|2x8's make great walls for raised beds.|
There are several inexpensive materials you can use to construct raised beds, among them, 4" landscape timbers or 2"x12" boards. Avoid wood that has been treated. Untreated woods like redwood, cypress or cedar will last longer than most other woods, but without the worries of chemical leeching. Concrete blocks, plastic landscaping edging, corrugated sheet metal or stones work well, too. If you live near a rural area, you can offer to "rock pick" an area of a farmer's field before it's planted. Most farmers will be more than happy to have the help.
Also keep in mind that beds at a height of 3 ft will be both wheel chair accessible, and accessible when standing. For an easy reach from all sides, keep the beds no more than 6 feet across (most people have about a 3 foot reach) or keep a walkway in the center.
By Ellen Brown
Additional tips on raised beds from our ThriftyFun community:
My husband and I just put in some raised beds this year and we used (3) 2x6x8's. He cut one in half for the ends and used (3) 3" screws in each to hold them together, making a frame. We used (14) 40lb. bags of top soil and (3) 40lb. of cow manure, and it filled the frame up nicely. We built one for each of the vegetables we were going to plant.
One idea would be to ask around at Home Depot, etc for old skids (wood pallets). Take them apart and use the wood. For example, use three slats for height, use one slat to keep them together.
We made two, one for the front yard and one for the back for our roses. We went to Home Depot (or you can find them at Lowe's, but Home Depot has a better selection) and bought the 8' red logs. They're about $2.50 each and we used 4-5 for each planter. We used three high for the length of the planter and cut the other ones down for how wide we wanted the planter to come out.
We did ours against the block fencing but, if you wanted a completely free standing one, just do the same on both sides. To secure the logs, we drilled holes through them on each end and in the middle and trimmed down rebar and hammered through the logs into the ground.
My roses are doing wonderful in the planter and you can just mix some dirt and fertilizer in it. Also a tip is next time you go to Starbucks, they have a box or basket that has used coffee grounds to amend your soil.
Keep your eyes open for recycled materials to use to make raised beds. Constructions sites will sometimes have a free pile, be sure to ask the foreman if they have any lumber to give away (don't just take it). Stay on the look out for materials on Freecycle, Craigslist and at garage sales.
When we first started building raised beds we used simple cherry timbers (stacked three high) and long nails, and later pipe (to hold them together). Those worked nicely for about three to four years before starting to rot out.
We're in our third house now and have moved on to a more permanent raised bed solution (cinderblock).
You've gotten a lot of good suggestions. I hope you find something that works for you. (05/30/2007)
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