Raised bed gardening can help you manage a small garden by saving you time and money. In this instructable I will show you how to build a couple of free raised bed boxes using pallet wood. Pallets are an excellent source of free materials to build just about anything. Normally they are already heat treated and are in most cases made of hard wood. The raised bed gardens designed here are made for a method of gardening called square foot gardening but you can use these for traditional gardening as well. This raised bed box will be 3' X 6' and will be 1' deep. Lets get started and build some free raised bed garden boxes!
Step 1: Finding Pallets
You can find free pallets anywhere but the best place to start is an industrial area or anyplace you see warehouses. Look for pallets stacked out back or even at the road. If they are near a building just stop in and ask the business if it is ok to take them. More often than not they will have plenty that they are just throwing away and are more than happy to have you take them off their hands. You want to look for pallets that are stamped with HT for heat treated. Most newer pallets are treated this way but some older ones may have used other chemicals that we may want to stay away from.
Step 2: Deconstruction
Once you have your pallets home it is time to start tearing them down into useable wood. Here is where some tools come in handy but if you don't have anything you may want at least a prybar or "wonderbar". I find it easiest to use a sawzall to cut between the main planks and the support boards to cut the nails. You can also use a pry bar or hammer claw to pry out the nails one by one but I have found this may damage some of the wood during that process. Once you have the pallet taken apart you should have a series of planks and notched out 2X4s.
Step 3: Preparing the Planks
You will now need to cut the wood into planks for the raised bed. It is best to have a circular saw for this but a hand saw will also work. Cut the wood into planks of 3 or 4 inch strips. Whether you choose 3 or 4 inches depends on each board and if it has bad spots or cracks, you will want to cut these parts off. You can also cut all of these boards down to 36" pieces. You will end up with a pile of 3" and 4" boards that are all 36" long.
Step 4: Supports
You will also need to cut 6 14" sections of the support 2X4s that came from the pallets as well. These will become the supports for the raised beds for each corner and also for the center of each box.
Step 5: Assembly
Now we are ready to group our wood planks together and get things into place. Our raised bed is going to be 12" tall so you will need to gather together either 3 4" boards or 4 3" boards to make a group. The sides consist of 4 side sections and the 2 ends so you will need a total of 6 groups of boards that will equal 12" tall. You can also lay out the 6 14" pieces of 2X4 that you cut earlier as this will connect the corners and the center of each side.
Step 6: Nails and Screws
Once we having everything laid out you can start joining the side boards to the 14" support 2X4's. Each side section will overlap the center 14" 2X4 halfway and be secured using nails of your choice. The 14" support will extend below the bottom of the sides and corners of the bed by 2". This will give it some stability once you put it on the ground. I used 2 nails per board and pre drilled the holes as to make sure I did not crack the wood when securing it together. I would also recommend adding a support that connects the two middle support pieces together. Using a 2X4 from the pallets you can screw or nail this support about one inch up from the bottom board
Step 7: Trim
This is an optional step but if you want to make them look a little bit nicer you can add some trim around the top. You can purchase some 1X4 and rip it into 2" strips or I was able to find some scrap wood to use while collecting pallets. The trim should be mitered at 45 degree angles in each corner and can be secured with a brad nailer, wood glue, or small nails.
Step 8: Add the Grid
If you are using these as square foot gardens you can add the grid to divide the beds into square foot sections. I used some more scraps of wood from the trim and cut them into 1" strips. I then placed 2 long ways and 5 across the raised bed to make the divisions.
Step 9: Video Details
If you would like a more step by step visual guide please check out the video clip here as well. This goes through the entire process from start to finish.
Step 10: More Sustainable Projects
For more sustainable projects and how-to videos please check out the Simple Suburban Living Blog at www.simplesuburbanliving.com