I love raised beds for several reasons. First of all, we have very poor sandy soil in one of our allotment gardens, which dries out quickly and in which vegetables really don’t grow very well. Autumn is the ideal season to build a raised bed. Today, we’re going to take a look at how you can build a raised bed quickly and cheaply.
How To Build A Raised Garden Bed Cheap
Building raised beds doesn’t have to break the bank. You can get all the raised bed materials needed at your local DIY store (I have seen the frames at Toom and Bauhaus, but they are also available at eBay or Amazon) and if you follow my guide you’ll learn how I go about building raised beds on a budget.
- 3 pallet frames
- Film, dimensions approx. 410 cm x 100 cm (pond liner, foundation wall protection bubble membrane or fabric tarpaulin)
- Fine mesh rabbit wire, dimensions approx. 140 cm x 100 cm
- Tacker + tacker needles
- Pliers for cutting the rabbit wire
- Scissors or cutter
- Medium coarse gravel as substrate for an area of approx. 2 sqm (not absolutely necessary for permeable soils)
- Glaze for exterior painting
The finished raised bed will have the following dimensions: 120 cm (length) x 80 cm (width) x 90 cm (height).
Making A Raised Garden Bed
Building a wooden construction
The good news: The pallet frames are simply plugged together and fixed in place with 4 enclosed metal pins.
To do this, you carefully hit the metal pins with a hammer at all four corners and a frame is ready. It’s really very easy and even my second graders did a great job on their own (!).
So you assemble all 3 pallet frames and put them on top of each other at the desired place (they already have a device, so you don’t have to fix or screw anything else). If you have very heavy soil or problems with waterlogging, you can put a layer of medium gravel under the bed as drainage and place the pallet frames on top. However, you don’t need this for lighter soils.
Cutting and attaching the hare wire
The raised bed measures 120 x 80 cm. Cut a rectangle of rabbit wire slightly larger than the base and place it on the bottom of the still empty bed. Fold up the sides a bit and tack the rabbit wire with the overlapping ends once all around to the wooden boards on the sides. The rabbit wire serves mainly as protection against (rooting) mice so that they don’t settle in at home and nibble on your vegetables from below.
Lining the raised bed with foil
The choice of the film (and if you need it at all) is a matter of opinion. I have always used pond liner and I am very satisfied. The foil prevents the irrigation water from running out of the side of the bed and also prevents the soil bacteria inside from decomposing the wood of the bed construction.
Condensation could theoretically form between the foil and the boards, so some high-bed gardeners recommend the use of foundation wall protection (this keeps the distance to the wood due to the existing studs). It is probably a matter of taste in the end.
The raised bed has a circumference of 4 metres and a height of 90 cm. So cut a strip of foil about 410 cm long and 100 cm wide. You can also put the sheet together from 2 parts, then only pay attention to a correspondingly large overlap. Now tack this sheet around the upper edge of the raised bed.
Make sure that the foil reaches the bottom and slightly overlaps the rabbit wire. It is essential that the floor itself remains free so that excess water can run off downwards! You can simply cut off any protruding foil flush at the top.
Finished raised bed, ready for filling
The raised bed is ready! If you like, you can still glaze the boards, but be sure to use a glaze without poisons and pollutants. I just left the boards that way, because I think it’s nice when the wood turns grey over time. This reduces the durability, but it will take several years until the wood has to be replaced.
How To Fill Raised Garden Beds
The filling of the raised bed is often represented as some sort of secret. It is actually quite simple if you follow 3 rules, which you already know from composting:
- Fill the raised bed from coarse to fine, i.e. coarser twigs and branches at the bottom, green waste and leaves at the top. Coarse material rots more slowly and also serves as a drainage layer to prevent waterlogging. Further up you can fill in lawn sods (grass downwards, earth upwards), chopped shrub cuttings, leaves, lawn cuttings, etc. as you wish. Then add a layer of half-ripe compost (if available). Fill the top 20-30 cm with a good substrate (peat-free soil and/or compost). We wrote a good article on choosing the best soil for raised garden beds, so be sure to check that out, as well.
- Do not add any seeds or root weeds – because these will also find optimal growing conditions in the raised bed.
- Sick plant parts belong in the garbage so that the pathogens do not spread further in the garden.
The ideal time to build and fill a raised bed is in autumn, as the filling can settle over the winter and the rotting already begins. In spring you can then refill a bit after the bagging and start planting.
Now that you know how to make a raised bed, let’s talk about why you want to make them in the first place.
Benefits of Raised Garden Beds
You may be wondering why raised garden beds are so popular. Let’s take a look at the benefits of using them in your garden:
- You can grow vegetables even with poor soil quality
- Protection against voles and other vermin
- Back-friendly gardening
- Protection against pests
- You can start sowing earlier in the year as the earth warms up in the raised bed through rotting.
- Good water retention, so you need to water less
- In the first years, you need almost no fertilizer, because a lot of nutrients are released with the rotting process.
- You need to weed less, because many seeds are distributed close to the ground.
I’m really a fan of this raised beds made out of pallet frames because they are cheap, you can build them quickly and with little tools and you can realize different heights with the modular construction.
Furthermore, you can vary the construction again and again, and if you want to empty the raised bed after a few years, you can do that quickly and hassle-free. It was also important for me that I could transport a complete raised bed in my bicycle trailer and therefore don’t even need a car.
Have you already built raised beds? And if so, from what? Tell me in the comments, I am curious to hear about your stories!