Dry - Warm - Cool - Pest-free - Productive - Practical ... All Are Possible
HOW MUCH WILL IT COST TO BUILD?
A good first question!
Keeping it practical
We used pressure-treated lumber. Some will disagree, but I'm convinced today's pressure treated lumber isn't dangerous. The use of arsenic (known as CCA - chromated copper arsenate) was banned in 2004, and was replaced by copper. (ACQ - alkaline copper quat). I've applied organic-approved copper - on purpose - to tomatoes to control early blight. Our water pipes are copper.
Based on the research we found, we're comfortable using PTL. Cedar and redwood are expensive - significantly more expensive. Given the number of beds we wanted, the use of either wood would have consumed our retirement savings! We're getting older, and don't want to have to rebuild deteriorated beds, thus untreated wood was out. We only want to do this once. Your situation may allow for other choices.
Our cost for materials to build one 4'x8'x18" bed was just under $80.
But ... each to his own. The material used to build the beds is irrelevant; the concepts of climate and pest control apply whether the bed is built of stacked stone, concrete blocks, cedar, untreated pine, PTL or – and I've seen it done – recycled pallets.
Here are some links to research and good discussion of the subject of today's pressure treated lumber:
From Backyard Gardening Blog:
Using Pressure Treated Lumber in Raised Garden Beds
From Fine Gardening Magazine:
Does Pressure-Treated Wood Belong in Your Garden
Should the shop-work required to build your own seem daunting, there are deep raised garden bed kits available online and at local nurseries, made from cedar, larch, white pine, HDPE, even vinyl. Some require no tools for assembly.
WHY THIS DEEP?
Many raised bed designs are only 8" deep - less than half of ours. We're convinced the deep bed produces more and better fruits and vegetables. Drainage is improved. Plants don't have 'wet feet', and that facilitates the gas exchange necessary for healthy plants. With a bed this deep, it is unnecessary to till the ground beneath it. A bed this deep can be placed right on the grass, even on a patio, yet roots have room.
Carrots, parsnips and daikon grow long and straight without running into hardpan. Perennials, like asparagus, can take hold and spread (and grass will not creep in, ever!)
Everything is within easy reach. The extra height makes cultivation easy on the back, and weeding is a snap. The soil is never compacted and the very few weeds just pluck out! Our favorite in-ground garden tools seem even more suited to raised-bed cultivation - the Ho-Mi Korean hand plow, both the short- and long-handled versions, also known as the EZ Digger.
Here on the farm we have plenty of fertile soil we screened and mixed with compost and sphagnum, so our cost to fill the beds was low. If you don't have garden soil you can scoop and move, you'll have to purchase gravel, dirt and amendments to create your growing bed. That can seem expensive, however, you only have to do it once. In the coming years, the annual addition of compost should keep your bed productive.
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