I have bought a few things from Williams Sonoma and I like the quality of their products. Having purchased online, I also get an incessant number of emails from them. Far too many, they need to get up to speed on internet marketing. But, I digress. A couple of days ago, the email was touting “green” cedar raised bed kits. Yep, you can buy a 3′ x 3′ x 10″ raised bed kit for $149.95 and a 4′ x 4′ x 10″ one for $179.95. Neither is what I’d call large and the prices are really outrageous. I am all for home gardening, but I have a lot more important things to spend my money on that this, especially since I can make my own for nothing or, at worst, far less.
Just so we are clear, here is what you get with your kit: predrilled boards of 2 inch untreated cedar lumber (note that when you see a 2 inch board, as in a 2 x 4, the actual dimension is never as stated, for 2 inches, you actually get 1 1/2 inches. No big deal, that is how lumber is measured, but some might think they got ripped off. A 10 inch height is going to be 9 1/2 inches. The Williams Sonoma catalog says the 10 inch height is actually 9 1/4); screws to put it together. That is it. Wow.
If it were selling for a reasonable price, no problem. But, it is capitalizing in a bad way on the popularity of “green” and people’s willingness to pay more for it. If you must have cedar, which can be good as it doesn’t decay outdoors, you can buy a semi- rough cut 1″ x 10″ x 16 foot board for $29.44 at Intercity Lumber, Tampa, FL. That was the first company I found online. Your price may vary a bit. You certainly don’t need smooth cut. I say buy the 1 inch board because that is all you really need. If you must have 2 inch, you can get a 2″ x 10″ x 16 foot board for $66.24. The hardware will cost a couple of bucks at most. Cut your board into four equal pieces and you get a 4′ x 4′ x 10″ raised bed frame. Make sure any lumber you use is untreated. So, those creosote railroad ties won’t cut it for food production. Plus, that creosote really burns up circular saws.
An even cheaper alternative is untreated construction grade spruce. It is cheap and it rots over a few years. I actually like that because it adds to the soil and you can replace boards as needed. And, by the way, not all raised beds have a frame, many are just formed from the soil. A 1″ x 10″ x 16 foot rough cut spruce board will set you back $21.92. A 2″ x 10″ x 16 foot # 2 pine board will cost you a whooping $13.67.
Now, for all you really thrifty folks, let’s get into how to do this for free. One way is to go to construction sites during the framing phase. Ask the carpenters if you can have the scrap. You can get mostly 2″ x 4s,” but also some wider joist boards. You just have to piece what you have together into the frame you want. If you are concerned about looks, do your fastening work on the inside where it will be covered by soil. Another option is to get untreated old pallets. Most pallets are untreated and use a low quality lumber, but you can take them apart (admittedly a pain) and make frames out of them. Wear gloves to avoid splinters, these things define the term “rough cut.” Using construction scrap or pallets is recycling at its best, a lot greener than buying an overpriced raised bed kit.
Then spend your money on that KitchenAid stand mixer you’ve had your eye on.