Pick The Best Healthy, Non-toxic Garden Bed Materials
Building a raised bed can be as easy as racking cinderblocks or as elaborate as a fine piece of woodworking. The key is to build one that you can use and maintain too.
But the biggest question is, will it work in your garden? The best way to find out is to dig a shallow hole, put down a layer or two of cardboard or wire mesh and fill with potting soil. Then place your container on top and watch for a couple of weeks. However, do not let the soil dry out completely in that time. If it takes root and starts growing you have yourself an raised bed.
As is often said, the more expensive the material you use to build a loft bed, the more durable and long-lasting it tends to be. Nonetheless, you can find high-quality materials at a fraction of the cost by upcycling, recycling, and cleaning up your building supplies.
Whether you rustle the material or just buy it from a store, not all loft bed materials are up to the task.
8 Best raised bed materials
A good elevated bed material should be durable, easy to use, and safe to use around people, plants, and soil. If it's easy on the eyes, too, that's fine.
Other things to consider before landing on raised bed material include the cost, its availability in your area, the performance of the material in your particular climate, and whether you prefer a permanent structure or something that can be moved.
Metal loft beds are becoming increasingly popular among gardeners who like their sleek, modern look. And they're super durable, lasting 30 years or more.
Like stone, metal is a heat sink that extends your growing season so you can garden early in the spring and later in the fall.
Metal loft beds are a good choice in humid climates because they don't rot like wood. To prevent the raised bed from rusting, always use galvanized metal.
Even if you don't care about the steel look of metal loft beds, paint them a fun or neutral color to help soften the look.
Bricks are usually made of clay and come in a variety of colours - from multiple shades of red to grey, blue, yellow and cream.
Because of their uniform size, it was easy to calculate exactly how many bricks were needed to build the elevated bed.
Elevated beds made of brick can be stacked horizontally in an interlocking fashion or can be tilted to obtain jagged edges.
Using recycled brick in your garden is much better for the environment (and your wallet). Your local habitat for Humanity can be an excellent source of recycled building materials such as bricks.
The easiest option for a metal loft bed is a storage box. Easy to install and no assembly required, storage tanks are large tanks used to feed farm animals.
These come with round or rectangular edges and can be placed in your chosen gardening spot. Just add a few drain holes at the bottom and you're done.
Storage tanks can be a permanent feature in a garden, but they are not difficult to move. This provides greater flexibility when your design philosophy changes with the seasons
The traditional elevated bed building material is wood, and for good reason. The wood creates an attractive elevated bed that blends perfectly with the natural garden setting.
It is also perhaps the most versatile - the wood can be easily cut to size and only the most basic building skills are needed to piece it together.
There are endless design options when working with wood. Wooden raised beds can be made to any size, height and shape to suit your garden landscape. Build the classic 6' x 4' rectangular growth box. Or build elevated beds and keyhole beds to improve accessibility. The cascading layered frames and corner beds create beautiful focal points that keep things visually interesting.
Milled boards are durable and can usually last for years before they begin to deteriorate. But they eventually rot.
Use natural preservative woods, such as cedar and cypress, and seal them before construction for the most durable wooden elevated bed.
Logs, branches, and sticks provide a very rustic alternative to wood, and you can usually find them for next to nothing.
Locally scavenged logs can also be one of the most environmentally friendly ways to source wood building supplies.
Wood and branches can be piled up to form a frame or arranged vertically around the perimeter. Another option is to weave long, flexible branches into a fence to accommodate your raised garden soil.
Natural stone material
Granite, sandstone, limestone, field stones, SLATE, SLATE, basalt and cobblestone are just some of the natural stone choices.
The stones were formed millions of years ago, and their composition and appearance depends on the minerals nearby at the time. For example, granite is a mixture of quartz, feldspar, and plagioclase, while limestone consists mainly of calcite and aragonite.
The combination of minerals can produce a spectacular range of colors and patterns. Some natural gems may be multicolored, mottled, or sparkly. Others have smooth, soft and earthy tones.
Stone has a natural irregular shape or is pre-cut into blocks for easy stacking.
Masonry, like natural stone and bricks, makes excellent elevated bed material that can last almost forever.
Masonry is well suited to informal and formal garden environments and will create sturdy and durable frames that are virtually maintenance-free. These materials can take on a variety of shapes and forms, and are especially good for curved and contoured walls that embrace winding paths.
In temperate climates, brick loft beds can help extend the growing season. Acting as a radiator, the stonework will absorb heat from the sun during the day and release the accumulated heat into the soil at night.
That said, masonry can be very expensive when you need large quantities. It's heavy and can be difficult to use.
If deep elevated beds are to be built, it may be necessary to use mortar or cement to hold them together, making the frame a permanent part of the hard landscape.
5 Loft Bed Materials You Shouldn't Use
Whether you plan to grow food or flowers on an elevated garden bed, it is wise to avoid materials that will soak toxins into the soil.
Heavy metals and other chemicals can build up in the soil near the raised beds, but they can also be farther afield than the garden. Toxic pollutants move most in clay, sandy or moist soils and can end up in the water table.
The first rule of gardening really should be: Do no harm. Here are the worst elevated bed materials that could have a dire impact on the environment:
Pressure treated wood
Prior to 2004, copper chromated amber (CCA) was the most widely used wood preservative. It was discontinued due to concerns about arsenic exposure, and today alkaline copper quaternary ammonium salt (ACQ) is the standard wood treatment.
Although it is far less toxic than its ancestors, ACQ contains large amounts of copper, which can leach into the surrounding soil.
Copper is highly toxic to fish and aquatic life, and the use of ACQ pressure-treated wood to accommodate wet soil increases the likelihood of copper leaching into watersheds.
Wooden pallets can be a cheap and less wasteful way to make a bed - but beware of those with "MB" printed on them.
Methyl bromide is a broad-spectrum insecticide that is extremely harmful to human health. It is unwise to use treated wood in any capacity.
It easily kills fungi, insects, roundworms, and even rodents. MB tray emissions into the atmosphere, directly destroying the ozone layer.
Only pallets printed with "HT" or heat treatment should be used in any DIY pallet project, whether indoor or outdoor. This means that the tray has been sterilized at 132°F and above for at least 30 minutes. HT trays can be safely upgraded to elevated beds and other locations.
Wooden railroad ties are treated with creosote, another irritating insecticide that should never be used around humans or plants.
Creosote is an ash substance that repels termites, fungi and other pests. It is made from tar made from coal, oil and other fossil fuels.
Prolonged and frequent exposure to creosote railroad ties is not only harmful to human health, but can also leach into the soil and damage plants, insects and small animals.
Coal cinder block
Cinder blocks made from fly ash or coal particles contain arsenic, lead, mercury and other heavy metals. Although cinder blocks haven't been mass-produced for about 50 years, you may want to avoid them altogether if you're using recycled materials on your loft bed.
Modern concrete blocks look the same as older cinder blocks, but are made of Portland cement and other aggregates. Concrete is considered non-toxic and safe to use in the garden. However, the concrete industry has a large carbon footprint and is one of the leading producers of carbon monoxide globally.
The effort to upgrade waste into something useful is indeed admirable, but some items - such as old tyres - are usually best avoided in the garden.
Tires contain cadmium, lead and other nasty things that could theoretically leach into the soil. Some argue that old tires have already released most of the toxins in their first year on the road, and that they take decades to degrade.
But the jury is still out. To date, no scientific studies have been conducted to determine whether old tires pollute garden soil. Still, why risk it? Especially when it comes to growing food using elevated beds, it's better to be safe than sorry.
Once you have the raised beds built and ready, next you need to fill them with rich and healthy soil.
Finally, it's time to plant!