If you are considering trying out your "green thumb" with a little gardening we highly recommend starting with a few basic approaches. Firstly, you should plan your new garden using the square foot gardening method. Second, and what we will discuss in this article is utilizing raised bed gardens.
There are many advantages to raised bed gardens including:
- No tilling for easier soil management - Instead of having to till up the soil every year and add fertilizer and soil modifications, most raised bed gardeners simply add material on top.
- Less bending over means easier on your back - Working in a ground-level garden means a lot of bending over. This is especially relevant for seniors but also for younger folks who garden a lot. Having a raised bed garden can mean easier access and less back pain.
- Aesthetics - raised beds look nicer - There are many different varieties of raised beds and you can really get creative with how they look. So not only are they functional, but they look great too.
- Keep out the pests - Snails can be a major pest to many gardeners. However the high walls of a raised bed are tough for snails to scale. Some gardeners swear by adding a copper barrier on the top, or by adding some netting to the bottom to keep out snails and other pests. You can also add deer fencing easily to your raised bed.
- Better Drainage - Water will ultimately drain out of the bottom of your raised bed. This is especially helpful in marshy yards or areas prone to flooding or high rains. However, raised beds handle general drainage and rains better than in-ground gardens do.
- Fewer weeds and crab grass - Tilling the earth actually creates more weeds by burying weed seeds. Most raised bed gardeners swear by topping their beds with mulch, cardboard or black plastic in spring to kill off the winter weeds. You can also install a barrier in your raised beds to protect against crab grass.
- You can plant earlier in the season - Due to better drainage and being above the ground, your raised bed soil will dry out and warm up faster in spring allowing for an earlier planting season. Additionally many raised bed gardeners may find plants that survived and overwintered that normally would not. This is due to soil containing more compost and being raised from the frozen earth allowing for better temperature regulation.
- Avoid contaminated soil (Important for urban gardening) - Gardening in a city can be problematic due to soil contaminants including heavy metals, and pollution. Building a raised bed allows you to control what soil your plants get their nutrients from.
- Raised beds can be temporary - Depending on how durable you build your raised bed it can either last for one season or many. One big advantage to raised beds is installing and removing them is relatively easy.
- Great for beginners - Due to easier soil management, compost and better pest control you will have a much higher chance of success with a raised bed than "Row crows".
For all these reasons its no wonder raised beds are the go-to choice for most urban gardeners, beginners and experienced gardeners alike!
There are plenty of options for creating raised beds including using wooden planks, recycled wood, cinder blocks you name it and someone has thought of a way to turn it into a raised bed garden.
For the purposes of this article we will teach you how to make a raised bed out of old pallets using only the pallet, a hand saw, a hammer and some nails. If you can visit one of your local big box stores and find a friendly face, you may be able to get some old pallets they had planned on throwing away. Be sure to bring a pickup truck or a trailer as you likely will only be able to fit 2 pallets in the back of an SUV or car. Perhaps a few more if you can stack them and take the seats out of a van.
What you will need:
- 2 Pallets for each raised bed.
- A hand saw.
- A hammer.
- 16 Nails (for each raised bed).
- Move your pallets and tools close to where you want your raised bed garden to go.
- Remove the middle plank from your first pallet using either a hammer or a longer metal piece with better leverage such as a crowbar. Keep this middle piece for later if you managed to remove it without breaking it.
3. Remove the remaining nails from both the removed plank and the pallet.
4. Measure how tall you want your raised bed to be and mark it. Tip: be sure to mark both sides of the pallet at the same distance.
5. Cut your pallet where you marked it using your hand saw. Keep the scrap pieces for later.
Tip: after you have one piece cut, you can use it as a "table" for cutting the other pieces.
6. Now form your raised bed box with the 4 pieces. Alternate between pieces turned up and pieces turned down for stability.
7. Hammer 2 nails per corner on the top.
8. Carefully flip the raised bed over and hammer 2 nails per corner on the bottom, you should have 4 nails per corner (top and bottom) now. Make sure everything is aligned as you nail the corners together.
Tip: you can use the scrap pieces we saved underneath the corners to create a more level height while nailing.
9. Optional: use the larger boards removed from the middle as tops for the bed.
10. Optional: Consider to add cinderblocks or scrap pieces of wood under the corners of your raised bed to raise it up 1-2 inches. This will allow for better drainage, a more level bed, and prevent the wood from rotting.
Now your new pallet raised bed garden is ready for soil. We recommend filling it with Mel's Mix for best results. Most also prefer, after their plants have started, to add mulch on top to protect against weeds and help retain moisture. Finally don't forget to use the Square Foot Gardening method to plan and space your plants.