Just because you don’t have any extra money doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy “extra” things like having a garden!
If you aren’t careful something seemingly inexpensive can add up really quick. This is why I want to share with you guys how we built AND filled six raised garden beds for only $10!
About one year ago I set out on a mission to make garden beds for as close to zero dollars as possible! We have a nice sized front yard but it is not easy on the eyes. We have a chained link fence that wraps around the entire thing. The yard, well it’s more of a weed and gofer infested dirt lot. Ugh… kinda sad! (We rent or I would totally put some investment into the thing)
Anyways, my thought was, let’s make planter beds to grow a garden out there since the space is great and it gets plenty of sunlight in the summer. I knew I wanted to make about 6 large garden beds, approximately 3’x6’x12”. The next step was for me to go price out wood at the hardware store. That was a bit of a shock. Since we wanted them about 12” deep this was going to cost a lot of money in wood.
Plan B. Find wood for free! Where else is a better place to get wood for free then through pallet hunting! A couple quick tips on finding pallets:
• Make sure to ask before you take
• When looking for a good pallet don’t make a mess of the owners piles, clean up after yourself
• Pay attention to the condition and size of the wood slats. They come in all widths and thicknesses. Pick what you think will work best for your project.
• Always say thank you!
So we gathered together TWENTY pallets! Yep, you read that right. We found 20 pallets and brought them home to live with us. It wasn’t hard to find them. We just went to a commercial part of town and drove around until we saw stacks of them. We jumped out to ask the owners if we could take some. Most of the time the owners were happy to let us take them off their hands. Sometimes they do sell them back but in that case, they would just show us which ones we could pick from.
With 20 pallets sitting in our garage we started the process of taking them apart. Now I am not going to lie to you! This took a l-o-n-g time! I averaged about 2-4 pallets an hour. That depended on what type of nails that were used and what shape the wood was in. I wished I had paid better attention to that when we were picking!
How to Take Apart a Pallet
Here is a quick video to show you the best way we found to take them apart:
We also tried taking a sawzall to the nails but that was not working at all! There was no way around it. It was going to take some sweat and manual labor to get those things apart!
We took apart all 20 pallets and that gave us enough wood to make our 6 garden beds and had a pretty stack of scrap wood leftover to make even more frugal fabulous pallet projects and a big pile of firewood from the pieces that split or broke in the process.
Taking the pallets apart was the hardest part of getting these planter beds together! We decided to make our garden beds three boards high, two boards long, and one board wide. We did stray from the plan on one or two beds depending on what size wood we had available.
So we sorted the wood into similar lengths and widths and made groups of boards that would be used together to make one bed.
Building a Garden Bed Instructions
Here is what we used for each garden bed:
6 – 13” 2x4s
18 pieces of pallet wood
Then using the 2x4s from the pallets we cut pieces that were the height we wanted, six pieces for each bed. I am not good at explaining in words this part so here is a picture of how it was put together.
Hopefully you can see how we used six pieces of pallet wood (two wide and three high) on each length wall and three pieces of pallet wood (only one wide and three high) on each side wall and connect them all using 2x4s scrapped from the pallets.
Once we had our 2x4s cut, we screwed six pieces of pallet wood together connecting at the center with the 2×4. (See the first picture above) You could use nails if you want, we wanted to make sure that these pieces would stay in place. Repeat, this creates your two length walls.
Now attach one side wall to one length wall at a 90 degree angle using another 2×4. See second picture above. Repeat to your second length wall and second side wall. Now put the two pieces together to form you rectangle shaped bed. Connect the two by screwing together using more 2x4s. You can see in the second picture we used an extra piece of pallet wood to create a center brace. This helped so the bed wasn’t as wobbly when transporting to it’s new home in the yard.
I told you I am not so good at articulating this wood working stuff…
So that’s how we put them together!
Before we put any dirt in the beds we laid down some chicken wire to prevent any gofers from trying to dig in from the bottom. Those guys are ruthless!
My next tip is on how to get FREE compost dirt! Our local waste department for the city actually has a green waste recycling program and they recycle city green clippings into mulch and compost. If you live within the city limits you can get one truck load for free! We ended up getting two free truck loads and had to pay $10 for our third. That’s how much dirt we needed to fill all six of our garden beds!
We read that it is good to mix manure into compost, so we went to Lowes and bought 6 bags of steer manure and mixed that in. (Note: I read on a blog that it might be a good idea to let the manure sit up to 8 weeks to let it calm down) Not sure on how great our soil is but I guess we will find out as we continue to grow our garden this year.
Hopefully you can understand my pictures on how to put these together. If you have any questions just leave them bellow in the comments.
I hope that if you get anything out of reading this it would be that you could make your garden beds for FREE and even fill them for FREE! It just takes a little extra work but it is totally worth it!
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