What can I use instead of wood to make raised planter beds? We have a serious ground termite issue where I live.

I have used concrete masonry units but they take up a lot of space. Pavers?

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djsc8 years ago
In old books on gardening it is common to see two kinds of raised bed, one with wooden sides and the other where the earth is raised in a shallow arch from the path level up to the centre of the bed. So the centre is a bit higher than a wooden sided bed would be but the edges are lower. Not sure if I'm making sense. What i'm saying is that this second type of raised bed is arguably as good for food production just not as glossy.
handprints (author)  djsc8 years ago
Yes! I have seen those too. They are quite nice but I will have to be quite alert to the grass creeping into the plants, I like your answer the best because it doesn't require any additional materials. However, knowing my nature...lazy-ish, I'll probably use a different method. Thank you for the post!!!!
djsc handprints8 years ago
thanks, must admit in my parent's garden we have the wooden ones. bricks?
handprints (author) 8 years ago
 I found the motherlode!!  Re-use Hawaii.  They deconstruct buildings and sell usable materials to keep them out of our landfill.   I bought 60 concrete cylinders (about 12 in high, 6 in diameter).  They were only 50 cents each!!  I am using them to elevate wood off the ground and hoping that termites won't come up through my planting area.  We'll see......

Also found concrete and ceramic roofing tiles.  These are turning out to be a little fragile.

AND they have really huge lumber - "faux railroad ties".  I'm kind of changing my mind on the wood deal and want to challenge those darn termites (as far away from the house as possible, of course!)
P.A.Beard8 years ago
Try old buckets bolt together and a stake in the ground? large foot print but fill with earth a few drainage holes and then plant up. low foot print. or you could turn them into earth boxes and try out that way of growing just a few ideas ....Mmmm might try that myself TTFN..a new one for you ..Ta Ta for now ..
handprints (author)  P.A.Beard8 years ago
 That sounds really good.  I only have the plastic 5 gal buckets that tend to crack after awhile in the elements.  Do you have any suggestions where I can get cheap metal buckets?  I know the TTFN code--it is from Winnie the Pooh!!
handprints (author) 8 years ago
Thanks everyone for all of your suggestions!! Today I made either two 23" x 23" by 8" high beds or one 16" tall bed. They are stackable! I used vinyl fencing with corner braces. The beds are pretty small but they were my prototype project. I'm going to see if I can put together an instructable. I just need to place the beds and take photos. I have some digging to do first. Has anyone had the opportunity to try to dig out a ti plant that has been growing for 17 years? their roots are so deep. I dug one plant out two years ago and went down 4ft. I poured concentrated round up on the remnant roots and the darn plant started sending up shoots this year! Truly the symbol of life. Wish me luck on the digging. Also working on a raised bed made of plastic bottles. I hope to post that one as well. We will see! I am very excited!
handprints (author)  handprints8 years ago
I priced out the vinyl bed and it cost me about $30 for each bed. Yikes! I think I could have bought a kit for less money. I hope my plastic bottle bed works out.
handprints (author) 8 years ago
Thanks all! Our local garden store consists of Home Depot and Lowes. We do have a definite moisture issue in our area. I think I'm going to try the pavers in footings of gravel maybe lined with metal flashing (to deter nasty slugs and giant snails). I hesitate to use concrete...it's so permanent. I'm kind of a modular type of person. Grew up on Legos....
Sounds like the pavers might be your thing... There's also the "cottage stone" that everybody and his uncle is selling for retaiining walls now. Super-modular :), but not un-pricey; and, since you have to slope each row back a little bit, may use a larger footprint than you have room for. Much cheaper are good, old, not-nearly-so-attractive-looking cinderblock. If you use them, just be sure to run sturdy supporting rods (plastic-coated rebar would probably be your best bet) down through the cinderblocks holes for vertil supprt/stability. OTOH, if footprint happens not to an issue at all, you can just pile dirt up into a big berm; and amend, improve, and grow stuff in the soil in the middle of the berm. Good luck with your garden! :)
Gorfram Gorfram8 years ago
Errgh! That was supposed to read "down through the cinderblocks' holes for vertical support/stability."
handprints (author)  Gorfram8 years ago
Hi Gorfram, I got what you were getting at the first time :) I used cottage stone for beds in one area of our yard and you're right. They take up too much space. This summer's project involved dismantling the stone and using them in other, more visible areas of our yard. I like the cinderblock idea. What does OTOH mean? My daughter would be mortified that I am even asking.
Oops! Sorry about that: OTOH = On The Other Hand. Your daughter can now go forth in public with her head held high. :)

If you get the cinderblocks that have a rough, sort-of-"natural"-esque, surface on one of the long sides, they won't even look quite so cinder-block-ey. (Especially once moss & stuff starts to grow on them, which, if you're in Hawaii, will be about the time you're loading them into your truck. :)

Speaking of which, you may need to make more than one trip with the cinderblocks. IIRC (If I Remember Correctly), cinderblocks weigh about 40 lbs each. So, if you stop by LoweDepot and buy 50 of them, that's 2000 lbs. = 1 US ton of cinderblocks. They might all easily fit into the bed of your average pickup, but the average truck's drive train & suspension are probably rated (and designed) for a payload of half a ton at most. Bad Things (up to and including a broken axle) could happen if you drove one that badly overloaded.

The owner's manual (or the manufacturer's website, which may be easier to find) will give you the vehicle's load rating, and the fine folks at HomeLowe will usually hold whatever you can't take home right away for you. (Or, for some sort of fee, they can use one of their load-rated-for-the-rock-of-Gibralter heavy duty trucks deliver the whole shebang right to your doorstep.)

GTG (Got To Go): cat is attacking keyboard in bid for kitty-attention.
HTH (Hope This Helps).
handprints (author)  Gorfram8 years ago
thanks for the lessons! luckily, my hub has a big strong truck (V10) for his work and at times, he allows me to drive it. :) you are right about the moss and it is quite pretty. I know what you mean about kitty attn...we have 4. :) thanks!!
I visted Hawaii one Thanksgiving and saw the huge poinsettias growing like foundation shrubs everywhere in people's yards, blooming away like red satin-ey wildfire. I'll never forget coming back to all our Christmas poinsettias here on the mainland, planted in six-inch pots and sporting maybe 2 or 3 blooms - sure didn't make my Return From Paradise any easier. :) Even with your Hubby's V10, please do check its load rating before loading it up with cinderblocks - lots of trucks have engines powerful enough to do just about anything; but have axles, springs and brakes (Hawaii's got lots of hills, I seem to remember....) than aren't up to the same kind of duty. Maybe I'm just a worrywart, but I'd hate for anything bad to happen to you, or to DH's truck.
kylara708 years ago
I am going to build raised beds with cob. Dirt water and grass mixed into mud, formed into brick-like lumps and stacked together to make a wall. I am not sure how/if the water exposure will affect the cob after it is dried but I will let everyone know when I figure it out.
ANDY!8 years ago
cans would look cool.
handprints (author)  ANDY!8 years ago
like soda cans? stacked on their sides? hmmm... let's see. Or did you have a different thought for a can? I did see a "fill plastic bottles with dirt" instructable. Let me think on this.
sure. hey you could plant stuff in the cans!
Build a form and then pour concrete. It's very easy and often a fairly cheap material. Old railway ties might work well. They're preserved (in tar I think) and do a great job of keeping out termites.
handprints (author)  DELETED_GuardianFox8 years ago
alas, no railroads here and our termites are especially aggressive. They even eat through the telephone poles that are preserved in tar! Thank you though!
I really wish you the best :D Good luck!!!
handprints (author)  DELETED_GuardianFox8 years ago
Mahalo! ("thank you" in Hawaiian)
djsc8 years ago
In abook on products for sustainable design I saw recycled plastic lumber. It's made from the kind of plastic that can't be fully recylcled, just sort of granulated and melted together. Apparently you can saw it and screw into it like wood. Don't know where to buy though.
psymansays8 years ago
Termites won't eat redwood. Also, there's a plastic-based wood substitute product made for outdoor decks; I think it's called Tuf-Dek or something along those lines.
handprints (author)  psymansays8 years ago
I don't think our termites read the rules about redwood. We had some builders go out of business selling homes made out of redwood years ago. Our drywood termites are just as bad. I have used the composite wood product for another project, but the widths are limited to decking planks and posts. The product doesn't take nails nicely. Decking screws are okay. Maybe I'll try it on a small patch. I do have some leftover planks that might work. Will take pictures (if it works) :) thanks!
lemonie8 years ago
Pavers would work, or metal? L
mikeasaurus8 years ago
Almost anything will work, just make sure that it is suited for teh weight of the planter and the possibility of exposure to moisture. Maybe take a trip to your local garden centre and see what they have in stock to get some ideas. Even a trip to the hardware store can uncover some interesting alternatives. Pavers, bricks, flat rocks, even a contained bed of gravel might work. Concrete or masonry are always a solid choice