How to Build a Cheap Raised Bed

Hi folks, first of all, just a reminder that the first Coburg Farmers’ Market is on tomorrow (Saturday), at North Coburg Primary School, on O’Hea Street, from 8am-1pm. Secondly, I’ve written a post on building raised beds below which might be of interest to some.

Hopefully see some of you tomorrow,



I’ve been advancing my guerilla gardening efforts recently, with a significant new raised bed now beautifying my nature strip, as seen in the featured picture. I thought in this post I could provide a brief overview of how to build a cheap raised bed, either for use on your nature strip or in your front or backyards. This overview might seem a bit basic for the handy builders among you, so I direct this post to those who are beginning their journey into guerilla gardening and urban agriculture. I was moved to write this post after attending an environmental festival recently where raised beds like the one I have built were priced between $800 and $1000! Mine cost considerably less than $100, including the soil and plants. I also earned the joy of construction, making me doubly well off. Below I describe the method for building a raised garden bed two boards high, which provides good depth.

First thing you need to get is wood. You should aim for untreated hardwood or railway sleepers. Don’t buy wood brand new – it’s too expensive. In any case, it’s better to recycle, so find yourself a salvage yard. In Melbourne, secondhand hardwood boards can be sourced from between $3 or $4 a metre. Do the math and work out how much wood you need – not just the boards, but also a stake that can be used to attach the boards together (see below). Cut to size.


I then use the small stakes to join the side boards together.

2013-02-22 17.11.04

In situ, attach the end boards to the sideboards, as seen below.

2013-02-22 17.13.43

Then soak lots of newspaper and cardboard in water and then lay it in bottom of the garden bed. This keeps weeds and grass at bay.


A raised bed this size will require a fair amount of soil, and I ordered some in (to supplement backyard too). I highly recommend Bulleen Art and Garden for great soil. Don’t skimp on soil. The cheapest stuff can be more sand than soil, which is no good for growing food. Soil is the foundation of a flourishing garden.


Start filling your bed with soil.


If you can get organised enough, grow your own seedlings rather than buying them. You’ll save lots of money.



Time to plant the bed up!


And in a month or so it will look like this. (Note mandarin tree at the end which I planted a year or so ago.)



Tell me that isn’t a beautiful nature strip! I dream of a day when every nature strip in suburbia looks like this (see Samuel Alexander, “The Sufficiency Economy“).

Obviously, the same building method works just as well in the backyard/front yard.



Finally, see the competition being run by Reclaim the Curb, offering good prize money for Australia’s best curb-side garden bed!

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5 Responses to How to Build a Cheap Raised Bed

  1. david says:

    Thanks, Sam. Great article. Any tips for a good salvage yard in Coburg or nearby?


  2. Admin says:

    Cheers David. There are two on Newlands Road, Nth Coburg. I go to the second one, run by a good fellow called Charlie.

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  4. anne hoban says:

    Hi Sam,
    what are the pros & cons in building a garden bed using timber vs corrugated iron? What are your thoughts re wicking beds are they superior- more durable, more water efficient etc compared to a no-dig/timber?
    thanks, anne

  5. Admin says:

    Hi Anne, thanks for your question. The benefits of timber beds are that they are made from renewable resources, and the materials tend to be cheaper than iron, especially if sources from salvage yards. They are also easier to construct. I’ve never made a garden bed from iron, so can’t comment on them really.
    As for wicking beds, again, I haven’t made one, but I’ve been interested in them for a long time, and I’ve been meaning to construct one. I’ve heard very good things about them.

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