When it comes to building a raised garden bed, the possibilities are numerous.
Raised beds can come in countless shapes, sizes, layouts, and materials. From wood, metal, stone and plastic to wine bottles, dressers, animal troughs, canoes and cardboard boxes, there is no shortage of creative ways to dream above ground gardens.
Typically, the more expensive the material used to build a loft bed, the more durable and long-lasting it will be. Still, you can find high-quality materials at a fraction of the cost by upgrading, recycling, and cleaning your building supplies.
Whether you're flipping your materials or just buying them from the store, not all loft bed materials are up to the task.
The 8 Best Raised Bed Materials
A good raised bed material should be durable, easy to use, and safe to use around people, plants, and soil. If it's easy on the eyes too, it won't hurt either.
Other things to consider before using a raised bed material include cost, availability in your area, how the material will perform in your particular climate, and whether you prefer a permanent structure or something that can be moved.
The traditional loft bed building material is wood, and for good reason. The wood forms an attractive raised bed that will blend beautifully with the natural garden setting.
It's also probably the most versatile - the wood can be easily cut to size, and only the most basic building skills are required to piece it together.
There are endless design options when working with wood. Wooden loft beds can be made in any size, height and shape to suit your garden landscape. Build the classic 6'x4' rectangular planter box. Or build loft beds and keyhole beds for better accessibility. Cascading tiered frames and corner beds create beautiful focal points and keep things visually interesting.
Milled planks are strong and durable, usually for several years before they start to deteriorate. But they eventually rot.
Use natural rot-resistant woods, such as cedar and cypress, and seal them before construction for the longest-lasting wooden raised beds.
Wood logs, branches, and sticks provide a very rustic alternative to planks, and you can usually find them for almost no cost.
Locally harvested logs can also be one of the most environmentally friendly ways to source wood building supplies.
Wooden logs and branches can be stacked to form a frame or arranged vertically around the perimeter. Another option is to weave long, flexible branches into a wattle fence to hold your garden soil.
Masonry, such as natural stone and brick, is an excellent raised bed material that will last almost forever.
Perfect for informal and formal garden settings, masonry will create a strong and durable frame that requires little maintenance. These materials can take on a variety of shapes and forms, making them particularly suitable for curved and contoured walls that embrace winding paths.
In temperate climates, masonry raised beds can help extend the growing season. As a radiator, the stonework will absorb heat from the sun during the day and release the accumulated heat into the soil at night.
That said, masonry can be quite expensive when you need a lot. It is heavy and difficult to use.
If you want to build deep raised beds, you may need to use mortar or cement to hold them together, which makes the frame a permanent part of the hardscape.
Granite, sandstone, limestone, rough, slate, slate, basalt, and pebbles are just some of the options for natural stone.
The stones were formed millions of years ago, and their composition and appearance depended on what minerals happened to be nearby at the time. For example, granite is a mixture of quartz, feldspar, and plagioclase, while limestone is mainly composed of calcite and aragonite.
Combinations of minerals can produce a spectacular array of colors and patterns. Some natural gemstones may be multi-colored, mottled or sparkling. Others have smooth, muted and earthy tones.
Stone is available in natural irregular shapes or pre-cut into blocks for easy stacking.
Bricks are usually made of clay and come in a variety of colours – from red to shades of grey, blue, yellow and cream.
Because of their consistent size, it is easy to accurately calculate the number of bricks needed to build a raised bed.
Raised beds made of brickwork can be stacked horizontally in an interlocking fashion or angled to create zig-zag edges.
Using recycled brick in your garden is better for the environment (and your wallet). Your local Habitat for Humanity can be an excellent source of recycled building materials like bricks.
Metal raised beds are gaining popularity among gardeners who love their sleek and modern look. And they're super durable and can last 30 years or more.
Like stone, metal is a heat sink that prolongs your growing season so you can garden early in the spring and later in the fall.
In humid climates, metal raised beds are a good option, as they won't rot like wood. To prevent your loft bed from rusting, always use galvanized metal.
Even if you don't like the steely look of metal raised beds, you can paint them a fun or neutral color to help soften the look.
oil storage tank
The easiest option for a metal raised bed is a storage tank. Easy to install and requires no assembly, tanks are large troughs for feeding farm animals.
These come with rounded or rectangular edges and can be placed on the gardening spot of your choice. Just add some drainage holes at the bottom and you're good to go.
Tanks can be a permanent feature in the garden, but are also not too difficult to move. This provides more flexibility when your design ideas change with the seasons.
Using some corrugated sheet metal, metal flash, deck screws, and wood (optional), you can build your own galvanized steel loft bed.
DIY It will have full control over the finished size, height and shape of the bed.
There are plenty of tutorials out there - here's one for setting up a metal panel inside a wood frame.
That's right, you don't necessarily need a frame to enjoy all the benefits of gardening above the soil line.
German for "hill culture," hügelkultur involves making mounds from decaying wood, organic matter, and compost.
Once you have finished layering your material, the hill will be about 3 feet tall.
Here's everything you need to know about building a hügelkultur loft bed.
You can make countless designs by stacking soil between paths - keyholes, concentric circles, spirals, and more.
The result is a charming and completely unique raised bed that will add a lot of visual interest to the surrounding landscape.
5 Raised Bed Materials You Shouldn't Use
Whether you plan to grow food or flowers in a raised garden bed, it's wise to avoid materials that can leach toxins into the soil.
Heavy metals and other chemicals can accumulate in the soil near raised beds, but they can also spread farther than your garden's confines. Toxic pollutants are most mobile in clay, sandy or moist soils, where they end up in the water table.
The first rule of gardening really should be: do no harm. Here are the worst raised bed materials that can have a dire impact on the environment:
pressure treated wood
Before 2004, copper chromate arsenate (CCA) was the most widely used wood preservative. Discontinued due to concerns about arsenic exposure, alkaline copper quaternary (ACQ) is the standard wood treatment these days.
While it's far less toxic than its predecessor, ACQ contains large amounts of copper, which can leach into the surrounding soil.
Copper is highly toxic to fish and aquatic life, and the use of ACQ pressure-treated wood to house moist soil increases the likelihood of copper seeping into watersheds.
Wooden pallets can be an inexpensive and waste-free way to build your bed -- but beware of those that say "MB".
Methyl bromide is a broad-spectrum insecticide that is extremely harmful to human health. Treated wood is not recommended for use in any way.
It easily kills fungi, insects, roundworms, and even rodents. MB trays emit exhaust gas into the atmosphere, directly destroying the ozone layer.
In any DIY pallet project, whether indoors or outdoors, only use pallets printed with "HT" or heat-treated. This means the tray is sterilized at 132°F and above for at least 30 minutes. The HT tray is completely safe to upgrade to loft beds and beyond.
Wooden railway sleepers are treated with creosote, another harsh insecticide that should never be used around humans and plants.
Creosote is a soot that repels termites, fungi and other pests. It is made from tar from coal, petroleum and other fossil fuels.
Prolonged and frequent exposure to creosote railroad sleepers is not only harmful to human health, but can also penetrate into the soil and cause damage to plants, insects and small animals.
Cinder blocks made from fly ash or coal particles contain arsenic, lead, mercury and other heavy metals. While cinder blocks haven't been mass-produced for about 50 years, if you're using recycled materials to make your raised bed, you may want to avoid them altogether.
Modern concrete blocks look the same as old cinder blocks, but are made from Portland cement and other aggregates. Concrete is considered non-toxic and safe to use in the garden. However, the concrete industry has a huge carbon footprint and is one of the major producers of CO2 globally.
The effort to upgrade junk into something useful is truly admirable, but some items — like used tires — are generally best avoided in the garden.
Tires contain cadmium, lead and other harmful substances that could theoretically seep into the soil. Some believe that used tires release most of the toxins in their first year on the road, and they take decades to degrade.
But the jury is still out on the issue. To date, no scientific studies have been conducted to determine whether used tires contaminate garden soil. But why take the risk? Especially when using raised beds to grow food, it's better to be safe than sorry.
Once your raised beds are built and ready, the next thing you'll want to do is fill them with rich and healthy soil.
Finally, it's time to start growing - here are the best fruits and vegetables to grow in raised beds - and the worst!
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