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DIY Garden Bed Kit — Use fence boards to make one on the cheap!

diy garden bed kit

Today MashupDad has a DIY Garden Bed Kit project for you. So take it away, MashupDad!

DIY Garden Bed Kit — Using Fence Boards

A few years ago for Mother’s Day, I set up a couple of garden beds for Mashup Mom. These beds are located on the south side of the house, so they’re in the sun year-round — and, since they were just those raised garden kits you pick up at Home Depot, they really weren’t going to last forever.

Last spring these original beds started to fall apart, and over the course of the summer (and Mr. 10 walking on them) they really went downhill fast. I started to look for replacement kits, but then thought I’d venture off and just try to build new ones instead of using one of the heinously overpriced kits.

The problem proved to be finding boards that were thin enough to manage, but also wide enough to be useful. So I put on my thinking cap and went to Home Depot. All of their boards, however, were relatively thick and unmanageable — and they were also pretty expensive! It was going to cost me $25 in lumber alone to replace the beds, and the best sized boards I found for the the job weren’t even pressure treated, so they would rot faster and need to be replaced sooner.

But then as I wandered the aisles, something caught my eye: A large display of picket fencing! At $1.55 each for pressure treated pine boards, there had to be a way to make it work — I just needed eight pieces total to replace the original garden beds, making my lumber cost just $12.40 total.

I kept wandering and found some angle brackets that I could use for making nifty corners and hold the beds together. At $1.97 each, these proved to be the most expensive part of the build.

I was also running low on building supplies, so had to buy a box of small wood screws for $1.97. Because they were so small, I ended up picking up a pack of washers for $2.20 as well.

So with all my supplies in tow, I headed for home. The first step was to use my circular saw to cut off the ends of the picket fencing to make the boards square. I went ahead and made each board five feet long instead of the original four foot beds, for two reasons: Because I didn’t want to waste the lumber, and because our tomatoes usually grow out of control.

Next I put on a corner bracket. Using one of the ends I’d cut off as a spacer, I attached the angle to the board

When I had a bracket attached to both sides on two boards I laid them down and put the other two boards in place.

Note: I’m really not great with measuring. In fact, I’m a bit of a joke when it comes to woodworking and home repair, so my goal here was to do this without measuring. I actually get in the biggest trouble when I try to measure, plan, and do things the right way. Like the saying goes: “If you ever want to find the simplest most efficient way to do something, ask a lazy person.” I’m about as lazy as they come! 🙂

Once the boards were in place, I drilled pilot holes and screwed them together.

Finally, once I finished the beds, I raked back the mulch around the wider area the new larger garden beds would now cover, and just dropped them into place.

Done!

At the end of the day, I think these came out pretty well. My total investment of time (including the time I spent wandering around Home Depot…) was about four hours. The cost to replace the garden beds with the exact same 4’x4′ kits we originally had would have been $85.94 ($42.97 each), and using the unwieldy non-fence pine boards I originally spotted would have brought me to about $45 for two new 4’x4′ beds.

The two bigger 5’x5′ garden beds I put together here using pressure treated pine fencing boards instead came to a grand total of $32.33, and I had a bit of an adventure along the way! (We did have to add more dirt to fill these in, but that needed doing this year in any case.) We’ll see how they hold up, but if they do end up needing replacing at some point I should be able to reuse the brackets and simply replace the edges with new fence boards.

rachel

Thursday 18th of May 2017

They've changed the formulation since initial concerns about this about 15 years ago.

See: http://www.naturalhandyman.com/iip/infxtra/infptforraisedgardens.html and http://extension.oregonstate.edu/question-of-the-week/raised-bed-lumber-pressure-treated-safe and http://extension.missouri.edu/p/G6985

peaches

Thursday 18th of May 2017

They used to use arsenic to treat the lumber, and I just looked it up, and arsenic was banned in most pressure treated lumber. It is only approved for marine uses now. Instead they use a copper based preservative, which might be safer. I have a garden in one of the community gardens in Evanston, at our Spring garden meeting last month, our garden coordinator told us that last year, one of the gardeners used pressure treated lumber to make his beds, and when she found out, she made him take them down. I just looked it up in my two Square Foot Gardening books, and Mel does not recommend using treated lumber. One thing he suggests is going up to a construction site, and asking if they have any lumber left over. Usually you can get it for free. In square foot gardening Mel recommends that you make all of your beds 4'x4'. They are easier to weed and manage. You can also fit more in 4 foot squares than you can in rows. To make the boxes you need 4 2x6 boards. The wood can be make out of ceder, pine, fir or redwood. You can also make a box out of cement blocks or bricks..

Janet

Thursday 18th of May 2017

I too thought pressure treated wood is not safe for an edible garden...

Sarah

Thursday 18th of May 2017

We built a large box with these same fence pieces last year. Happy to report it is still holding up very well! We did staple plastic to the inside of the boards - used a roll of food-safe vacuum seal bags from Amazon.

jane

Thursday 18th of May 2017

Nice job! There used to be a problem with pressure-treated lumber leaching chemicals into your garden soil, do you know if that is no longer an issue?

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