In this post, I’ll show you how to make raised beds cheaply from pallet wood. Seriously, it’s a quick project. I love the look of the bed (I love the look of pallet wood!) and the height of it is just right. But best of all, it was free to put together! I’ll share with you where I get my pallets from and how I use them. I am sure you can get them for free too, all you need are screws. Let’s begin…
I planted a huge garden at my farm earlier this spring. It’s right across the road from the house we live in and I consider those 20 acres as my personal playground. I get to play with the tractor and plant whatever the heck I want.
It all was going great, I set up a huge Back-to-Eden garden full of glorious wood chips and simple but super awesome trellises. (Read: How to Set Up a Back-to-Eden Garden and How to Build Tomato Trellis), I planted the whole garden with wonderful seeds and it all germinated beautifully.
Then, I flew to Israel with the kids to visit family. I had a good friend keeping my garden while I was there. All was well.
Until I got back and as we say in these lovely parts… Shit hit the fan.
It didn’t hit the garden! The garden would actually benefit from almost any kind of poop you’d put on it.
It hit me. Oh well.
Long story short… Separation, divorce, yadda, yadda, yadda… I had to let the garden go for the summer cause there was simply too much drama to handle.
But then the storm died and August came rolling in and I always plant a fall garden in August. But the garden at the farm was a mess. It was buried under a jungle of weeds and it would have taken me weeks to clean it up. So I figured I’d start fresh and this time I’d take it easy (this my friends, is shocking if you know me!). Small, close to the house, easy to care for… Those were my thoughts.
How to Make Raised Beds Cheaply From Pallet Wood…
My house is surrounded by grass so if I wanted a garden close to the house I’d have to set it on the lawn and use raised beds. (Read: How to Start a Garden Where Grass is Currently Growing). I had a huge budget of $0 for this project.
I looked around and gathered some frames (wooden and metal) that I had laying around and transferred a couple of wooden beds I had at the farm across the road to where the house is (you can see how I made those in Building Raised Garden Beds – a Simple and Quick Construction) but still, I was missing one bed.
Every time I miss something I turn to my pile of pallet wood. One reason is that my kids play with this wood all the time and they take things from the house and leave them in between the planks, so really, you can find a whole lot of missing items there. The other reason is that it simply holds many answers for someone with a project in mind and a huge budget of $0.
I’ve built a chicken coop with pallet wood (read: How to Build a Chicken Coop From Pallet Wood), I’ve built garden beds, I am in the midst of working on a smoker – it’s a never-ending source of activity for my kids and so on.
I try to make sure my pile of pallet wood is always full. I get some of my pallets from car dealers here and there or from a feed plant we have in town. I go and get my chicken and goat feed and pick up a few pallets if I need them.
Now, this may sound all glorious, but let me tell you… I discovered that pallets don’t breakdown themselves. It was a shocking discovery, but what was even more shocking was to discover that I didn’t have super-hero pallet breaking abilities like all the lovely people on YouTube that show you how to break a pallet apart in 2.46 minutes.
Not me, sir. More like 30 minutes (and that’s after I rounded down, ya know).
Anyway, I still like doing it because I like the look of the pallet wood, it’s free, and I am in no hurry to go anywhere.
But I just wanted to make sure you know all this in case you don’t possess the superpowers of pallet breaking as well.
To break the pallets, I mark all my to boards 37”, then I cut the two ends with a circular saw (those pieces go to the firewood pile), and then I wrestle with the planks until I release them from the middle plank. Lastly, I hammer out any nails if there are any still left in my boards.
They go in a beautiful pile that is covered with a tarp and are always there for me, ready to go.
Before we start building the raised garden bed, you might be wondering…
Is It Safe to Build a Raised Garden Bed From Pallet Wood?
The answer is yes and no. Very helpful Lee, thank you.
The thing is, there are many different kinds of pallets and they are all treated differently. See in the picture above the little stamp on the square block on the bottom pallet? This is what you are looking for for the answer.
If the stamp says HT it means that the pallet was treated with heat and not chemicals and it is safe to use. If it says MB it means that it was treated with Methyl bromide fumigation which is a pesticide that is no good for us.
If there is no stamp it means that it’s a domestic pallet (it didn’t come from overseas) and those are usually safe to use.
This is the short answer, if you want to dig in further you can visit this article.
Take into consideration that there is a lot you can do with a treated pallet. There are many projects that do not involve growing food that you can use those pallets for. Also, I think it will be annoying to whoever is giving you free pallets if you start sifting and sorting them at pick up time.
Personally, I just pick up whatever I can and look for the stamp when I unload at home. Most of the pallets I picked up so far had no stamp on them.
How to Make Raised Beds Cheaply From Pallet Wood…
Once you have the planks it’s super easy to make the bed. As I said before, I have all mine already cut to 37” long. Magically it all fit perfectly in the space I had.
I found some scrap pieces of 2 x 4 lumber and used a miter saw to cut them to the height of two pallet wood planks…
I drilled a couple of pilot holes and used deck screws to connect the pallet wood to the 2 x 4.
This is how it looks from the outside. I did the two long sides of the bed this way and then moved on to putting the whole thing together…
I found some scrap 4 x 4 lumber and used the miter saw again to cut four pieces to the height of two pallet wood planks. I then drilled a couple of pilot holes in each plank and used deck screws to screw one 4 x 4 piece to the end of each of the long sides I worked on before.
Lastly, to close the rectangle, I screwed the two planks of the short sides of the bed to the 4 x 4s following the same process of drilling pilot holes and using the deck screws.
I know there are screws that you don’t have to drill pilot holes for but I haven’t had a chance to put my hands on them yet. I have a huge box of deck screws in the shed so I use them for now. It’s better to take the extra minute and drill the holes to make sure the wood doesn’t split.
I also like using screws for everything instead of nails since I like to know that I can easily break things apart and put them back together if I ever need to.
Super simple, right? It only took 30 minutes or so to put this together since I had the planks ready to go.
Now you might be wondering…
Should I Paint or Stain My Pallet Wood Garden Bed?
I don’t have a super exact answer for you. Some people don’t feel comfortable doing this cause they think the chemicals in the paint will leach into the soil and will affect their vegetables.
Some say it doesn’t matter and some use non-toxic, low or zero VOC paint.
It’s up to you. If you are using heat treated pallet wood you can just leave it as it is and not mess with it. If you want to protect the wood from the elements you can stain or paint it. Personally, I think breathing is probably more toxic.
It fit perfectly into my space and it is a perfect height. I placed some straw on the bottom (it decomposes fast and feeds the plants)…
Filled it full of aged cow manure, planted my seeds…
And enjoyed my fall harvest!
I expect to be using this bed for many more years. I also love the fact that if something happens to one of the planks I can simply unscrew it and replace it with another. I mean, it can’t be any more simple than that.
What do you think about building raised beds from pallet wood? What do you think about pallet wood for homesteading projects in general? Do you use it? If you do, please share what kinds of projects have you been using it for. I’d love to know!
Lady Lee is a single mother of four, she was born in Israel and raised in an agricultural commune called a Kibbutz. From a very young age, she was very interested in agriculture and farming.
She is a former IDF fitness trainer and is passionate about simple, natural living. She now lives in NC with her four kids, dog, cat, goats, ducks, and chickens.