Building a raised garden bed using recycled materials

I have just finished building my first raised garden bed.

Ever since I built my enclosed garden bed back in September I’ve been hit with the gardening bug in a big way. The benefits have been endless – we have a new hobby that is almost free, we get outside into the fresh air, and get to harvest vegetables that are healthier and tastier than anything you could buy at the supermarket.

Follow the steps below and you’ll see how easy it is to build a raised garden bed at your place so you can produce some of your own vegetables and herbs.

The materials for my raised garden bed

  • 9x 2.4m pine sleepers
  • 40x 50m screws
  • Tacs
  • Black building plastic
  • Dumped bricks and concrete
  • Straw left by the previous owner of our house
  • Seaweed from the beach at the front of our house (shameless brag!)
  • Leftover sheep manure
  • A ten foot length of scrap timber
  • Topsoil

Total cost: Approximately $100
Expected lifespan: 25+ years

Tools needed:

  • Screwdriver
  • Hammer
  • Handsaw

The materials I used create 2.4m x 1.2m x 60cm raised garden bed which is a good size to be able to reach into the middle but not have to bend over too far either. The best part for us is that it’s too high for wallabies and rabbits to get at the vegetables.

Step one:

Cut three of the pine sleepers in half. You will now have six full length sleepers for the sides and six halves for the two ends.

Step two:

Place one layer of the raised garden bed into position so you can see how it will look fully assembled. Then screw the ends to the sides making sure each join is at 90 degrees. Repeat with each of the next two layers – place each on top of the other. At this stage, each of the layers are not connected.

Close up of the screws in place

Close up of the screws in place

Step three:

Tac plastic around the inside of the raised garden bed. This is to keep water and soil within the bed rather than seeping out the sides – it also prevents the chemicals used to treat the pine from leeching into the soil. This may or may not be an important consideration depending on who you listen to, but plastic is cheap so why not?

Step four:

Cut the scrap timber into six lengths long enough to be joined to a sleeper on each layer. Use the lengths to stabilize the structure – I used two on the sides and one on the ends – this also keeps the plastic in place.

Each layer is attached by off-cuts of wood and plastic is added

Each layer is attached by off-cuts of wood and plastic is added

Step five:

It’s a deep bed, and it’s not necessary to fill the whole thing with soil if it’s only going to be used for vegetables and herbs. I filled mine with broken bricks and pieces of concrete that some inconsiderate dick dumped at a local boat ramp.

Bricks at the base of the bed

Bricks at the base of the bed

I took two boot loads and filled the bottom third of the raised garden bed with rubble. This allows the bed to drain well and takes up some space so you have to use less topsoil which is potentially expensive. I then covered the rubble with a layer of left over straw, followed by seaweed and manure.

... just add straw!

… just add straw!

Topsoil combined with compost if you’ve got it finishes the job.

The best part about this project is undoubtedly that I got to reuse some items from around the house and from the local area provided by nature or litterers. We realized we had more water than we thought in our spare tanks, thanks in part to our water minimization habits – so we wanted to expand our vegetable garden operation.

A raised garden bed is perfect for us because it’s close to our tank making carrying water to it very easy, and is also close to our front door making it perfect for a kitchen garden packed with herbs and quickly harvested crops.

Dumped bricks going to waste and ruining a nice view

Dumped bricks going to waste and ruining a nice view

Consider a raised vegetable garden if you:

  • Like tasty vegetables
  • Have an outdoor area even if it’s small and covered in concrete
  • Want to be able to put a garden bed wherever you like
  • Want to try your hand at growing vegetables without digging up your lawn


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Building a raised garden bed using recycled materials — 21 Comments

  1. Looks awesome! We built 3 large raised beds and 2 smaller ones when we moved into our house six years ago. It was one of the best investments we ever made and continue to reap the benefits. It has me looking forward to spring & summer just thinking about it.

  2. I am a horrible gardener, but would love to improve. I don’t think I’m quite to this yet, but it would be a good option as we could put it close to the house. Deer and skunks tend to eat anything I plant, so this might be better in warding off the critters.

    • You could try a smaller one or even in pots. Good middle ground might be an old unused wine barrel cut in half. You’d just have to drill drainage holes and fill it with soil. Definitely worth a try. Just remember to water the plants ;)

  3. That’s pretty cool mate! I made a couple of bins, lined them as well just like you did but on a SMALLER scale with some extra wood from the deck I built. I didn’t want to waste it so I made some “flower boxes” although we ended up using them for herbs. I have to ask why wouldn’t you make a garden in the ground with herbs etc as the box? We have a garden in the summer with herbs, tomatoes, peppers all sorts but in the ground. Is your soil full of rocks? Great job….

    • The soil in that position is rock hard and undiggable. I have another in ground bed elsewhere in the garden. This will have lots of herbs but will fit as many veggies in as possible.

      Its close to our outside water tank so is ideal aside from the hard ground, so we settled on a raised bed.

  4. A raised bed can hold quite a few veggies if you use the square foot gardening approach. I made my cukes climb upwards on year on a trellis and had great success. I used a landscaping fabric on the bottom of my box to avoid getting weeds poking up. Plus gardening is so much fun with kids. Can’t wait for spring, now!

  5. Beautiful project! And kudos to you for making use of available materials. The fact that someone else’s trash becomes the basis of you making something incredible!

    What are you planning on growing?

  6. Raised gardens are fantastic and make gardening more enjoyable. The older I get the less I want to bend over and the more I appreciate our raised gardens. Really worth the little effort it takes to build.

    • Welcome Levi. Absolutely. I’m waiting for the manure to age a little bit before putting some topsoil on and putting in some seeds. I really want to use as much of our Australian summer as I possibly can. I’m thinking of ordering some more exotic vegetable seeds online. Perhaps I could grow the worlds hottest chili? ;)

  7. This is pretty similar to what we built for our community garden plot. :) Instead of attaching boards to each other, our sides were hinged for easier transport and assembly.

    Full disclosure: We did not make the plan ourselves but only followed the instructions of others… haha.

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