A Raised Bed Garden Upcycle

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A long long time ago…. when solar was just becoming mainstream AND the first round of incentives were available for solar we did what many preparedness minded folks did. We went solar.

This was the 80’s. That was a long time ago! There weren’t many solar cells available at least at a reasonable price so we went with a ‘homemade’ design incorporating solar panels with a metal insert that circulated water. This hot water was then used to heat the water for the house which saved a lot of money when you had kids in the house. Girls take lots of showers!

We later moved to the countryside and took the dozen (overkill) solar panels with us to the new place. We changed the water circulating inside to an antifreeze which then heated a 500 gallon tank of water which provided hot water to the house. Plans were in place to also use the system as an air heat exchanger.

Over the years, parts broke, money was tight and the last few years had the old-style solar panels basically just sitting. A rather large hailstorm came through and smashed the panels. The hail tore large holes into the clear acrylic covering and smashed through the metal inserts as well as the backing. It was a BIG storm!

So what do you do with old style solar panels that can’t be used anymore?

You take them down.

AND then you figure out a way to repurpose them.

I took the panels apart, tossing the backing, the insulation, the acrylic, saved the metal inserts for a future project and took the frames and repurposed them into raised beds for the garden!

Here’s how it went:

Solar panel # 1 – THERE WERE TWELVE!!!! This one wasn’t in too bad of shape. You can see a few holes and the acrylic is no longer clear from being beaten up by the storm.

old solar panel
old solar panel

All the components removed from the solar panel.

solar panel frame
solar panel frame

The ground here is extremely sandy and doesn’t grow a lot of things well so we’re trying out the cardboard method of smothering what grows in the chosen spot.

cardboard gardening
cardboard gardening

Laid down the cardboard, then stacked the cleaned out solar panels on top.

raised bed in progress
raised bed in progress

Trying out the Hügelkultur method of gardening. This is where you use decaying wood as the base followed by twigs and leaves.

Hügelkultur in raised bed
Hügelkultur in raised bed

Adding the leaf litter. It’s mostly oak.

Hügelkultur leaf litter
Hügelkultur leaf litter

Then adding dirt from the woods….

garden cart with dirt
garden cart with dirt

And surprise! Hand dug dirt, while a good workout, doesn’t go as far as you wish it would!

dirt in raised bed
dirt in raised bed

Add in some organic ‘store bought’ bags of dirt, some ‘store bought’ plants and we’re off to a good start.

raised bed
raised bed

Homesteading and preparedness are a lot alike. We do what we can with what we have and find ways to reuse and upcycle whenever possible.