garden beds

How To Build Cheap Raised Garden Beds With Free Pallets

Have you wanted to start a garden but you feel like you just don’t have the space or money for it? Create your own garden beds with this tutorial on how to build a cheap raised garden beds with free pallets.  Learn  more about this tutorial.

What if you could build garden beds for next to nothing and plant a plethora of goods in them?

If you’re ready to try your hand at becoming a green thumb, then raised garden beds need to be on your “to-do” list.

Cheap raised garden beds can be constructed from pallets which can be obtained for free from many businesses. What is even better is that they usually come pre-treated so they are already setup to stand up to the elements.

Raised beds are also great since they tend to have fewer problems with garden pests then planting directly in the ground. These garden beds are designed for square foot gardening.

Square foot gardening maximizes your growing potential in limited space. A 16 square foot garden holds an average of 130 plants!

Keep in mind that to grow enough produce for a family of four, you’ll want a bed for each family member. You’ll also want to budget for soil and seeds – many vegetables can be regrown from cuttings or saved seeds so do your research before you begin planting.

You’ll want to keep the kids away and wear protective eye wear and gloves while tackling this project. You’ll be cutting nails from the pallets and the wood is prone to splintering.

Consider making this a group project or creating a community garden. It’s a great way to draw friends and family together and keep them coming back. Gardens need attention to thrive just like communities do!

Materials Required 

This project does involve tools beyond the gloves and safety glasses we mentioned. While you could certainly get the job done using manual tools like a hammer and hand saw – it will be quicker and more efficient to use the power tools listed.

If possible, you’ll want to have these on hand for the project –

Reciprocating Saw
Circular Saw
Power drill
Hammer or Nail Gun

The number of pallets you’ll need will vary depending on the condition of the wood. You really can never have too many pallets though since there’s so many great uses for them. We say stock up on them when you can!


Step-by-Step Instructions

1. Find Your Pallets for the Garden Bed

find pallets for a raised garden bed

How To Build Cheap Raised Garden Beds With Free Pallets

As the popularity of pallet projects has increased so has the demand for pallets. It’s gotten harder to find free pallets.

Be a good neighbor and avoid brushes with the law by not just taking any found pallets – even if they are outside a business. Always make it a point to ask if you can have them.

Many times distribution centers will receive pallets that don’t conform to their recycling standards and they simply dispose of them. New businesses might also have a surplus of pallets as equipment, furniture and supplies get delivered.

Don’t forget to check Craigslist and Freecycle as well. Double check you pallets to make sure they say “HT” for Heat Treated – otherwise you’ll have dangerous chemicals leaching into your soil!

Pro Tip: Check with plumbing companies, builders and other construction related companies for the best quality pallets. They often receive deliveries on pallets and don’t participate in recycling programs so their pallets are relatively new.


2. Deconstruct To Construct

pull apart pallets for a raised garden bed

How To Build Cheap Raised Garden Beds With Free Pallets

Pallets are made to hold a TON of weight. The entire point of them is to transport a large amount of stuff on a relatively small surface.

It stands to reason that they are sturdy and not the easiest thing ever to disassemble. If you don’t have power tools you can certainly use a hammer or pry bar to pull them apart; but, the process will be time consuming and tends to cause damage to the boards.

You’ll definitely go through more pallets this way trying to salvage wood. Most DIYers agree that the most efficient way to break down the pallets is to use a reciprocating saw to cut through the nails and get down to the planks themselves.

Pro Tip: There’s no shame in needing a little guidance on how to break down a pallet. Nhampto9 has this great tutorial or we really liked this video tutorial below from Shane Conlan:


3. Prep Your Pallets

The next step is to transform your pallets into planks of wood. This work will go much faster using a circular saw but a hand saw would work as well.

You’ll need to keep in mind the state of your wood and cut around any damaged wood or cracks. This will determine the width of your planks.

You’ll want them to be either 3 or 4 inches wide. Also cut all the planks to 36” in length. Reserve your excess pieces to use later on.


4. Brace Yourself

In addition to using the wooden slats from your pallet, you’ll also be using the support 2×4’s from the frame of the pallet. These will be cut down into 6 14” sections that you will use as your framework and supports. Every corner and the center of the raised bed will need these supports.

Pro tip: Just like with the slats on the pallets – pay attention to the condition if the wood you are reusing. Choose wood that is in good shape without damage to avoid a raised bed that falls apart or is invaded by termites and carpenter ants.


5. Put Together The Puzzle Pieces

assemble pallets for a raised garden bed

How To Build Cheap Raised Garden Beds With Free Pallets

Now is the time to put the pieces of your puzzle together to create your raised bed. You’re going to have 6 groups of boards in the following configuration for this project:

2 14” 2×4 for the corner supports

End Piece 1 –
Either 3 4” boards or
4 3”boards

Side 1 –
Either 3 4” boards or
4 3”boards

Center support – 1 14” 2×4

Side 2 –
Either 3 4” boards or
4 3”boards

2 14” 2×4 for the corner supports

End Piece 2 –
Either 3 4” boards or
4 3”boards

Side 3 –
Either 3 4” boards or
4 3”boards

Center support – 1 14” 2×4

Side 4 –
Either 3 4” boards or
4 3”boards

Your raised bed will be 12” tall when completed.

Pro tip:  Make sure your boards are fitting together flush before you begin screwing to avoid having to disassemble pieces later!

6. Let’s Get Connected

add supports to pallets for a raised garden bed

How To Build Cheap Raised Garden Beds With Free Pallets

Now is the time to start joining the pieces together. You’re going to be nailing or screwing your planks to the 14” support 2×4’s.

Your planks will should cover about 2” of the 2×4 when you’re fastening them. You can secure using screws or nails of your choice.

To minimize damage to the wood, pre-drill holes prior to fastening. You can also use a nail gun which tends to minimize cracking and breakage. Your support beams will extend 2” beyond the planks once they are secured to provide stability to the once it’s placed on the ground.

Pro tip: Use that leftover wood we suggested holding on to before to swap out any pieces that might crack during assembly. You can also fortify the bed further by adding a middle support beam using the 2×4’s connecting your center supports on the side pieces. Secure it about 1” up from the bottom planks – not from the bottom of the center supports – in other words it should be 3” from the bottom of the center 2×4’s.

7. Raised Garden Bed with All the Trimmings Please

add trim to pallets for a raised garden bed

How To Build Cheap Raised Garden Beds With Free Pallets

This isn’t necessary but it will make your bed look nicer. You can try using pieces you salvaged, scrap cedar wood you might have on hand, or various trim pieces available at any home improvement or lumber store.

Miter wood at 45 degree angles in each corner. Secured with a brad nailer, wood glue, or small nails. Be gentle to avoid damaging or cracking your newly built bed.

Pro tip: Make sure your trim is also able to withstand the elements without containing any chemicals that could have a negative effect on your plantings!

8. Map It Out

cheap raised garden bed from pallets

If you’ve decided to go ahead and use the beds for square foot gardening, now would be the time to create your grid or map system. You should end up with 18 squares to work with.

You can use more trim or leftover pieces from the pallets you were cutting down. You want sections that are one foot across. Two of your grid pieces will be 72” long while the other 5 can be 36” long.

Pro tip: If you don’t have trim or wood you could also create your grids using string or twine tied around nails and stakes in the soil.

9. Visualize It

If you’re still having trouble visualizing this project or you get stuck while working on it – you’re in luck.  Here is the complete video tutorial for this project:

This tutorial, including images and video, is published with generous permission by sslfamilydad.

More Cheap Raised Garden Bed Ideas

If you’re not too confident about your building abilities when it comes to raised garden beds, there are plenty of other ways to DIY it without spending a fortune.

You could also build a raised bed out of cinder blocks. Construction sites, Habitat for Humanity Restore’s and Craigslist are all great places to find them. There are no power tools involved when it comes to constructing a raised garden bed with blocks.

Another idea is to recycle tires into garden beds. Many people spray paint the tires to add a visual element but you could easily create a grid out of tires for your square foot gardening projects.

Next time you have to get your tires replaced, simply ask to keep your old tires. You’ll want to make sure you keep them full of soil to avoid letting water build up in them, creating mosquito breeding grounds.

Remember that every region has unique climate and building requirements. Consider the winter elements, as well as any high winds, heavy thunderstorms or earthquakes that may effect your area. You might need special metal framing anchors to tie it all together.

Cheap raised garden beds can be created out of virtually any material. We’ve seen people use dresser drawers, PVC pipe, kitchen sinks ,and so many other creative outlets. There are few limits to what you can use to create your own bountiful garden.

Let us know how your raised garden bed build-out goes, send us pictures, and share this tutorial with your fellow green thumbs!





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