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Gardener shares simple way to build raised garden beds on a budget: 'Best part is there are no tools required'

"It took us 40 minutes to put this bed together."

"It took us 40 minutes to put this bed together."

Photo Credit: TikTok

You have to love it when saving money, living healthy, and helping the planet all snap into place.

That's what a hack on TikTok offers in the form of a low-effort plan for a raised garden using blocks that cost less than $4 a pop at hardware stores.

The scoop

TikToker Sarah (@sarahbrandt95) explains in an April 2023 video the "cheap and easy way to build your raised garden beds." 

@sarahbrandt95 A cheap and easy way to build your raised garden beds this spring. Best part is there are no tools required! It took us 40 minutes to put this bed together and cost about $120. #diy #gardening #raisedbed #fyp ♬ original sound - sarah

Sarah says the "best part is, there are no tools required! It took us 40 minutes to put this bed together and cost about $120."

The only items needed for the project are the specialized planter wall blocks "and some wood," the video explains.

As the clip shows, the blocks become the corners of the bed. Wood boards slide into grooves in the blocks to form the walls. To make taller (deeper) beds, you can stack the blocks, in a process The New York Times' Wirecutter compared to assembling Legos and called "a snap."

Boards must be 2 inches thick to fit the blocks. Sarah, along with collaborator Josh (identified in a follow-up post), used boards that were 2 inches thick by 12 inches wide, which fit well when the blocks are stacked two high. Board lengths vary depending on the dimensions of your bed. Stores will often cut the wood to save you work.

Once you have materials, "You just lay out the wood and place the blocks [where] you want them," Sarah narrates. On-screen, Josh demonstrates fitting the boards in the blocks. 

That's all that's required. The TikTokers also share fine-tuning steps (tools necessary) such as scraping out grass under boards, leveling the bed walls, and (in another video) adding boards to cap the walls. You can also thread metal stakes through the blocks for stability, though the hackers say the concrete corners tend to stay in place without these.

A "Part 2" video shows how to fill the bed by first putting down cardboard to prevent weeds; then adding wood, leaves, and compost to fill space and add nutrients; and finally topping the bed with soil.

@sarahbrandt95 On today's episode of Josh's garden tips… #buckethats #gardening #gardentok #raisedbed #dirt #compost #diy ♬ Good Vibes (Instrumental) - Ellen Once Again

How it's helping

Sarah is not the only one raving about this hack that streamlines building a raised bed cheaply and quickly and with optional tools

Although raised beds cost more than in-ground gardens, the benefits include early-season planting, late harvesting, good drainage, and control over what goes into the soil. Upfront costs can be reduced by salvaging wood, creating compost from yard waste and food scraps, and limiting the high-cost soil in the bed by filling partway with woody detritus.

Growing your own food allows you to save money — you might reap $600 worth of produce on an initial investment under $100. 

Research has also shown that gardening has mental and physical health benefits. One study found that a group of gardeners was more active, ate more fiber, and reported less stress and anxiety than a group of non-gardeners.

And gardeners can feel good about what they do for the Earth. Growing 300 pounds of your own food might cut more than 50 pounds of pollution annually due to the carbon costs of conventional farming, food transportation, and waste.

While the hack's blocks are concrete, a carbon-intensive material, they aren't large, and they arguably offset their impact by encouraging more gardening. Other materials may do the job for corners as well, depending on what you find at your local home improvement store, such as options made of aluminum.

What everyone's saying

Commenters on TikTok asked whether to use pressure-treated wood, which Sarah said to research separately due to varying opinions about this material's pros and cons, which largely boil down to decay resistance versus chemical leaching into the soil. 

Mostly, responses celebrated the hack.

"I tried this," said one. "I love it cuz it's easy. No tools required, and easy breakdown if you want to move it."

Another responded succinctly to the clever gardening plan: "This is how my bed is made."

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