Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Raised Garden Beds for $5 Each...Plus Labour - by MCR Sarah D.

Last summer I knew I wanted to convert some of my expansive front lawn to gardens. Being an admittedly lazy person when it comes to gardening (and given my late start to the season) I didn't want to rototill my front yard into rows to make this happen. Instead I turned to what I had recently learned from my participation in the City of Edmonton’s Master Composter Recycler (MCR) program.
A gorgeous example of reuse in action
In the MCR program, I learned about Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore in North Edmonton and the abundance of construction materials that could be found there. Not knowing what to expect, I took the trip over to the store to check it out. Upon arriving I noticed the remnants of window packaging in the front industrial yard – wood frames with cross beams casually labeled $5 each in sharpie. I immediately saw what these misshapen old frames could become. Just in case they'd already sold, I tried not to get too excited at my exquisite find.

Can you see where I'm going with this?
I pretended to ignore them, heart racing, and casually walked inside and up to the front counter. Trying to act natural I asked the clerk if I could purchase the empty window shipping crates and was over-joyed to discover I was not too late! We purchased 7 of them and had to make several trips back and forth to get them home – safety first. As you can imagine, making sure that each load was secure with straps and bungee cords was no small task.  It turned out I was extra lucky; we found out afterward that they could’ve sold them several times over later that day!

Once home I laid the frames out on the front lawn. This process for me took some time as I tried to think of the best way to use them. I went through a few patterns by placing and replacing them, and even sketching layouts that I liked on paper. I eventually found the design that would make the best use of the chain link fence and the position of the sun as it hits my yard.
Perfect place by the fence, and another bed in the middle of the yard
At first I thought about removing all the grass from the bottom of wherever I placed them, but quickly abandoned this notion in favour of something far easier. I decided to use old cardboard and newspapers to line the bottom of my new garden beds to ensure that the lawn below would not grow up through the soil. First, the kids and I removed some of the cross beams that would get in the way of roots and that didn’t really add a lot of structural integrity.

In order to make these garden beds as reuse friendly as possible, I collected some unfinished compost from my compost pile that had settled over the previous winter. I lined some of the beds with it and some without. If you don’t have any finished compost, unfinished will do in this case or you can purchase some compost through the City of Edmonton’s list of compost retailers.

Adding unfinished compost
Then I topped all the beds with soil I had purchased to fill the remaining volume, and voila! Raised garden beds for $5 plus labour and a little soil. All other materials were free/recycled!
Soon to be the envy of the neighbourhood
That first year we planted our veggies and had a great crop of onions, beets, carrots and basil and other fresh herbs. Truly a reuse success!

Life doesn't get any better than this!

Sarah became a Master Composter Recycler in May, 2014. She is passionate about reducing waste, both in her own life and the lives of others. She enjoys being a volunteer and helping to build a sense of community in Edmonton - making connections with like-minded people and learning fromt he wisdom and experiences of others.
"I especially like volunteering for events as sharing information I believe in, and am passionate about, gets me fired up!"


  1. wow - great reuse project
    thanks for sharing

    1. Awesome, Sarah, thanks for sharing your fabulous ideas!

    2. My pleasure! Glad you enjoyed it!

  2. Great article and a plug for a local business that is all about Reusing!! Hope your garden is even better this year!

  3. Great article! I think I'll try a version of this in my garden this year. Thanks!