This spring, turn a shipping crate into a raised garden bed and upcycle your way into a new garden!
I’ve always wanted a garden. However, where I live, southern Arizona, gardening can be a real challenge. The ground is hard, really, really hard. It is hot, really, really hot. There is very, very little rain. My area gets crazy wind. There are so many animals trying to eat, dig at, and destroy my plants. And I have issues with bending over and such.
Now, all of this may deter a normal person from even trying, but not me. I’m just not normal, and I love tending to my plants and being outside. So this year, I’m trying something new and I am so excited! I came into a shipping crate last year and decided that it would be a great idea to turn a shipping crate into a raised garden bed. I think that this will help with most if not all of my issues with gardening here. And if nothing else, this was just a super fun project to work on with my family.
I got this shipping crate for free from my in-laws, who work for a metal fabrication company, last year and really wanted to make it into a garden bed, but I was pregnant and could not fathom taking care of a garden while I had morning sickness, so I kept it and waited. The crate is 10 feet long, 3 feet wide, and 2 feet deep. It is made of plywood and 2x4s. If you’re in the market for something like this, I would keep an eye out on websites and apps like Craigslist and OfferUp, and it’s also a good idea to go inquire at some of the industrial businesses in your area.
Location, Location, Location!
The first thing I did was choose where to put my garden bed. I decided to put it on the east side of my house so that the plants would catch the morning sun and be shaded by the house and the porch awning in the afternoon.
It’s important to think about how much sun and what time of day you want the sun when thinking about where to place your garden bed. It’s best to observe your yard and do some research on what the plants that you want to grow require before making any decisions. You can also employ some shade cloth to get the results you desire.
Due to the fact that the Arizona sun is extremely harsh, I knew that I would have to treat the wood in order for it to withstand the weather. So I headed to Home Depot to get some exterior paint. And I ended up finding a great deal on some “oops” paint. I found some Glidden Premium Exterior Paint that “resists fading, cracking & peeling.” It also says that it provides a mildew-resistant coating. All of that for the low price of $9.00 because someone didn’t like the color. It’s brown, neutral, and the price was right, so I like it!
My son and I put a generous coat of this on the outside of the box, and it really started to look like something.
Stabilizing and Reinforcing
The next thing that we did was reinforce the box. Soil is heavy and we wanted to be sure that the box would be able to withstand the weight and pressure of the soil. So my husband replaced any of the 2x4s that were worn or cracked. There were some areas where instead of one solid 2×4, two pieces were joined. In those areas, my husband removed the 2x4s and replaced them with one solid 2×4. To reinforce the box, he put a 2×10 on the inside on each of the long sides of the box. As far as hardware, we used coated deck screws as well as the screws that were already used on the box.
We placed the shipping container on brick pavers. This should help avoid trapping moisture between the ground and the bed and also keep critters at bay.
After the stabilization and reinforcement process, I went back through and painted the new wood pieces with the exterior paint to match the rest of the bed. In hindsight, I should have waited until the container was reinforced to paint, saving a bit of time and paint.
Obviously, drainage is something that is important for any planter, and when you turn a shipping crate into a raised garden bed, drainage is still something you should think about. The first thing we did to address the issue was to cut six holes in the bottom of the container. We used a 1¼-inch hole saw.
Now, I’m going to take a minute to talk about hole saws because I didn’t really know anything about these, but they’re pretty cool. So the first thing you should know is that it’s a saw but not a stand-alone saw. They’re actually bits that attach to your drill. And they usually come in sets so that you can drill holes of all different sizes.
Alternatively, you could also use something like a jigsaw to cut these holes out.
Gardens need water, clearly. My shipping crate is wood. These two things don’t actually mix well. Cue a creative use of a pond liner. We considered using other plastic sheeting, but because I’m hoping for this to be used long-term, we wanted to use the thickest, most durable plastic we could find. And since pond liners are made to hold water, this seemed like a good plan.
The pond liner was a bit of a bear to work with simply because of the size of everything. We used a 10-ft-by-13-ft pond liner. And we had to piece it together to finish up the sides, but we managed to get the inside covered with the liner.
First, we did our best to center the pond liner in relation to the bed. We stapled one long side and then fit the liner down into the bed. We went over the edge of the crate to cover the seams between the plywood and the 2x4s in order to prevent water from seeping down between them.
You’ll want to make sure to leave some excess in the bottom of the bed. Don’t fit it too tight. This will prevent the staples from being pulled out or the liner ripping at the staples with the weight of the soil. Once we had the pond liner where we wanted it, we stapled the opposite long side.
From there, working with the short sides was a bit like wrapping a present but on the inside of the box. The pond liner wasn’t quite long enough to go up the sides of the shipping crate, so we had to improvise a bit. There was some excess on the long side, so I cut that off and used the excess to finish off the short sides.
Finishing off the Drainage
You’ll remember from earlier that we had cut six holes in the bottom of the crate for drainage. Well, these got covered up with the pond liner. So we cut an X in the pond liner at each one of these holes.
Into those holes, we inserted ½-inch PVC pipe sections that were about 4 inches long. We cut the PVC with a reciprocating saw, but you can also use something like a miter saw if you have one handy.
My husband has a 3-D printer and printed some flanges to go on top of the PVC. But it really isn’t necessary. You can just make sure that the PVC is sealed well to the pond liner with silicone to make sure that the water doesn’t get between the two or onto the wood.
I applied a generous amount of silicone to the bottom of the flanges and set them into the holes with the PVC. We allowed these to cure for about 48 hours. For best results, follow the instructions on the silicone you’re using.
To finish off the drainage, we placed larger rocks on top of the drain sites. This creates larger pores that draw the water down and out of the soil. Ideally, the entire bottom of the bed would have a layer of these rocks. But with such a large bed, we weren’t able to swing that. So we focused on the drain sites and making sure that they wouldn’t get clogged up with soil.
Fill ‘er Up!
For soil, we went with buying in bulk because it is such a large garden bed. We used a soil calculator and ended up purchasing 2 cubic yards of garden soil from a local company. Places like this will oftentimes deliver, so if you don’t have a truck or trailer, you can still get it. It was about $130 for all of this soil. And while this is a good chunk of money, I consider it an investment. It’s something that we will just be able to add amendments to after the growing season each year.
So that’s it! That’s how I you turn a shipping crate into a raised garden bed. I will fill you all in on what we decide to grow and how it all goes and update the post with things that we found that worked and/or didn’t work. Happy planting!
You also might enjoy my post on enhancing your garden for free with found seeds!
Want to remember how to turn a shipping crate into a raised garden bed? Be sure to pin this tutorial to your favorite Pinterest board!
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