Raised garden beds are more efficient than gardening directly in the ground because they allow more airflow and drainage and warm faster than the ground. However, much extra prep work goes into maintaining a raised garden bed to grow your plants. Fortunately, there are several methods you can use to fill your garden bed for cheap, so you don’t have to worry about breaking your budget.
A raised garden bed is an area where you can plant your crops above the ground. This allows you to take more control over your gardening experience because it allows more drainage, airflow, and climate control than you would get if you planted your crops directly in the ground. Plants benefit from plenty of airflow and drainage and, without proper drainage, could suffer from root rot.
To make a raised garden bed affordably, you can use recycled wood, rocks, compost, and soil that people may have left over from a project. Also, making your own raised garden bed will be much cheaper than purchasing a pre-made one from the store. Making your own raised garden bed isn’t very difficult and could be a fun DIY project; you can even use untreated wood with non-toxic wood sealers.
Let’s go over 11 tips to help you save some money when building your raised garden beds!
Table of Contents
- How to Fill Up a Raised Garden Bed for Cheap?
- Raised Garden Bed FAQs
- Final Thoughts
How to Fill Up a Raised Garden Bed for Cheap?
1. Gather Free or Cheap Leftover Soil!
One of the best ways to avoid spending a ton of money filling your raised garden bed is to use someone else’s leftover soil. You would be surprised how many people have excess soil they don’t want anymore and are willing to give away for cheap or free. You can check places like Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist or ask around your neighborhood pages on community websites if anyone has excess soil they’re looking to get rid of.
When you buy used soil, you might need to sift out any contaminants to ensure you give your plant everything they need. However, this method is much easier than making your soil and much cheaper than buying it from the store. People might want to get rid of their soil because they bought too much for their garden needs and want to help the community instead of saving it for next year! Also it costs time and money to dispose of it, so really it’s also helping them out.
You’ll also want to compost your soil when you get it from someone else to ensure that it’s full of nutrients that can help your plants thrive. It’s hard to detect the origins of someone else soil and figure out anything they’ve done to the soil that could compromise its existing nutrients. So, assume that you must add nutrients to your soil before planting your crops.
2. Hugelkultur Raised Beds
Hugelkultur Raised Beds are excellent ways for people to start their raised gardens on a budget. These raised beds are made from rotting logs and yard debris, so you won’t have to buy any extra materials. Many people post online when they’re looking to get rid of any old logs or yard debris that they have. You can also drive around and see if anyone has yard debris on the side of the road that you can pick up.
If you live in an area with a forest nearby finding such debris is simple. Don’t chop down a living tree, find some branches and trees that are already collapsed and starting to even rot.
This type of raised bed is excellent for areas that receive drought because it retains water better than other raised beds. Alternatively, this might not be a good option if you live in an area with tons of humidity. If you can get your hands on rotting hardwood to make a hugelkultur raised bed, that would be best because the raised bed would last longer than softwood.
3. Core Gardening
You can use core gardening to fill a raised garden bed affordably. Core gardening is when you plant compost at the foundation of your raised garden bed and top your compost with garden soil. The compost bottom layer of this design will keep your plants fed for a long time and save you money on buying more soil.
Composting is also an excellent way to cut down on waste and help the environment. This method also helps you retain water, so it all doesn’t drain out when you water your crops. For example, if you like to water crops once a week, you can use core gardening to cut it down to once every two weeks. So, core gardening is also a great method to use if you’d like to go on vacations or you tend to be forgetful about watering.
4. Use Your Compost!
Composting is when you take organic matter and recycle it back into the earth to create new plants. You can use your own compost to fertilize your crops and reduce soil usage, saving you tons of money. Plus, when you compost, you don’t have to worry about buying fertilizer because the compost will feed your plants.
You can use your compost by mixing it into your choice of soil or using the core gardening method on your raised plant bed. You can also shred up and sprinkle compost on your plants throughout the growing process. Keeping backup compost for your garden is a great way to ensure that you always provide your plant with enough nutrients to grow big and healthy.
5. Peat Moss
Adding peat Moss to your raised garden bed is a great way to ensure that your plants always get the right amount of water. Peat Moss retains water while also allowing plenty of drainage for excess amounts. So, adding Peat Moss to your soil mixture is a great way to avoid root rot in your raised garden bed. Peat Moss is also extremely affordable.
Many gardeners use Peat Moss, and many of them also stock up on more than they need. So, don’t be afraid to ask around your community to see if anyone has any spare peat moss lying around that you can use to fill your raised garden bed. However, before you add Peat Moss to your raised garden bed, ensure that you use it for plants that can handle high acidity levels. Peat Moss will raise your soil’s acidity, which can ruin some crops if you’re not careful.
6. Ruth Stout Garden Beds
People use the Ruth Stout gardening method when they want to save themselves labor and keep their plants hydrated. This method means you will mulch your raised plant beds with leftover compost, but you don’t have to cultivate, weed, or plow your garden. This method can save you time and energy and successfully grow the crops you want.
Ruth Stout garden beds are great for people who don’t have much time to take care of the labor that comes with gardening. Ruth Stout was a famous gardener who revolutionized how people managed their crops. So, her methods hold tons of weight in the gardening industry, and people still follow her recommendations.
7. Worm Castings (Vermicast)
You can use worm castings and your raised garden beds in a few different ways. For example, some people prefer to use worm castings as a fertilizer by mixing them with their water to provide extra nutrients to their plants. However, other people like to add worm castings directly to their raised gardening bed containers to provide nutrients to the soil that the plants grow in before watering.
If you want to take up extra space in your raised garden bed, you should follow the second method and add worm castings directly to your soil. Worm castings can increase your soil’s ability to hold water and maintain the aeration your roots would benefit from. However, worm castings can vary in price, and if you go to the wrong retailer, you could spend a ton of money. So, ask around gardening groups and your neighborhood before buying worm castings from the store for your raised garden beds.
8. Back to Eden Garden Beds
You can create back-to-Eden garden beds by layering your soil and compost within your raised garden bed. You can choose any materials you want to make the garden bed as long as you ensure that you have plenty of drainage holes to avoid root rot. Many people use wood chips, compost, and garden soil in their back to Eden garden beds. this combination will fill up the raised garden bed quickly and save money on buying bags of soil or other growth mediums.
9. Buy Soil in Bulk
When you buy soil and bulk, you typically get a lower price than you would by buying only what you need. So, if you and your friends are out and about looking for gardening supplies, you should all chip in and buy bulk bags of soil together. This way, you will save money filling your garden beds with growth medium.
The more soil you buy at a single time, the more money you save, and when you and a bunch of other people chip in together, you all can reap the benefits of your discount. You can also buy all your other gardening supplies and bulk if you want to save long-term money. Buying in bulk might seem like a large upfront cost, but it will save you much money the more you garden.
You can order soil in large quantities, and you can pick it up in a truck. This way you get a ton of soil at a discounted price. This is really one of the best ways to save money when buying soil. With a bit of extra work you and a group can save some money by picking it up in bulk and dropping it off to each other’s homes.
10. Lasagna Gardening
Lasagna gardening is when you make your raised garden bed out of brown materials like rope, dry leaves, or old paper. This gardening method is different from the Hugelkultur because the foundation of the Hugelkultur raised garden beds is usually rotting logs. The lasagna gardening method has the same concept but different materials because they don’t use logs to make the raised garden bed container.
11. Add Manure
Manure is one of the most popular ways farmers and gardeners like to fertilize their crops. So, you can add manure into your soil medium to ensure that your plants stay healthy while they grow in your raised garden plans. However, this method might work better for crops you don’t plan on eating because some fresh manures can cause human disease when used on the vegetables we eat.
Raised Garden Bed FAQs
How Much Soil is Needed to Fill a Raised Garden Bed?
You don’t need to fill your soil to the brim of your raised garden bed. Your crops will be fine if you have at least 8 inches of soil to work with. However, larger crops might need more soil, so research your plants to determine the amount of soil you need.
Should You Lay a Weed Barrier Under Your Raised Garden Bed?
You can use fabric designed to prevent weeds if you want to protect your garden from weeds. Laying a weed barrier under your raised garden bed is an excellent way to protect your crops if your raised garden bed is still placed above the original ground. If you have them up on legs you can skip the barrier as nothing will be growing from the bottom of your raised bed.
Can I Use Topsoil in my Raised Garden Bed?
You can use topsoil in your list garden bed without any problems. However, this shouldn’t be the only growth medium you use because it might cause root rot. A little bit of topsoil mixed with other growth mediums like compost is a great way to fill up your raised garden bed.
Can I Add Potting Soil to my Raised Garden Bed?
You can add potting soil to your raised garden bed because it will help you drain your roots, so you don’t have to worry about rotting. Potting soil is excellent for any plants to grow inside of a container, whether you grow them outdoors or indoors. You can comfortably add 10-20% potting soil to a raised garden bed.
What Should You Avoid Adding to a Raised Garden Bed?
You should not add rocks to your raised garden beds despite popular belief. You don’t have to worry about drainage problems using the right growth medium in your bed. People like to put rocks in garden beds because they believe it will help the water drain easier, but this is not the case. Adding rocks will actually prevent water from draining well; it creates a barrier on the bottom surface increasing water saturation. This can cause serious issues in your raised garden beds, such as root rot and fungal growth.
The 11 tips in this article will help you fill a raised garden bed for much cheaper than normal. Many people are turned off by gardening because of the large upfront cost, but when you use unwanted soil and compost and buy in bulk, you don’t have to worry about the cost. Plus, if you chip in with other people interested in gardening, you can save some money on filling a raised garden bed.
I wish you luck on your raised gardening bed journey! If you have any questions feel free to reach out.
Jamie is the founder of The Backyard Pros. When he was 15 years old he started working at a garden centre helping people buy plants, gardening products, and lawn care products. He has real estate experience and he is a home owner. Jamie loves backyard projects, refinishing furniture, and enjoys sharing his knowledge online.