You'll Dig This – Build Your Own Eco-Friendly Raised Garden for Less

In our efforts to convert more of our yard to gardening space, I wanted to add a raised garden for planting vegetables. I briefly lusted after one of these kits from Plow & Hearth, made from recycled plastic:

Raised garden kit from Plow & Hearth

…but the $149.95 price tag (+ $17.99 for shipping) seemed to defeat the idea of growing food to save money. Fortunately, my Pop came to the rescue with the offer of four free reclaimed angle irons that had originally supported some decorative beams at a friend’s condo. His garage is full of treasures like this, and it’s amazing how he can go in there and rummage around and emerge with just the right tool or hardware for just about any job. He proposed that we use the angle irons to secure four pieces of lumber to make a frame for the garden, and he even created CAD drawings to illustrate the process:

Close up detail of raised gardens

Raised garden bed plan

We planned to construct a 4- by 8-foot frame, and discussed options for lumber. We decided to build the garden with planks of redwood because it’s long-lasting, it holds up well in the extreme weather conditions we have in Colorado and also because it’s a renewable resource, generally harvested on a sustainable basis. We purchased three ‘Top Choice’ redwood planks at Lowe’s, 8 feet long by 8 inches tall and 2 inches thick, for a cost of  $11.91 each or $35.73 total. We cut one of the boards in half to make the two 4-foot sections.

This is a close-up of one of the angle irons securing two boards:

smraisedgarden1

A note from Pop about angle irons: “You can buy angle iron that has holes every 1-1/2″ or so on both sides, in 3-foot or 4-foot lengths. One advantage of that is you could leave them longer and drive them into the ground to hold the frame in place.”

Here’s how the frame looked before we filled it:

smraisedgarden2a

Note the abundance of weeds surrounding the garden frame! After filling it with 10 cubic feet of organic soil, I laid down a weedproof barrier:

smraisedgarden2b

Finally, I added several more cubic feet of organic soil and five assorted tomato plants.

smraisedgarden3

I surrounded the bed with some rocks from around the yard laid over a six-inch strip of weedproof barrier.

If you’ve built a low-cost raised garden or discovered any other money-saving gardening strategies, let me know and I’ll gladly post your links and ideas. Happy gardening, everyone!

– – – – –

Follow up – August 22, 2009 

The tomatoes absolutely love the new garden and we are harvesting tomatoes nearly every day.

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About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

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