Picture of Natural Wood Raised Garden
This instructable will show you how to make a natural looking raised garden using only small branches, a few thicker logs and some straight timber sections. This design was the product of clearing up a garden and not wanting to dump or burn the branches.  We needed to build a raised garden and had no money - so we threw a little ingenuity at the problem.

Step 1: Design considerations

Picture of Design considerations
The first steps obviously involve a certain amount of design and this will depend on your site, required garden size and other variables that you consider important for your garden. The major variable that I can guide you on will be height of the garden. I have made this garden about waist height, so about 1m high. This is primarily so one can bend over and reach plants toward the rear of the garden. You can make yours any height, however the post hole depth that you will need to dig should be at least the height of the garden. Essentially we are trying to create a retaining wall so be very careful with your design - you don't want to harm anyone from a collapsing raised garden!

Also before you start, ensure you have enough branches. I ended up using more than I could have imagined so give your trees a good trimming! Also if you are building next to a fence (as I have done) ensure that you place a polythene sheet between the fence and the soil to avoid rotting of the fence.

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Squarcio6 months ago

wouldn't the wood rot, placed in earth?

tezcatbus1 year ago
It's been years, and this is still one of my favourite 'ibles. Very clear instructions, clear photos, and reasons given for the steps so that readers can make their own adjustments per their circumstances. Thanks again! I have roughly a cord of sticks from our 25yo eucalyptus tree, as well as trimmings from fruit trees, and I'm gonna make the HECK out of some garden beds this year.
cbaars1 year ago
Our town has a yard waste dump with plenty of free branches. Thanks for the idea.
sydney66812 years ago
Hi--What a great idea and super clear instructions! I have been trying to figure out how to do some terraces to act as raised garden beds on a shallow slope in my yard. Like you I am cash-free, but have sticks-a-plenty!

I had a few thoughts about some of the other comments. About the barrier between the dirt and fence: Canvas, good quality cotton denim/twill, sailcloth or material used for outdoor awnings and cushions could be helpful, and it seems all you would need would be a good sized scrap.(Maybe free? It could happen!) You could stretch it over a frame like an artist canvas. For added strength you could even laminate a few layers of fabric with water based glue like elmers, then lean it against the fence. Use a few 2x4 scraps to make spacers, or lean on the fence posts-just to make an air space. It would be quite strong--the fabric would probably outlast the wood!

I think a layer of tightly woven fabric between the sticks and dirt might slow their deterioration as well. But really, it's not such a bit deal, is it? Stick decays, go get another stick. No sweat!

Thanks again for the inspiring project!
Very cool & such a great way to upcycle.Thank you for sharing this incredible idea, it really is beautiful
ddamrill4 years ago
This simply looks awesome and natural. I wish we had a bunch of trees to prune:)
rexdino55 years ago
I might try to make one too! I'm not sure where to find a lot of good branches. Maybe from my backyard? Any suggestions?
Go outside... :) Lots of places you could just go out to the country with a forest, go in, grab fallen branches, take help!! :) My wife and I were just talking about doing this and had the same question and both kinda laughed at ourselves... plenty of lumber mother nature gives to us... namaste
Ric464 years ago
If you have access to wire, you could weave wire into the sticks as you assemble it . This would provide some stability to the walls. I like the idea of cardboard to line the inside. Maintenance could be as simple as building a new wall of sticks outside of the old wall, and leaving the old wall in place.
vincent75204 years ago
Simple and very beautiful.
Thanks for posting.
jmiller39315 years ago
Great idea. I love the way it looks, however, I would not put dirt directly against the fence like that. It will dramatically accelerate rotting of the fence boards and post. The wimpy fence boards will eventually bow outward as well.
It looks like a layer of black plastic would prevent rot as for the pressure of soil and eventually water bowing out the fence I think you are right. perhaps the stick wall completely around the raised bed would be a nice fix and really complete this great idea. The sticks would allow for optimal drainage and aeration of the soil. as long as there are enough holes in the plastic against the stick walls. I am afraid that doing work in the bed would ruin it if one cannot reach the back by hand.
Plastic in the garden….yikes!
The two main reasons for having a home garden is to reduce costs of produce and eat produce with less chemicals.
I have been following some really cleaver recycling plastic products in the garden. The projects make sense except for the issue of BPA. If you don’t know about BPA or how harmful it can be I suggest you spend the next hour in google and research the harmful effects of BPA.
I should also tell you; if you are American you have a 100% chance that BPA is already in your blood stream.
If you really want to jump start your education you should read Mercola’s story – titled “232 Toxic Chemicals found in 10 Babies” here is a fast take on it:
Laboratory tests commissioned by the Environmental Working Group have detected bisphenol A (BPA), a plastic component and synthetic estrogen, in umbilical cord blood of American infants.
Nine of 10 randomly selected samples of cord blood tested positive for BPA, an industrial petrochemical.
BPA has been implicated in a lengthening list of serious chronic disorders, including cancer, cognitive and behavioral impairments, endocrine system disruption, reproductive and cardiovascular system abnormalities, diabetes, asthma and obesity.
In all, the tests found as many as 232 chemicals in the 10 newborns, all of minority descent. The cord blood study has produced hard new evidence that American children are being exposed, beginning in the womb, to complex mixtures of dangerous substances that may have lifelong consequences.
Are you really going to use plastic with your organic produce?
tjesse tpyo4 years ago
The bubble you live in is made of plastic.
Tell it to the person who wrote the instructable !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I merely pointed out irvinejamie's procedure for someone who obviously didn't take the time to read the directions which I'm quite sure you didn't either. If you have issues with environmental contaminants write a letter to the EPA and FDA and your congressman not on here.. And make a change by your own personal decisions/actions daily. Tell me what data have you collected on the uptake of BPA from soil to plant tissues? or even from plastic to soil? Have there even been any studies? I don't even know what type of plastic was used in this project. What about the gigantic land fills let alone someones backyard and tomatoes. just a few questions you should ask yourself, which I am curious about too, before you go spoutin' off all righteous like. Babies chewing on plastic toys and people eating and drinking off of plastic is a direct route for BPA contamination. Super markets use plastic to package all sorts of organic produce all the time in direct contact with what we eat not buffered by soil hummus. It is the type of plastic that we must be aware of. For example HDPE  is high density polyethelene and is considered food grade and non chemically reactive. Is the black plastic in question made from this? Perhaps you should think about how your posted comment detracts from this ingenious idea. I'm sure that if you were to make this project yourself you could probably bundle the sticks tight enough and line the bottom with wood in order to not use plastic at all to keep the vermin and weeds at bay sealing in the good composted soil for the plants. All in all a great project to inspire home gardeners.
While I agree it seems that no studies have been done to examine the transmission of BPA to soil and then plant tissues, but that seems very irrelevant when you consider both the excessive cost and therefore virtual impossibility of such a study being conducted without some serious backing/regulatory enforcement and on the other hand the fact that IF such a path does exist, you are KILLING or (maybe even worse) damaging, debilitating, and otherwise seriously effing up yourself, your family, etc..

I think I'll take the cooky unsupported  side on this one...
Polyethylene is not polymerized with BPA like polycarbonate is. See my next post. So glug glug down those BPA's from your polycarbonate nalgene bottle and be irrational about using plastic in your garden, i really dont care what you do. If you truly wanted to err on the side of caution then try not using any plastics at all in direct or indirect contact with you or your food for just 1 day. It ain't happening unless you live in a third world country. What do you do when you wake up in the morning? Shove a piece of plastic in your mouth to brush your teeth with, every day twice a day. I think the black plastic underground is the least of concern in terms of potential contaminates entering the body.
The aforementioned study can be done easily and at very low cost in any modern chem lab from samples taken from my backyard or probably from the yards of many people living on your street. This plastic is ubiquitous in landscape architecture. I could do the analysis at home myself if I had a HPLC mass spec machine. I am sorry if you take this post the wrong way ALiveOne. I just think that knowledge about materials and their chemistry is the best way to protect oneself from the potential cornucopia of hazards we have in a highly industrial commercial society. I believe in being super green and I love the environment. That is why I work for an environmental toxicology lab upholding EPA regulations and have a degree in biology. Testing sediments (dirt) and water for toxicants are part of my daily job. This is my advice and new mnemonic about plastics   " # 7&3 bad for me! Everything else don't worry."
Take it the wrong way? this is rational discourse at its finest.  Yes, yes I understand that the latest poster child of deforming chemicals we feed ourselves is (BPA), actually I think they've moved on to attacking the alloy they make Sigg bottles out of now but that could be rumurous, isn't neccesarily a concern in this situation (although I am still not sold, once again, show me the study that say it WON'T kill me, cause I don't oiperate the other way around like the EPA does.)  The big point here, which I think you missed once again, is that while we can do individual tests and figure out (after the fact) which chemicals hurt us and how they can get into our bodies, we don't know much about why this keeps happening.  Also, everytime it happens, one might notice that they move to a new plastic and guess what?  That one causes cancer too, only we won't know until we have it.  So stick with your mnemonics if you like, but I don't trust it one bit.

And yes for reference I do try to limit the amount of syntehtic materials touching my food at all costs, although I think my skins does a good enough job keeping it out when I touch it, I still don't wear synthetics much at all (for a backpacker, skier, and climber, that is excessively odd).

As another note on the ubiquity of plastic in the landscape:  While you may test soil, I have worked laying it down as a landscaper and I can tell you that not once have I put plastic in a garden.  Never.

So to recap:

1)  It doesn't make sense for people to ask for studies to prove that something WILL kill you, I'd rather be assured that it will NOT....

2)  It's not as hopeless as everyone makes it out to be, we can survive the materials explosions that is also causing a disease explosion (and yes I believe we can solve it through materials science not by moving into wood huts).

The plastic in question is a polyethylene sorry I misspelled it before. assuming the author did not lie. Which is a 1,2,4 class none of which uses BPA in polymerization.

There are seven classes of plastics used in packaging applications. Type 7 is the catch-all "other" class, and some type 7 plastics, such as polycarbonate (sometimes identified with the letters "PC" near the recycling symbol) and epoxy resins, are made from bisphenol A monomer.[4][17]

Type 3 (PVC) can also contain bisphenol A as an antioxidant in plasticizers.[4]

Types 1 (PET), 2 (HDPE), 4 (LDPE), 5 (polypropylene), and 6 (polystyrene) do not use bisphenol A during polymerization or package forming.[citation needed] [18]

jamieicecream (author)  tpyo5 years ago
 I was unaware this was such a big issue. Personally I built this garden next to a fence as this was the only place for it. I would not recommend this without stabilizing the fence first using plywood boards (untreated) or a fibre-cement board between the soil and the fence. However these may need to be replaced after a few years. The plastic sheeting was something we had lying around and since it is commonly used for waterproofing house foundations from moisture, I decided to use it. If you are attempting to attain a totally organic solution, definitely do not use plastic sheeting but use sticks, bricks or something that does not leach chemicals into the soil. 
cathrynm4 years ago
I love this as a starting point for my own take on recycling "tree trash" from my backyard - I bought a home this past year with nearly an acre of unfenced yard and as I don't have the finances for all that I would like to do, I have been pondering the best way to use all the downed tree trash in the back yard for a short term fencing solution. Take the larger posts you've used at the edges, drill a hole near the top and bottom, drill similar holes in the thinner "stringing material," then string those pieces until the space between the thicker posts are filled in. This fence can be as tall or as short as you might want (to keep your critters corralled) and should last a few years till it can be replaced with a more permanent fence! Thank you for the great 'ible and the idea! :)
chiirioz4 years ago
AWESOME Idea. I am in the process of doing this even though it's fall.... should have found this earlier. Oh well.

I'm also curious as to preventing rot on the sticks and how the creator's raised bed is doing now.

I have some left over thin logs that I'm going to use instead of a bunch of sticks. Perhaps I'll line the inside with some straight planks of store-bought wood and still get the attractive exterior and also a layer of tarp or something.
canida4 years ago
Wow, that's gorgeous!
lej6195 years ago
wow I really want to make one. now just to figure out where to put it. Then to head to the hills and get the sticks. lol
Jademadina5 years ago
wow this brillant Ive got most of what I need in my back garden.  Cant wait to get started. Woohoo.
I love italics as well.

Anyway, I've been thinking about building a raised garden for quite a while now to eliminate the tedious task of weeding. Thanks for the inspiration.
erosser5 years ago
 Looks great!  Nice work!
This is wonderful.  How much time did it take?  I want to do this now...but too much snow outside!!!!!
 the buiding period took about 3 days - defiently them most time consuming part is tightly placing all of the twigs together as it is trial and error.
Qcks5 years ago
This is a weird thought, but rather then inhibiting rot, why not encourage it? 

If you seeded the sticks with mushroom spawn, you'd have wild mushroom down low, and interesting plants up top.
I've also heard that encouraging mushroom growth promotes healthier plants since the fungus can form symbiotic relationships with root systems.

The downside being you'd hafta eventually redo the raised bed, but there's always maintainence.
Spanner695 years ago
I am also wondering about rot ... but not in the sticks above ground but below ground. Have ou treated them with anything to inhibit rotting below ground?

I think this looks fantastic and in a world where work does not interfere with my gardening time I would be more than happy to build and MAINTAIN this wonderfully looking garden bed.

Maybe if you had access to a beekeeper who throws out his / her bees wax you could use that as a rot inhibitor underground on each of the sticks and the main posts.

Just a random left field thought.
Ezara5 years ago
It looks beautiful. Was it difficult or very slow sawing all those sticks?
-chase-5 years ago
Nice work - good thinking on your part.

And it looks nice enough to have me wonder and think it would be interesting to see your design implemeted in different types of wood sticks on a whole depending on and reflecting the area of the country it was built.
Birch, Cedar etc etc.

food for thought for sure.

schroedc5 years ago
Beautiful, earthy, finished design.  Love it.
rhoula5 years ago
Wow this looks like an excellent Idea. Just a small comment though, wouldn't be better if you used the same kind of branches instead of the straight timber sections.

Over all it looks beautiful thank you for sharing :)
Use plastic and future gardeners will be cursing your name for the next fifty years every time they try to dig in your piece of earth and keep coming up with chunks of black plastic - after they manage to cut thought it.  I suggest layers and layers of cardboard behind the branches.  By the time the branches are ready to rot the cardboard will have already improved the tilth of the soil,kept plants from coming between the sticks, and retained the soil.  It's even earth colored when wet.  PS Nothing on this world is permanent and gardeners know that better then anyone.
You've given me something to think about.  I have some bamboo that needs a major cut back.  I have held off because I didn't want to just waste it.  I don't ygarden much but I could build raised bads without and material outlay except for some top soil.  The nice, straight bamboo should make an excellent wall.

Suzanne in Orting
spylock5 years ago
Awsome!That just gave me an idea to do my small pond without having to dig,I hated the thought of having to dig,thanks.
AmyLuthien5 years ago
WOW!  That is really attractive, and such a smart idea!  Thanks!
It would be interesting to use this idea for an outdoor bench as well--of course, you would have to have a big yard or get branches from your neighbors to fill in all the way!
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