Recycled raised beds

We’re revamping our garden and our current raised beds ar crumbling. They were shored up with a brick wall which has dismantled itself during the last few heavy snows.

We’ll be rebuilding them but want to do something different. My initial thoughts were reclaimed railway sleepers, but these are expensive and treated with something horrible.

Does anyone have any ideas for using recycled materials that won’t leach in to the soil? I need something durable, that won’t look ugly and won’t take loads of maintenance.

Oh and if anyone know someone who’s interested a couple of days work shifting soil, digging etc then let me know – not a job for a skilled gardener, but for someone quick and muscle-bound!


  1. Did you see this post?

    I just did a Vertical Veg course and Mark who runs it favours large containers over raised beds as they allow you to move things around if the plants are unhappy in that spot (e.g. not enough / too much sun).

    I’ll ask if he has any tips for raised bed materials too. I had also heard that sleepers are impregnated with funny preservatives that are not good for you. But they’re being used by people I know so will find out what the score is.”

  2. Thanks Jamie – that would be amazing!

    We can’t really opt for large containers as the beds are already there and are 10m long by 1.5 m wide and the thought of digging them all out makes me come out in hives!

    We’re planning to trim them back to about 70cms wide.

    It would be amazing if you could see what Mark thinks. I had thought, if buying something new, of going for something like eco-friendly treated decking joists, but if I can do something cheaper/recycled I’d rather.

    We’re having one of these put in (with a flat, cedum roof) so makes sense to do everything with an awareness of materials/the environment.

  3. Always! That looks super cool. I hadn’t seen that before. I also like these.

    Will ask around and get back to you.”

  4. Ok, a friend who put in raised beds at the Levy Memorial Garden on Yoakly Road sez….

    We used old scaffold boards – much cheaper than sleepers (though I don’t know what that chemical would be). Most big scaffolding companies will have a pile of scaff boards that are a bit warped/ damaged in some way. They sell them for raised beds. You would probably need delivery though as they come in 3m planks (I think). We got ours from a place in Tottenham so delivery was cheap as chips. I think they dropped them off en route to somewhere else

    Google suggests the chemical in sleepers might be creosote and other preservatives. Not something you want near your veggies I suspect.

  5. Brilliant – thank you so much! I’ll have a google and ring around but that sounds perfect.

    Thanks so much for asking for me.

  6. No worries.

    You could also keep an eye out for skips with roofing joists. Floor joists are usually replaced because they become rotten but perfectly decent roofing joists will be removed during a loft conversion.

  7. Here’s Mark’s response:

    The best thing I’ve come across is old scaffold boards. They’re not treated (as far as I’m aware) and are thick and sturdy enough to last for a good number of years. Scaffold companies have to replace their boards from time to time so sometimes have old ones going spare. Organiclea’s Hawkwood nursery (near Chingford) also has a big stash and they may be happy to sell you some for a reasonable price or a small donation. Floor and roof joists I guess might also be impregnated with various chemicals to prevent eg wood worm. If you do use these or sleepers, you can always line the wood with thick plastic (eg from compost bags) as this will reduce the risk of chemicals leaching into the soil – and it will also preserve the life of the wood.

  8. This has been incredibly helpful – thank you!

    I rang OrganicLea yesterday and we can have Scaffolding Boards from there at £1/m – about a 7th of the cost of railway sleepers and none of the nasties to leach in to the soil.

    Please do thank Mark for me – his advice has been invaluable.

  9. Good to hear! Will pass on your thanks.

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