Posted by: Small House Under a Big Sky Homestead | April 2, 2014

Free to Frugal Raised Garden Beds

There are so many varied ways to make raised garden beds today, including free to frugal to pricy, that so many options makes my head spin. And just today, I read about another popular one; using heat treated pallet wood (look for the HT stamp on the wood) to build them. Wow, so much amazing creativity out  there.

Here’s that approach I am using for raised beds at the Small House Under a Big Sky:

STONES: Some of my beds are raised using medium sized stone I have collected from farmers’ fields and along the roadsides over the years. They have been filled with soil and bark chips to raise them slightly. This is a rustic cottage garden look that I enjoy.

Birdbed stone raised bed east

I raised our bird feeding bed using field stones, soil and bark chips.

If you follow my blog, http:/smallhouseunderabigsky you know that we had some SERIOUS flooding here on our land in SW Michigan. I lost a lot of my landscaping due to plants sitting under water for months at a time. However, the raised bed area almost all survived! As a result, I’m now a big fan of raised beds for this and for all the other reasons (the soil heats up quicker and stays drier, less bending so easier to plant and harvest and so on.)

They really do not have to be as raised as you might think in order to be effective.

CEDAR: One spring that we were feeling flush, we bought these cedar boards and build two large beds for newly planted strawberries plants. Through the years they have been “nursery beds” for small plants that need to grow more before being transplanted into their permanent places. These cedar edged beds are now being used for butterfly bushes and various perennials.

Cedar raised bed

Two layers of cedar boards are expensive but last a very ling time. These have been in use for 11 years so far.

RAILROAD TIES: These repurposed railroad ties were here on our property when we moved in. We moved them to a sunny location and repurposed them for our use. These are very old (at least 20 years) and most likely no longer carry any creosote but that is something you should watch out for if you desire to use them for food. When the White Oak Gallery was open, they held a colorful cutting garden and now are planted with more butterfly bushes, forsythia plants I have created from cuttings and flowering perennials.


Repurpose railroads ties hold butterfly bushes and other shrubs and perennial plants.

LOGS: last fall I needed to get some temporary beds quickly set up quickly in the fenced in vegetable garden. Ideally I would have liked for my husband to have built me some permanent cedar beds but there wasn’t time. So I went into the woods and to the firewood pile and selected some long logs that had not yet been cut down to fireplace size. I added my homemade compost and leaves and tada….I had some temporary raised beds. I’ll be moving these beds around as I recreate the vegetable garden design and rebuild the chicken house, so temporary was a good idea after all.

Leaf beds nice use

Log sections make a quick and cheap raised bed too.

BRICKS: These brick planters along side of our house driveway were here when we moved in. I would never had built them but since they were already built I am using them for perennials plants to bring color to the front of our home.


Brick planters hold sun loving plants along the roadside in front of our home.

If you want to see a great curated version of raised beds from pallets, go to this Hometalk link for some great ideas

Small House / Big Sky Donna



  1. I too am a big fan of raised beds. As you say they warm up earlier and can be planted when the lower land is still wet. We use old scaffold boards and leftover cement blocks.

  2. I’ll be very curious to know how long “old scaffolding boards” hold up? I always wonder if the cost of cedar wood is really worth it for raised beds….Just doing an informal “survey!”

  3. Don’t know how long they’ll last but so far so good. I reckon they will last about ten years.

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