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Constructing Comfy Beds for Vegetables

By Emmo Willinck, Albury 

Vegetable growers know the use of raised vegetable beds provides many advantages – for example:

  • more accessible height;
  • contains weed and pest problems;
  • holds in your valuable mulch, soil, fertiliser and compost; and
  • improves drainage.

With a family (especially wife) that endeavours to “live off the fat of our own land” I was faced with the challenge – how to best construct six raised vegetable beds?

The main choices for raised bed construction are: timber, tin or brick. Timber we avoided due to concerns about termites and rotting.

The first three raised vegetable beds constructed were close to the house so we didn’t want them to look daggy. Therefore recycled brick construction was chosen, this required lots of labour – digging, mixing of concrete, reinforced concrete foundations, string lines and brick laying. If you costed them out (including my labour) you wouldn’t get much change out of $800 per 2.5×7 metre raised vegetable bed.

The final three vegetable beds were constructed from predominantly recycled corrugated iron roofing, recycled 50x50mm steel tubing and 100x50mm recycled red gum. The sides were made from corrugated roof sheeting trimmed (along the corrugation) with a grinder to make the sides half a metre in height. The ends of the sides were then tek screwed into 800mm lengths of the steel tubing – to make the corners. The 300mm of steel tubing that overhung the sides was put into concrete footings to create a nice stable vegetable bed. To improve aesthetics and to avoid sharp edges roof capping was cut and rivetted to the corners. The timber was used as a trim around the top of the vegetable beds – attached to the steel tubing with 90 degree steel brackets. Whilst these beds won’t have the life span of the brick beds they were significantly quicker, easier and cheaper to construct – about five hours labour and material cost of $60 per 2×6 metre raised vegetable bed.

Recently at the National Environment Centre (Thurgoona) I saw another version of corrugated iron vegetable bed. This version is very simple – if you can get hold of a machine and operator that can roll curves into your corrugated iron sheeting. It has curved ends that are then riveted to two straight sides. The curves provide the structural support. Old (~20mm) polypipe was then used to dress the sharp edge that remains at the top of the vegetable bed.