Terra Nova Ecological Landscaping blog

29 Dec

The Dirt on Raised Garden Beds: Mining the Urban Waste Stream for Building Materials

Many recycled and repurposed materials can be sourced from the urban waste stream and used to create planting containers and raised garden beds. Which materials are safe and non-toxic? Which materials are the most durable? I have unpacked the options with this investigation on the pros and cons of a variety of potential materials.

Labyrinth garden bed

Here is a set of criteria that can be used as a guide. First, lets consider the toxicity of different available building materials on a scale of 1 to 4, with 1 being completely non toxic and 4 being relatively toxic. Which end of the toxicity scale you choose depends on whether you are growing food crops or ornamentals? This is an important determining factor for obvious reasons.

The second criteria is longevity. This I rate from A to C, where A is for materials that are short lived and C for materials that can last over 20 years. I have combined these two criteria in the table below. They will help you determine the most appropriate building materials for your garden project. I have populated this table with different materials that I have used over two decades, with a description of their merits.

Toxicity and longevity table for repurposed and recycled building materials.

1) non-toxic 2) semi non-toxic 3) relatively toxic 4) toxic
A) 1 season straw bale old guitar
B) 10 years old tea pot  old saxophone old tuba wine bottles wine barrel drift wood logs salvaged lumber redwood old shoes,  old boots old doors  old boat old dresser
C) 20 + years horse trough  reclaimed metal old toilets old bathtub urbanite brick stone Recycled plastic lumber  copper pressure treated lumber Arsenic pressure treated wood  vinyl old tires

You may see things on the table that make you wonder, “What? planting container?” Don’t worry I’m just pushing the envelope on possibilities. Our cities’ rubbish bins are teaming with items and materials that can be used to contain plants. So consider this a fishing license for the urban waste stream. One man’s trash is another man’s planter.

For instance, my old food blender recently gave up the ghost. Instead of just tossing it in the trash I filled the blender “container” with soil and planted it with succulents.

Blender planter

Of course I have inserted into the table many of the conventional building materials used for raised garden beds. Here they are with a description of their merits. In another instance someone had a “Jimi Hendrix moment” with their guitar and threw away the smashed instrument. I pulled it out of the trash, put soil in it and planted it with succulents. People are delighted when they see it, especially when they hear the story behind it. As you can see I cast a wide net in the search for building materials for the garden. While I’m on the subject…I’ve been on the lookout for a tuba that maybe was run over by a school bus. I want that tuba for a planter and I am going to call it garden art.

I) + A) Straw bales

Straw bales are inexpensive and if you are resourceful even free.  Tomato starts can be planted right in the bale just by replacing a handful of straw with a pocketful of soil. As the photo shows, straw bales can be configured as raised garden beds, filled with soil and planted. Of course the bales will only last for a season and then become compost. A short-term, cheap, non-toxic and fun way to build a temporary garden bed and soil at the same time.

Straw bale planter

Raised bed made from straw bales

Growing tomatoes in straw bales.

1) + B) Old tea pot, old saxophone, old tuba, wine bottles, wine barrels, driftwood, logs, salvaged lumber, redwood. The teapot, saxophone and tuba used as planters are all examples of playful, whimsical garden art. Metal, ceramic or porcelain items will all be long lasting, non-toxic plant containers, (Hint: dril a hole at the bottom for drainage.) Wine bottles planted upside-down and side-by-side can make an attractive garden border. An up cycled creative re-invention of a common household item. Wine barrels have been used as planting containers ever since vintners started casting them off. They last up to 10 years and are pleasing to look at, brimming with herbs or flowers.

Wine bottles for edge

Wine barrel planter

Driftwood and logs are often available for free, and can make fine raised garden beds that last 10 years or more. These materials can be simply laid in place without much more to do.

Salvaged and redwood lumber: With a little surfing on the internet at FreeCycle or CraigsList, can located. New redwood and other hardwood lumber that has been sustainably harvested can be found if you trust the Forest Stewardship Councils’ “FSC” label. It is nice to think that sustainably harvested lumber is available, I have found small scale local mills to be trustworthy. Redwood can last ten years with soil up against it. With a little carpentry these lumbers make fine garden beds.

Salvaged lumber

Sustainably harvested redwood

1) + C) Horse trough, reclaimed metal, old toilets, old bathtubs, urbanite, brick, stone

For horse trough, reclaimed metal, old toilets and old bathtubs: The size of troughs and bathtubs make them viable as raised garden beds. Reclaimed metal and old toilets require some artistic license but can be turned into long-term plant containers.

Re-purposed horse trough

Salvaged iron metal

Toilet planter

Bathtub bed

1) + C) Urbanite, Brick & Stone

Urbanite is the funny made-up non-brand name for repurposed concrete pieces. A surprisingly available, long-lasting, non-toxic building material sourced from the urban waste stream. Earns high marks for environmental friendliness. Brick is laborsome to manufacture; however when installed correctly it gets high marks for longevity and being non-toxic, especially when used without mortar. It’s fairly easy to repurpose again and again. Often found available used on Craigslist.Stone, (flagstone, granite, field stone, river cobble, pea gravel, etc.) is without question the quintessential non-toxic building material. However, questions do arise regarding its source. It is a mined product that carries a heavy environmental cost but makes up for it in longevity, especially if it is salvaged and re-used. Unparalleled aesthetics in the landscape earn it high marks.

Raised Garden beds using 'urbanite'.

Sonoma field stone

2)+ A) Old guitar

Okay, okay…short term garden art. Mine is about four years old and it’s falling apart. But it sure has a good story behind it.

Blog author Ken Foster and his 'Jimi Hendrix moment'

A crafty guitar

2) + B)  Old boots and Old shoes, These bootswere made for walking…but now they’re retired and growing strawberries. Good thing there is a hole at the bottom for drainage.

Growing strawberries for Nancy Sinatra...These boots where made...


What are these planters doing in the trash?

Comes with drainage.

2)+ C) Recycled plastic lumber, I like that there is plastic . I have seen raised garden beds made from old doors. Old doors, as well as old boats and old dressers they may have paint and/or glues to wonder about. Still, I’ve dreamed about getting an old (small size) fishing boat, filling it with soil and growing food in it.

Open door policy in the garden

4)+ C) Pressure-treated wood, copper pressure-treated wood, vinyl, old tires

Fun but toxic.

Now we’re getting toxic. In the old days as late as the nineteen nineties, pressure treated lumber was impregnated with arsenic. Then children started showing up with cancer from playing on structures made with it. That product was taken off the market and while copper tressure-treated wood is much better, I still don’t like growing food in it. The jury is out on using it for garden beds. Virgin vinyl is an extremely toxic product and I don’t like the idea of growing food in it. Then there’s old tires. Recycling this huge waste problem in the garden? Tires are chock full of heavy metals like lead and cadmium and simply are not appropriate to grow food in.

Now that you have learned a little about the dirt on raised garden beds, build some and put the dirt in them where it belongs. -Ken Foster

60 Responses to “The Dirt on Raised Garden Beds: Mining the Urban Waste Stream for Building Materials”

  1. 1
    Carroll B. Merriman Says:

    Hi, wanted to talk about simply how much We enjoyed your last write-up. Seldom I actually see things through thispoint connected with view. Many thanks spending some time – and hold publishing!

  2. 2
    Catt Says:

    LOVE this…thanks

  3. 3
    Otti F. Says:

    Care if I use this post on our message discussion board provided that I link back to this website?

  4. 4
    Dustin Says:

    What do you think about using 5 gallon buckets as planters?

  5. 5
    ken Says:

    If you don’t mind the look of plastic buckets. Not exactly classy. Remember to put a hole in the bottom.

  6. 6
    Olympic Lawn & Landscape Inc Says:

    Excellent Ideas! Urban gardens are beautiful and your ideas are inspiring!

  7. 7
    Mora Ertle Says:

    Hello this is kind of of off topic but I was wanting to know if blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually code with HTML. I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding experience so I wanted to get guidance from someone with experience. Any help would be enormously appreciated!

  8. 8
    restauracja Kraków Says:

    Hi there, I wish for to subscribe for this weblog to get most recent updates, thus where can i do it please help.

  9. 9
    reclaimed wood coffee table Says:

    Dar! Spectacular post I am loving the kitchen island from painted pallets idea. Divine.

  10. 10
    Frank Says:

    Using boots and shoes as a pot for plants is a clever idea.

  11. 11
    blog Says:

    Nice answers in return of this matter with solid arguments and telling everything about that.

  12. 12
    Aaron Gaugler Says:

    Thanks so much for submitting this. Brief query, if you don’t mind. Where did you obtain your blog design? I’m starting a blogging site and rather like yours.

  13. 13
    DeconEnviro Says:

    I love the idea of using an old guitar as a soil pot.. very clever, might do that one day.

  14. 14
    london drainage company Says:

    Wow, incredible weblog structure! How lengthy have you been blogging for? you make blogging glance easy. The total glance of your site is magnificent, let alone the content material!

  15. 15
    escort girls in london Says:

    I do agree with all of the concepts you have presented in your post. They are really convincing and will certainly work. Still, the posts are too brief for novices. Could you please prolong them a little from next time? Thanks for the post.

  16. 16
    outdoor heaters patio Says:

    Can I simply say what a relief to find somebody who actually is aware of what theyre talking about on the internet. You positively know how to convey a difficulty to gentle and make it important. Extra individuals must read this and perceive this side of the story. I cant consider youre no more fashionable since you undoubtedly have the gift.

  17. 17
    Javier Wamboldt Says:

    Lindsay Lohan’s Court Appearance – This really is Sad Excellent goods from you, man. I’ve comprehend your stuff previous to and you are just too magnificent. I really like what you’ve acquired here, surely like what you might be stating and the way in which you say it. You make it entertaining and you nonetheless take care of to keep it wise. I cant wait to read far much more Lindsay Lohan’s Court Appearance – This really is Sad once again from you. Thanks For Share .

  18. 18
    numeri di telefono donne Says:

    I have discovered some important matters through your blog post post. One other stuff I would like to express is that there are numerous games available on the market designed specially for preschool age children. They involve pattern identification, colors, dogs, and models. These normally focus on familiarization rather than memorization. This will keep little kids engaged without having a sensation like they are learning. Thanks

  19. 19
    richmond escorts Says:

    I really like your writing style, superb information, thankyou for posting

  20. 20
    Alda Reseigh Says:

    Thank you, I’ve recently been seeking for facts about this subject matter for ages and yours is the best I have located so far.

  21. 21
    bed and breakf Says:

    whoah this blog is wonderful i love reading your posts. Keep up the great work! You know, a lot of people are looking around for this information, you could help them greatly.

  22. 22
    zdj?cia slubne Says:

    Przydatne na pewno skorzystam.

  23. 23
    prices of steel buildings Says:

    I’m really enjoying the design and layout of your site. It’s a very
    easy on the eyes which makes it much more pleasant for me to come here and visit more often.
    Did you hire out a designer to create your theme? Fantastic

  24. 24
    Survival Goods Says:

    You really make it appear really easy along with your presentation however I to find this matter to be actually one thing which I think
    I might never understand. It kind of feels too
    complicated and extremely extensive for me. I am taking
    a look forward to your subsequent publish, I’ll try to get the cling of it!

  25. 25
    Top Diets Says:

    |Spot on with this write-up, I truly think this website needs much more consideration. I’ll probably be again to read much more, thanks for that info.

  26. 26
    Val Floresca Says:

    This is the right web site for anyone who really wants to find out about this topic. You understand a whole lot its almost tough to argue with you (not that I really will need to…HaHa). You certainly put a fresh spin on a subject that has been discussed for ages. Great stuff, just great!

  27. 27
    London Busty Escorts Says:

    Thank you, I have just been searching for info about this topic for a while and yours is the greatest I’ve found out till now. However, what concerning the conclusion? Are you positive concerning the supply?|What i do not understood is in fact how you are no longer really much more neatly-preferred than you may be right now. You’re very intelligent.

  28. 28
    Kamagra-ohne-rezept Says:

    Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I have really enjoyed surfing around your
    blog posts. After all I will be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again very soon!

  29. 29
    dating advice Says:

    I all the time used to read paragraph in news papers but now as
    I am a user of net thus from now I am using net
    for posts, thanks to web.

  30. 30
    cd dvd disk magazine publisher america Says:

    We ensure technical excellence and fast turnaround times.
    Take inventory of all items you want to keep and put them in
    this folder and scan them. Britannica has great topic-specific apps for the i – Phone as well as a “Concise Britannica” app.

    my homepage :: cd dvd disk magazine publisher america

  31. 31
    dofus kamas hack english Says:

    Have you ever considered about adding a little bit more than just your articles?
    I mean, what you say is important and everything.
    However think about if you added some great images or video clips to give
    your posts more, “pop”! Your content is excellent but with pics and
    videos, this site could undeniably be one of the best in its field.

    Awesome blog!

  32. 32
    psn code generator exodevirus Says:

    I needed to thank you for this excellent read!!
    I certainly loved every little bit of it. I have you bookmarked to check out new things you

  33. 33
    best wow gold site Says:

    You should take part in a contest for one of the greatest websites online.
    I most certainly will recommend this website!

  34. 34
    how to make a website Says:

    For latest news you have to pay a quick visit world-wide-web and
    on the web I found this web page as a finest site for newest updates.

  35. 35
    lankan baila Says:

    Hello, i think that i saw you visited my weblog
    thus i came to “return the favor”.I am attempting to find things to improve my web site!I suppose its ok to use
    a few of your ideas!!

  36. 36
    Fifa 14 Coins Generator Says:

    There are plenty of cities that would have loved getting the 2014
    World Cup. The television needs to be turned up loud so you can hear the
    announcers which can be making the calls through the
    booth as well. This protests became continue from the complaints
    of poor schools, public service, hospitals because of lavish spending at
    the entire world cup.

  37. 37
    Wifi Pirater Logiciel Says:

    Thanks for sharing your info. I really appreciate your efforts and I will be waiting for your next post thank you once again.

  38. 38
    beats cyber Monday Says:

    That is why businesses have pansies and petunias planted
    in blocks of potting soil, surrounded by Pink Loss of life.
    Deal – Information doesn’t forecast the new PS4 or XBbox A person getting element of the Black Friday 2013 sales.
    As I acquired older I would be in cost of figuring out the value of an product after
    utilizing a coupon, and ultimately I obtained my own purchasing
    cart to fill much too.

  39. 39
    Louis Vuitton Leather Handbags Says:

    Hi there, constantly i used to check webpage posts here
    early in the break of day, since i love to find out
    more and more.

  40. 40
    Blondell Says:

    Do you mind if I quote a few of your articles as long as I provide credit and
    sources back to your weblog? My blog site is in the exact same area of interest as yours and my users
    would really benefit from a lot of the information you present here.
    Please let me know if this okay with you. Thanks!

    my blog; chaturbate token free – Blondell,

  41. 41
    running shoes Says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate your efforts
    and I am waiting for your next write ups thank you
    once again.

  42. 42
    dating game Says:

    Hi there! I could have sworn I’ve been to this
    website before but after browsing through some of the post I realized it’s new to me.
    Anyhow, I’m definitely delighted I found it and I’ll be bookmarking and checking back frequently!

  43. 43
    executive coach training Says:

    It’s hard to find knowledgeable people on this subject, however, you seem like you know what you’re talking about!

  44. 44
    Web Page Says:

    I’m not sure why but this weblog is loading incredibly slow for
    me. Is anyone else having this issue or is it a issue on my end?
    I’ll check back later and see if the problem still exists.

    Here is my webpage Web Page

  45. 45
    Sheila Says:

    Shopping online can help you snag the best deals that fit your budget.
    songs like: (1) Smoke on the Water, (2) Killer Queen,
    (3) You’ve Got Another Thing Coming, (4) and Surrender.

    Keep in mind that you do not need to stick to the customary run
    of the mill Christmas presents with so many options.

    My blog post: christmas christening presents australia (Sheila)

  46. 46
    baby purple dress Says:

    I’m truly enjoying the design and layout of your website.
    It’s a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more enjoyable for me to come here
    and visit more often. Did you hire out a designer to create your theme?
    Excellent work!

  47. 47
    Pablo Says:

    Great weblog here! Additionally your web site rather
    a lot up very fast! What host are you the usage of?
    Can I get your affiliate link on your host?
    I want my website loaded up as fast as yours lol

  48. 48
    chaturbate token generator Says:

    wowwwww many thanks this bot is an actually good chaturbate hack

  49. 49
    web site Says:

    Very great post. I simply stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that
    I have truly loved browsing your weblog posts. In any
    case I will be subscribing to your rss feed and I
    am hoping you write again soon!

  50. 50
    warez password Says:

    If you want to grow your know-how simply keep visiting this web
    site and be updated wit the most recent news update posted here.

  51. 51
    Temple Run hack Says:

    I am not sure where you’re getting your info, but good topic.
    I needs to spend some time learning much more or understanding more.
    Thanks for excellent information I was looking for this information for my mission.

  52. 52
    fifa 14 coin Generator Says:

    In fact when someone doesn’t know after that its up to other
    visitors that they will help, so here it occurs.

    Visit my web page – fifa 14 coin Generator

  53. 53
    www.youtube.com Says:

    I’m not that much of a internet reader to be honest
    but your blogs really nice, keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your site to come
    back later on. Many thanks

    My page … chaturbate token hack [http://www.youtube.com]

  54. 54
    Frank Kern Says:

    If some one desires to be updated with latest technologies then he must be pay a quick visit this
    web page and be up to date all the time.

  55. 55
    youtube.com Says:

    Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up.
    Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyways, just wanted to say fantastic blog!

    Check out my web site car town cheats (youtube.com)

  56. 56
    Health Valley Soup Says:

    The smell of sea, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, sugar, livestock, lumber, rubber, and palm oil.

    In most cases, doing the math will prove that both the
    business hospitals baton rouge owner AND their customers will benefit.

    The central bank’s net foreign exchange reserves are higher than in a manufacturing model.
    Waivers to the tax are available, especially when money is getting
    more and more aware of this, invests a whole lot more.

    Here is my blog post – Health Valley Soup

  57. 57
    98125 remodeling Says:

    I blog frequently and I truly thank you for your content.
    The article has really peaked my interest. I
    am going to take a note of your blog and keep checking for new information about once a week.
    I opted in for your Feed too.

  58. 58
    Shelton Burditt Says:

    hello there and thank you lotopyeer in your info – I’ve certainly picked up anything new from proper here. I did on the other hand experience some technical points using this web site, since I experienced to reload the website a lot of times prior to I could get it to load correctly. I have been puzzling over in case your hosting is OK? Now not that I’m complaining, however sluggish loading cases instances will very frequently affect your placement in google and could damage your high-quality score if advertising and ***********|advertising|advertising|advertising and *********** with Adwords. Anyway I am adding this RSS to my email and can look out for a lot extra of your respective intriguing content. Ensure that you replace this once more soon..

  59. 59
    ช่างเปิดตู้เซฟ Says:

    Hi to every body, it’s my first pay a visit of this blog; this blog includes remarkable
    and truly excellent data in favor of visitors.

  60. 60
    www.bullioncoins.pw Says:

    Thanks , I’ve just been searching for info approximately this subject
    for a while and yours is the best I have came upon so far. However,
    what about the bottom line? Are you certain about the source?

Leave a Reply

© 2015 Terra Nova Ecological Landscaping blog | Entries (RSS) and Comments (RSS)

Global Positioning System Gazettewordpress logo