Raised beds are an excellent long-term investment for any garden. They provide gardeners with some great benefits, lessening the need for bending, weeding, and they even provide the ideal warm and fertile environment for root systems to thrive for better growth. Raised beds are also beneficial if your ground soil is mainly rocky and hard to till and can be tidy and decorative.
As beneficial as raised beds can be for gardeners, the cost of manufactured garden boxes or supplies to create them from lumber can be prohibitive. Fortunately, you can build your own for just a few dollars in screws, tools, and supplies if you incorporate wood pallets into your raised garden bed design. With only a few safety guidelines and a few easy steps, you’ll have a well-kept and efficient raised garden bed at a fraction of the cost.
Which Pallets are Safe to Use
Most pallets are treated in some way for preservation and pest control, either by heat treatment, pesticide, or antifungal treatments. Before using any pallets for your edible garden, take a close look to see how the pallet was treated.
To do this, carefully inspect the pallet on all sides and check the wooden structure for an IPPC stamp. If you do not notice any marking on the pallet, err on the side of caution and don’t use it for planting your vegetables. You can usually find this stamped information on the side of the pallet. Ideally, you want to select pallets marked with and HT stamp. The HT stamp signifies that the wood on the pallet is heat-treated rather than chemically treated. Avoid chemically treated pallets to keep you, your family, and your vegetables safe from toxic contaminants.
As an added warning, do not use a pallet stamped with an MB, which stands for Methyl Bromide. This is a toxic agent which will contaminate your garden soil and the plants that you are growing and wish to consume. It is also a good idea always to use a dust mask when you cut or sand any wood to ensure that you are not breathing particles and pollutants of any kind into your lungs.
Tools Needed to Get Started:
- 2-3 pallets per square bed depending on whether you want a trellis for climbing
- Staple gun
- 2.5-inch deck screws
- Power drill with a star-shaped screwdriver bit
- 4 ft. weed tarp
- Composted soil
- Potting soil
Instructions on How to Make a Raised Bed Using Pallets
There are two designs that we can use for making our raised garden beds out of pallets. You can start with either two pallets or three pallets depending on whether you want a level square garden bed or a garden bed with a trellis wall for climbing plants. For now, we will focus on creating a raised garden bed with a trellis wall. Ensure that all of the long horizontal slats remain intact when cutting and that they are placed with the slats facing the inside of the garden bed.
- Select three heat-treated pallets. Use a saw to cut two of the pallets in half longways, being sure to maintain long horizontal slats. You will use three halves and one whole pallet for this project.
- Stand the full pallet up with the slats facing horizontally and inward. Stand one-half pallet up longways protruding from the front bottom front edge outward from each side of the whole pallet. The sides should also be uniform with the slats in a horizontal pattern.
- Use a drill and 2.5-inch deck screws to screw the sides of the box into the back, forming a U shape. Make sure that you are screwing into the solid 2x4s of the pallets for structural durability.
- Take the third half piece of the pallet and insert it between the two ends of the U to complete the square and screw in at the corners. This should make a square box shape with a tall back.
- Lay your four-foot-wide weed tarp from one top of the low side, across the bottom of the garden bed, and up the other low side and staple in place with a staple gun.
- Repeat this weed tarp layer in the opposite direction but only up to the side level on the back wall—staple in place.
- Fill your new raised garden bed box with a mixture of well-composted soil and peat moss and start planting, placing any climbing plants toward the back-trellis wall.
Note: If you are interested in making a more basic square raised garden bed using pallets, use two pallets and cut them in half longways, being sure to maintain long horizontal slats. Screw the four sides together at right angles similar to described above to form a perfect square. Then continue with adding the weed tarp as described in the preceding steps.