With the price of wood at the moment raised beds can suddenly be very expensive to build. So what can you do? Well, one way is to use pallet wood to build your raised beds. Pallet wood can be acquired for free or bought already cut down at a low price.
Make Sure Your Wood Is Safe
Before we start you want to make sure your pallet wood is safe to use. This is because some pallets have been chemically treated and are not safe to grow food crops in.
These pallets are quite rare now as they have been banned in most countries for around 15 years but can still be found on some international pallets.
You want to look for a treatment stamp on the side of the pallet, this will be present on any pallet. The ones you want to avoid are:
- MB – Methyl Bromide. These have been treated with a highly toxic pesticide.
- SF – Sulphuryl Fluoride. This is a fumigation method safer than methyl bromide but should still be avoided for garden projects.
You can learn more about pallet markings and what everything means in this really handy guide.
The Full Pallet Wood Build
For this build I will be using 100% pallet wood and nothing else, well maybe a few screws! There are easier ways to build a raised bed using pallet wood and then spikes for the corner but I will be using nothing but pallet wood to show you how it can be done.
If you are following this build and have a bit of budget to buy some wooden stakes for your corners then I do recommend this as it is easier.
I bought my pallet wood already cut down from a firewood seller on Facebook marketplace and paid 50p per metre length. I didn’t want to have to break down pallets and this seemed like a good in between.
So you could hunt for pallets and do this for free or buy it for a low price already cut down.
What You Need
I have designed this build to be as simple as possible and that goes for the tools needed, we will be using the most basic tools we can here.
- Pallet Wood
- Drill (With a drill bit that is thinner than your screws)
- Saw (Hand or powered it doesn’t matter)
- Hammer or mallet (only if you are staking into the ground)
Step 1 – Cut Down Some Wood
This is the wood we will be using to make our corners. The length you cut them down to will depend on what height you want to build your raised bed up to. I am going to go for two strips of pallet wood high, so I cut down to this height plus 15cm or so to hammer into the ground.
Step Two – Hammer your corner pieces into the ground
I am staking my raised beds into the ground but you don’t need to do this, it just makes it a little more secure. If you want to just leave it resting on the surface then that works too.
Put two of your cut down prices are right angles from one another to make a corner and hammer into the ground.
This is where you would hammer your stake in, if you were using stakes rather than pallet wood, to make the corners of your raised bed.
Step 3 – Screw Your Width Board To Your Corner Piece
Now you want to decide how wide your raised bed is going to be. I went for 1 metre wide.
You will then need to saw some pallet wood down to the correct size, my wood was already 1 metre long so I didn’t need to.
Then screw one side of this to the corner piece you just created. We have now set the width of our raised bed.
Step 4 – Create Your Second Corner Piece
We can now create our second corner piece using two pieces of our cut down wood, and the best news is we don’t need to do any measuring as the wood will already be in the right place.
So just use the end of the wood we just screwed on as your guide for where to put the second corner.
When you’re done you will have something like the photo below and one complete side of your bed!
Step 5 – Screw on The First Front Piece
Now that we have made our first side (or width) we can start creating the front (or length) side of our raised bed.
Screw the edge of the board into the corner we made earlier.
You might also want to join the whole structure together with some screws here. If we don’t do this the sides are not connected to the front, this isn’t a massive problem but I like to join it all together for some extra strength.
Step 6 – Use The Cut Down Pieces To Join Boards
Now we use the pieces we cut down earlier (and used for the corners) to also join our length boards together.
Step 7 – Continue and repeat
Continue and repeat the process to join all your length pieces together and then add the other side when you have reached the length you want.
Step 8 – Height
Now we need to add another row if we want the raised bed higher or leave it as is if we are happy with a single board height.
There is one important decision to make here when adding more boards. Are we going to put the boards directly above the existing ones or stagger them like brickwork?
Straight above is quicker and easier and uses less wood overall but staggered is stronger as your stress point is not all in one place.
If you choose to go with staggered then you will need to add more vertical supports to screw into as your pallet boards will end if different positions. If you screw straight in then your wood will already be in the right place.
I went with the straight above method as strength is not a concern for me as it’s not going to be holding much soil and I am only going up two pallet boards in height.
That’s it, our raised bed is built. You have one decision left though and that is: do you choose to line your beds?
I didn’t line my raised beds and actually advise against it. The simple fact is that lining raised beds with plastic sheeting just gives an ideal spot for slugs and snails to hide in before coming out at night to munch your veggies.
This is a cheap bed and it is only made from pallet wood so it is not going to last forever no matter what you do, so I just choose to accept that and let the wood rot down naturally.
here you can see some snails hiding in the folds of a raised bed lining, this is why I don’t use them.
If you want a quick guide for building raised beds with nothing but pallet wood then here it is!