. 23, 2011, 06:13 PM
Here is a zen garden someone posted a while back.
Just think how many carrots you could grow for your horses there:


Mar. 23, 2011, 07:38 PM
I had hubby build me these in our last place:


They were BEAUTIFUL and the veggies grew like nothing you had ever seen before and it was SO easy to maintain and weed as you werent bending or kneeling down all the time

I'd love to do them at this place as well ...

Mar. 24, 2011, 01:00 PM
I recycled old decking that was 17 years old when I put the beds in. I lined each of them with heavy duty plastic just in caseā€¦ :) Here it is all cleaned up & ready for the growing season. ( http://www.flickr.com/photos/creaghgal/5554143946/)

In case it needs to be HR, I used composted straw bedding.

That is absolutly great! JEALOUS! I had raised beds when in MA and a picket fence with flower beds and flower boxes by the gate, but it was much smaller than your garden. I was planning to do some this year, but I think I may just do what my SIL always does - tuck some vegetable and herb plants in my regular landscaping around the house. She has a way of mixing and matching that looks great, so I'll need her eye so that it doesn't look weird. We both have houses that look like cottages, so it fits. If I do any raised beds, I will copy Creaghgal's!

Mar. 24, 2011, 03:49 PM
These are all great ideas...I'll have to see what might be lying around the place, although right now I'm leaning towards those grow beds posted by Buck22 as a good balance of cost and convenience. Since this is a rental, they will not be permanent, and I could take those with me when/if I moved.

Now, if spring would ever get here...it is hard to imagine that I'll be able to plant anything anytime soon as it is a whopping 28 degrees here today...

Mar. 24, 2011, 05:22 PM
I put in a raised bed using 2x8 non treated wood. It was one of those temporary things, intended to last only a year or two until I had a better idea of what I wanted to do with the space. The sides remained intact for over 10 years, to my great surprise.

Daydream Believer
Mar. 24, 2011, 07:56 PM
Our raised beds were built with the synthetic decking material you can get at Lowes. Ours are gray. I think it also comes in brown. It is expensive but it won't rot and it's not chemically treated like PT wood or creosote. PT wood these days does not have arsenic in it but I think it does have salt. Salt can leach out and inhibit plant growth.

Fairview Horse Center
Mar. 24, 2011, 11:47 PM
Square foot gardening looks really easy

Mar. 25, 2011, 08:07 AM
We get our cattle minerals in plastic tubs.
Those tubs are used by many for water or feed in horse pens.

Some are putting dirt and compost in those tubs and raising garden plants in them.
Easy to get around them, easy to weed and tend to the plants and harvest from them.

Old manure buckets would also work the same way.

Blue Yonder
Mar. 25, 2011, 12:24 PM
It's past time to have most things in the ground where I live, and I am out of time/energy to construct.

I grabbed 4 old metal troughs from our storage barn, bottoms rusted mostly through. They look surprisingly awesome by the house with a sort of industrial vibe. Filled with compost from the manure pile, they're ready to go.

A bonus for me is that, filled only halfway up with dirt, my young tomatoes are protected from the wind that whips around on our hill. Bonus.

For climbing things this year, I built a Secret Garden Clubhouse for the kids. I cut a 4x25 hogwire panel in half, laid them next to each other so 8x12ish, screwed 2x4s together on 2 sides, and popped the frame up in an arch. (Think about a tent pole - same idea.) Anchored it to the ground with u-shaped rebar, and the girls are planting cantaloupes, grapes, cucumbers, and something flowery. Good fun, cool shade, and easy harvesting!

Blue Yonder
Mar. 25, 2011, 12:26 PM
Forgot to mention -- hubby is thrilled with troughs compared to our normal in-the-dirt gardens, as he can wheedwhack way more easily and not have to worry about accidentally hitting garden plants.

Mar. 25, 2011, 12:44 PM
I used cedar. Those plastic things you order are god-awful expensive, when found lumber or even purchased cedar deck boards would be less.

I lined my three 4' x 8' x 20" beds with layers of newspaper, then filled with a mix of native soil and composted manure from my own horses (pelleted bedding).

The lumber cost me $200. Everything else was free.

We are building two more this spring.

Mar. 25, 2011, 11:04 PM
I had my neighbor build mine 2' high, 4'x8'long with untreated cedar boards (2x6) and filled with landscape cloth, and soil/peat/hummus mix. made great gardens!!!!!!!