Cheap, and efficient ways to fill a raised bed

BarredBuff

El Presidente de Pollo
Joined
Dec 7, 2009
Messages
8,934
Reaction score
355
Points
347
Location
Kentucky
Folks, I am wanting to add some more garden beds this Spring to help free up space in the main garden, but to also diversify crop production more here. I am looking at adding several raised beds. I can build and construct them fairly easily.

1. What are some easy ways to fill raised beds? (No, I don't have extra garden soil from my garden)
2. Anyone use concrete blocks to build a bed?

Thanks!
 

FarmerJamie

Mr. Sensitive
Joined
Dec 22, 2010
Messages
5,554
Reaction score
1,030
Points
353
Folks, I am wanting to add some more garden beds this Spring to help free up space in the main garden, but to also diversify crop production more here. I am looking at adding several raised beds. I can build and construct them fairly easily.

1. What are some easy ways to fill raised beds? (No, I don't have extra garden soil from my garden)
2. Anyone use concrete blocks to build a bed?

Thanks!
Dimensions? What free materials can you access?
 

milkmansdaughter

Super Self-Sufficient
Joined
Jul 31, 2017
Messages
1,297
Reaction score
1,512
Points
217
Location
Alabama
We watched Craiglists in the area and got free wood. I get free compost from the county. It's super rich and black and they load it free. Then I picked up free mulch hay from a man giving away 2 year old unsprayed hay round bales (i got about 30 of them over the course of the spring and summer last year, and used them all over the property.) And I added old composting leaves from the woods next door. Mixed in with all of that is some composted chicken manure. I had to pay for screws and I bought some wood water seal that is safe for plants.
The same man who had the hay was raising steers and goats and had MANY old feed buckets - big black containers with seperate lids of various sizes. I'm also using these for raised beds, and have cut the bottoms off of some and use them for rings around my blueberry bushes. I plan on getting more to ring my young fruit trees to protect them from the mower.
 

Chic Rustler

Super Self-Sufficient
Joined
May 11, 2017
Messages
1,702
Reaction score
1,645
Points
217
Compost. Its not fast but its free. Start gathering materials.
 

NH Homesteader

Super Self-Sufficient
Joined
Sep 7, 2016
Messages
7,087
Reaction score
4,679
Points
297
Mine are filled with a mix of bagged soil and compost from the goat barn. But you don't have goats so that's not very helpful, lol. My tomatoes last year were amazing. Hoping to build more beds this year, I really prefer raised bed gardening.
 

sumi

Sustainability Master
Administrator
Joined
Sep 26, 2013
Messages
7,008
Reaction score
5,227
Points
337
Location
Ireland
Compost. Its not fast but its free. Start gathering materials.
X2. I don't know how cheap/expensive potting soil would be by you, if it's affordable, I'd mix that in with the compost.
 

BarredBuff

El Presidente de Pollo
Joined
Dec 7, 2009
Messages
8,934
Reaction score
355
Points
347
Location
Kentucky
I'll have to get creative with it. I have some money to use on top soil, but have access to manure and compost. Plus grass clippings, and leaves.

Do you all know about a water seal for the raised beds?
 

Chic Rustler

Super Self-Sufficient
Joined
May 11, 2017
Messages
1,702
Reaction score
1,645
Points
217
I'll have to get creative with it. I have some money to use on top soil, but have access to manure and compost. Plus grass clippings, and leaves.

Do you all know about a water seal for the raised beds?

I dont use any kind of seal. Just wooden boards with 4x4s in the corners buried for support. A layer of carboard, some chicken wire to keep the gophers out and fill. I put a couple inches of woodchips on the bottom, then manure and grass clippings, then topped the last 8 inches with compost. Then this year i had to top them off with compost again.
 

Lazy Gardener

Super Self-Sufficient
Joined
May 14, 2017
Messages
2,247
Reaction score
2,014
Points
232
Location
Central Maine, Zone 4B
If I wanted to "seal" my raised beds, I'd look at using pond liner. This should be non toxic. A cheaper alternative would be to use construction plastic. You could stain your wood. I personally would not choose to use pressure treated wood. Good woods to use that are resistant to rot would be cedar or hemlock. I would not put a water proof seal between the soil under the bed, and the soil that you fill the bed with. But, you should put a border around the beds to help prevent grass and weeds from creeping under the edges of the beds. I'd use a thick layer of cardboard or newspaper followed by wood chips or pea stone around your beds. You can also put newspaper or cardboard under your bed.

As for filling your beds: look for free materials that will compost. Here's a good book.


Essentially, you will be building a lasagna garden in each bed. This author recommends a lot of peat moss. While peat is a wonderful product, it is a bit pricey. So, I'd look for what ever you can find that is free. Do you have a truck available? That will make a huge difference.

Do a bit of research to find out what is available in your area. We can pick up a good loam product for less than $40/cu. yd. Or we can get an organic soil blend which is loaded with seaweed compost for around $60/cu. yd. We can have these products delivered if we order 3 cu. yd. at a time. When building decent sized raised beds, this would be the fastest way to get up and running. If you are building smaller beds, and have time and want to do it as cheaply as possible, you can source as much free stuff as you can get your hands on, then order garden soil by the cu. yd. as necessary to finish the project. One thing I'd absolutely not do is buy my materials by the bag to fill those beds. IMO, this is a good way to spend way more money than necessary.

I would look for: leaves, used stable or coop bedding (avoid wood shavings, if at all possible) mulch hay, lawn clippings, mushroom compost, manure.

I can go to my town dump and pick up free materials from their huge composting parking lot. There are piles of leaves, mixed piles, piles of stable bedding, and mountains of wood chips. If you get wood chips, do not mix them in with your other ingredients. Instead, save those for a mulch on top of your beds.

Other things to consider: Do you REALLY NEED to make raised beds? Good reasons to do so would be: If you had horrible soil (ledge, lots of boulders, your yard consists of a bit of loam spread over construction rubble). You live in an area that frequently floods or has a high water table. If the latter is the case, it will also be necessary for you to do what you can to divert water away from your garden beds. Consider trenching around your beds, and diverting the water away to a drainage ditch or a lower area of your property.

If your soil is not that bad, you might consider other alternatives: Look at Back to Eden style gardening. Or gardening under permanent mulch. Both methods will build up your soil over time, and save you the work of building raised beds. An other way to garden this season while building up good tilth for your future gardening: hay or straw bale gardening.

And, finally, I'll put in a plug for Hugelkulture. I don't know how much space you have available, how many beds, and what dimensions you are considering, and what materials you can access. BUT, if drainage OR drought might be an issue, you might consider using hugelkulture. You could use this concept within the confines of a raised bed, but realize you won't end up with a delightful soil which you can easily poke a trowel into any where you want to. If you are looking for deep soft soil that is fun to play in, HK is not for you.

Finally, what ever products you use, take the time to ask a lot of questions: especially with hay or straw: Have any herbicides been applied to the fields? Some of the new generations of herbicides persist for a VERY LONG time. Some products that are sprayed on the fields persist in the hay/straw. They persist through the cow's gut, through the compost process, and will stay active to poison your soil for YEARS to come.
 
Last edited:

Beekissed

Mountain Sage
Joined
Jul 12, 2008
Messages
12,336
Reaction score
2,825
Points
417
Location
Mountains of WV
I use leaves, hay and chicken compost but you pretty much have to do that the fall before in order to have something you can plant into by spring. You have to keep layering it in for the winter, turning it a little, as it will compost downward.

Why not use haybale~not straw bales~gardening where you want to build your raised beds this year, so you can build right around them in the fall and let them decompose in place? Lots of things can be grown into haybales and, man, do they grow! :th
 

Latest posts

Top