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How to… build a stackable raised bed on a budget

July 8, 2012

These raised beds are cheap and simple to make and effective to use; we have a number of them of varying sizes at Syon Lane. They are particularly useful if your soil or ground is not ideal for the plants you wish to grow. All you need is a pallet (in this case, one 1.85 metres square. It can help to have a spare pallet to hand too, in case any of the planks in the first one splinter beyond use as you dismantle it), a hammer, a saw (and a drill, if needed), manure, topsoil, compost – and, of course, whatever plants or seeds you’d like to grow in your raised bed! Here’s how our volunteer Sam did it:

Step 1 Dismantle the pallets – The simplest method is to turn the pallet upside down and place a log underneath, so that the board you wish to remove is off the ground. Then simply bash the boards out using a hammer. If you have a good drill you can also drill the nails out, then pry the boards off. I found this took significantly longer than just bashing the boards out, but was slightly less likely to split the wood. If the wood splits, then you can re-use the nails from the pallet to nail bits back together.

Step 2 Saw 4 of the pallets in half length ways. Yes this takes a while, but is necessary to give the raise bed an even base.

Step 3 Cut 4 notches into each of the boards. Measure how deep your pallets are, and cut the notches to about 1mm larger than the pallets so they fit in snugly. The top and bottom pieces only need 2 notches cut. The best method I found was cutting two incisions with a wood saw, then bashing between the cuts with a hammer.

Step 4 Assemble the raised bed by simply slotting the boards together.

Step 5 Add a layer of fresh manure at the bottom. For this raised bed, I used around 100 litres of manure. This should help to keep weeds down, and will also release heat as the microbial life breaks it down, keeping the soil in your raised bed nice and warm. I got the manure free from our local riding stables.

Step 6 Add a mixture of compost and topsoil (at a proportion of about 50/50). I used mainly compost from our local riding stable, and added a bit of multi-purpose compost bought from a garden centre.

Then plant away!

If you don’t have much space or don’t feel up to some DIY, you can always create a smaller raised bed by simply lining an intact pallet to give it a steady base – and, like this one by the gate at Syon Lane, you can then paint or decorate it in any colours you want!

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