Win a copy of Grocery Story this week in the City Repair forum!
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • r ranson
  • Nicole Alderman
  • Anne Miller
  • Mike Jay
  • paul wheaton
  • Joseph Lofthouse
garden masters:
  • Joylynn Hardesty
  • Steve Thorn
  • James Freyr
  • Greg Martin
  • Dave Burton
  • Carla Burke
  • Pearl Sutton
  • Dan Boone

Building raised vegetable beds from phone books

Posts: 11
Location: Southeast Michigan
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hey Permies!

I'm working on a sustainable method of building raised vegetable beds out of stacked phone books. I'm planning on placing reclaimed 2x12 on top with a large "U" shaped piece of rebar driven through the top board and books and into the ground. The beds will be filled layers of leaves and compost.

The books will be screened and plastics, magnets and other inserted potentially toxic material will be removed.

I have a few of questions...

Has anyone tried this or ever heard of building a bed with phone books? (searching the internet has only shown people using phone books for compost and other crafty projects)
Beside decomposition, can anyone see a downside to doing this?

I've attached a PDF to better describe what we're envisioning.


Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Michael, Just making sure you're sure raised beds are what you need.
I ask because I made raised beds because 'they' said it was the way to go. Not in my sand it isn't! Now they're basically sunken beds with handy sides for keeping the mulch in.
The pdf isn't attached, but I think I've got a reasonable mental picture and I have a few questions. Were you planning to auger holes all the way through the books or hammer the rebar straight through? I imagine hammering rebar (or anything) through a phonebook would be extremely difficult and considering it would need to pierce each book, that sounds like a lot of effort and you'd also lose lots of the horizontal surface needed to lay a plank along the top. Or maybe I've got the wrong idea?
I'd be worried about the conflict potential in using quite full on hardware/engineering (rebar through phonebooks) combined with something that will start breaking down pretty fast (phonebooks).
I really like the idea of using old phbooks though. I wonder if you could cob or something over them? I think I'd try and do something that took the rebar out of the equation
Michael Davis
Posts: 11
Location: Southeast Michigan
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks for writing Leila!

These beds are in the city of Hamtramck-A city known for having to work for a living-aka lots of factories back in the day. Though soil samples from all 9-city lots have come back with the highest lead count of 250 ppm, we still think it's wise to do raised beds.

We were going to drill through the top plate and the books before driving the rebar through. Hopefully the rebar and the top board will create enough pressure to keep the phone books compressed-slowing the rate of decomposition.

What is "cobbing"?


I've tried attaching the file again... fingers crossed.
Filename: phone-book-bed-p1.pdf
File size: 55 Kbytes
Posts: 71
Location: New Mexico high desert Zone 7a, alkaline soils. 9" average annual rainfall.
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Michael,

I like this idea, I’m a big believer in using what’s available. I wrote an article about using phonebooks on my website (, but like Leila I don’t do raised beds, since I’m in a dry climate.

What about using remesh/ livestock fence, in a setup similar to the photo below. The spaces between the table legs are filled up with this fencing and rock, but you use the concept to create your phone book walls. (I have a backyard full of gravel that I’m slowly pulling up and replacing with life, and I’m trying to come up with uses for the gravel.)

I had stored a pile of phone books outside for a while through the elements (even through our monsoon season), and they held up fine, so they should keep for a while.
[Thumbnail for gravel-table.jpg]
found at
If you're gonna buy things, buy this thing and I get a fat kickback:
permaculture bootcamp - learn permaculture through a little hard work
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!