How to build a raised bed from pallet wood

This post originally appeared on the Sustainable Witney website.

A few weekends ago I dismantled a wooden pallet, yielding a surprising amount of wood. Last weekend I reassembled this wood into a raised bed.

As before, there are plenty of guides out there on how to put a raised bed together from pallets: here’s one way to do it although there are plenty of others within searching distance. Anyway, this was the method I broadly followed, with (as before) a few interesting observations which I mention below.

  • Different plank heights.You might find that some planks are “higher” than others, in the sense that when you put three or four together to make a side of the bed, the result is also higher. It’s not a big deal: you can still nail different-height sides together exactly the same. I was lucky that two of my planks had split from 14cm to 10cm along their length; this meant I was able to basically arrange the planks so that no two sides met at a different height. But you can ignore it or saw down one or two planks.
  • Different plank thicknesses. This is a bit harder to deal with. Firstly, the uprights don’t nail well to three or four planks of different thicknesses – everything rocks about. Then, when you’re nailing the sides together, there are gaps at the corners. Use thin pieces of wood first as props, then to fill the gaps: we had a lap fence panel blow down about a year ago, and we still have thin shims of wood left over.
  • Nails poking through. If you’re nailing together two 17mm (2/3″) planks, then a 38mm (1.5″) nail will poke through. This does mean you need to be careful assembling, filling and tending to the bed; but you want the nail to grip both planks, and it won’t do that if it’s lost inside the wood of one of the two. Take care assembling, filling and lining the bed; wear suitable gloves.
  • Making your first side-to-side join. If you’re working alone – not recommended from a safety perspective, but maybe your companion isn’t strong enough to support wood in mid-air – you’ll need to make the first join with the two sides on the floor. Prop one up with one end flush against a wall; prop a second one against it, leaning on it at the corner. Keep them braced with garden objects, rocks etc, as you micro-manoeuver them into a good right angle and start banging in nails in the direction of the wall, which will stop one side from zooming away under the force of your hammering.
  • Uprights will split under the strain of too many nails. The upright pieces for a given side will split if you put lots of thick corner-joining nails into them. Consider drilling the thicker holes first, or even offsetting the uprights from the corners so you’re only nailing throught horizontal pieces. Either way, expect at least some wood to split.

Again, despite all this, things worked out very well. Here’s the end result:

raised_bed

The long-term idea is to line this bed (to avoid that blue paint – or any fungus – leaching in), fill it with soil, and use it for “square-foot gardening“; or, in this case, “625cm2 gardening.” Given each side of the bed is 1m, then I can divide it up into 16 smaller squares of side 25cm, using twine stretched across the top, and grow different crops in each square. I hope to blog more about that at a later date, maybe after the Met Office stops predicting snow!

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