Sticking to local food is a great way to cut back your carbon footprint, and what's more local than organic produce from your own back yard? Unfortunately, in a lot of urban areas the soil isn't too hot - it often lacks nutrients and can even be contaminated with toxins like lead. That's where a raised bed comes in.
Not only are raised beds easier to weed, harvest, and maintain, but if you put a barrier between the bed and the soil, you can keep weeds and dangerous contaminants out of your veggie crop! We've got a couple of options, from store-bought to DIY, for building raised beds out of recycled materials.
1. Recycled Plastic Bed. $180 and up
Earth Easy carries this kit made from recycled plastic, and it comes in a variety of sizes. On the site, they say that it's non-toxic and made from inert materials that are 100% safe for vegetable gardens. The Earth Easy kit is quick to assemble and comes in a bunch of different colors. The pieces just snap together, and they say it takes just 20 minutes to set up. You could be gardening in no time!
2. Recycled Wood and Plastic Blend. $150
Made from 60% polyethylene and 40% sustainably-sourced wood, this planter measures 4'x8'. The wood is not treated with harsh chemicals, so it's safe for vegetable gardens, too! Assembly sounds slightly more labor-intensive than the first one, but still not bad at all. They call for a Phillips head screwdriver, measuring tape and a hammer or mallet. The beams for this planter are also stackable, which is handy if you want a higher garden bed.
3. Wood Pallets. Practically free!
If you're on the handy side, E-How has a great tutorial for building a garden bed out of pallet wood. You can call around to stores in your area and see if they have pallets that they're planning to discard. As he points out in the tutorial, you'll want to proceed with caution when building beds out of pallet wood:
Before hauling everything away, make sure the hardwood has not been pressure treated (insect and fungus treated wood will be green or yellow).
The chemicals they use to treat the wood can leach into the soil and your veggies.
4. Discarded Building Materials. Practically free!
This is another one for the DIY-types! If you've got access to scrap lumber, Garden Guides shows you how to build a bed from scratch! Again, you'll want to be sure you're not using treated wood.
In the same vein, you can build raised beds using bricks or cement blocks. Cement blocks are really simple - just line 'em up around your garden area, and you're good to go! For bricks, you probably want to use some kind of grout or adhesive, to support the weight of the soil.
Do any of you have raised beds? We'd love to hear your experiences in the comments!
Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by boris