Having learned how to build a raised garden bed with legs, the next step is finding how to fill a raised garden bed cheap.
How and what to fill a raised garden bed is one of the most common questions I’ve encountered from other gardeners.
While there are many methods out there, not all help you learn how to fill a raised garden bed cheap. That’s why I’ve put together this DIY guide to help new gardeners fill their raised garden beds and save on costs.
There are endless benefits of using raised garden beds compared to traditional in-ground planting. For example, you’ll experience fewer weeds and improve moisture retention when you use raised garden beds.
However, the main challenge of a raised garden bed is what things to put in the garden bed. There are many alternatives out there. However, most are quite pricy. The purpose of this DIY guide is to provide you with cheap options to help you fill a garden bed.
Before we start, the things you put into your garden bed are divided into two categories–the bottom and the upper part.
Best mediums to put at the bottom of a garden bed
Many first-time gardeners only focus on the plants they use to fill the garden bed, forgetting that the bottom materials are fundamental for their health.
So what things can you put at the bottom of your raised garden bed?
In any good, raised garden, there should be a barrier between the topsoil and the floor of the garden bed. What you use is essential for the generation of nutrients and retention of water for your plants.
While there are innumerable materials you can put at the bottom of a raised garden bed, not all of them are efficient and affordable. For this reason, we focus on three affordable options you can use at the bottom of a raised garden bed.
1. Wood scraps
The idea is to put materials at the bottom of a raised garden that will eventually add nutrients to the soil. Be it wooden planks, some tree branches, scraps of wood, or logs; they’ll get the job done.
Logs or wooden planks are readily available and cheap. If you’re using tree branches, go for the dry ones that have fallen off the tree. They are rich in nutrients and quickly decompose.
Logs of wood are durable and efficient options for the bottom of a raised garden bed. Consider using wood that can decompose after a couple of months.
When they decompose, they add a significant number of nutrients to the soil for healthy plants. Just ensure that you use natural wood scraps and not treated wood with chemicals that will contaminate the soil.
Leaves are another favorite addition to lining the bottom of the raised garden bed cheaply. They do an incredible job of enriching the soil in your raised garden.
It’s pretty straightforward to fill up a raised garden with leaves. Gather a bunch of leaves, withered or healthy, and spread them out in layers on the garden bed. Leaves and other garden debris are readily available from the park or within your neighborhood.
You can clean other people’s gardens, get paid, and use the leaves for your raised garden! Or you can clean your own garden and use the debris that you collect to add to your raised garden bed.
A thick layer of leaves takes time to decompose, so use several layers for a rich garden bed base.
Using leaves has many nutritional benefits to the soil as they decompose and release nutrients over time. Ultimately, your vegetables or other plants will grow healthy and nutritious when you use leaves for your garden bed.
Newspaper is the last resort if you can’t access the other materials easily. However, they provide an excellent addition to your garden bed for nutrients, and they are cheap and available.
You can spread several layers of newspaper at the bottom of a raised garden before filling it up with soil. Consider a good inch or two of newspapers to form a foundation that will naturally decompose over time.
Filling a raised garden bed cheap
After you are done sorting out the bottom of the garden bed, you’ll want to fill the garden bed with soil.
Healthy soil equates to healthy crops, so choose your medium! Before you purchase a soil mixture, check out this cheap option.
1. Bagged soil
Bagged soil is an affordable option when you want to know how to fill a raised garden bed cheap. However, you will have to purchase several bags of organic soil depending on the garden bed’s size.
A typical garden bed is about 3 feet in length. In this case, you’ll buy four bags of organic soil and two bags of topsoil. All these are cheaply available at a nearby garden center, and they won’t break the bank.
There are a variety of soil mixes available on the market. While some are expensive, I’ve tried and tested the Black Gold Potting mix, and it delivers outstanding results.
Sufficient soil in a raised garden bed influences the growth of your plants. While you want to use the cheapest options, don’t compromise on quality or quantity. Instead, use the right amount of soil for healthy plant growth.
Are expensive soils better?
Expensive soils are necessarily better, but it all trickles down to how you use even the cheapest type of soil.
For someone on a budget who needs to fill a raised garden, purchasing expensive soil isn’t an option. So does that mean using cheap dirt won’t result in beautiful plants?
The answer is “no,” you can fill a raised garden with cheap soil and achieve outstanding results.
A gardener on a budget doesn’t have the luxury to invest heavily in expensive soil. Therefore, it is okay to use your own ground or cheap dirt when discovering how to fill a garden bed cheap.
The secret lies in mixing the soil with other essential nutrients. Take native soil from driveways or buy cheap dirt from a garden store. Mix this soil with quality compost (10% of the volume of soil).
You will achieve the same results when you mix cheap soil with quality compost.
How to go cheaper
Let’s get this done and dusted.
Don’t confuse using cheap materials and going cheaper. There is a difference between the two. You can use even the most affordable soil or compost and still encounter unwarranted expenses.
Going cheaper means doing the right thing strategically. Follow these steps on how to fill a garden bed cheap.
1. Know the size of your garden bed
The size of your raised garden bed matters. Before doing anything, first, determine the size of the bed, which will give you a rough idea of how much soil you’ll need.
Use a tape measure and note the width, length, and depth of your garden bed. Next, determine the soil volume using a simple calculation: volume = length x width x depth.
2. Buy in bulk
After you’ve calculated the size of your garden bed, a big size demands buying in bulk. Also, if you are purchasing garden soil or compost, buying in bulk helps you save some bucks.
3. Use organic materials beneath the soil
Go cheaper by putting some organic material beneath the soil. They help raise the bed to a certain level taking up space that the earth would otherwise occupy.
Two methods work best when adding different materials to the raised bed:
Funny name, but it produces results. Hügelkultur is a cheap way of raising a garden bed by eliminating the volume to be occupied by soil.
This method entails placing lots of layers of debris under the soil.
As stated earlier, you can use large logs or wood, decomposing sticks, straw, or other similar organic matter. These materials later decompose and release essential nutrients into the soil.
Core gardening is one of the cheapest and efficient methods when you need to know how to fill a garden bed cheap. This method involves creating a sponge-like layer at the core (center) of the garden bed.
First, put cardboard, logs, or leaves at the bottom of the garden bed.
Next, mix all kinds of organic matter like grass clippings, straw, leaves, and old twigs to create a sponge-like material. Finally, fill the garden bed with the mixture.
When the garden is full up to almost halfway, you can then fill the rest of the space with soil or compost. When you use this method, you need less soil which saves even more money!
How to fill a garden bed cheap is an excellent DIY tip for a gardener on a budget. You’ll experience outstanding results while saving money.
Before you even think about filling your raised garden bed, first ensure that you’ve constructed its properly. The solid construction reduces the risk of the garden bed breaking when you fill it with soil and water.
Also, consider the plants you are growing when purchasing compost. Some plants demand a more robust compost mix, while others do well with regular compost. The pH level of the soil mix is always vital, depending on the types of plants you wish to grow.
Tyler C Rich is the founder and chief editor at TopsyGardening.com. An experienced gardener and a professionally trained agriculture development expert, Rich has worked in the gardening and landscaping industry for more than a few decades. Although he has retired, his spark for developing the best urban and indoor gardens has not faded a bit. He uses TopsyGardening.com as a platform to come across enthusiastic gardeners and share the unique insights he has acquired through years of experience. Rich is interested in aquaponics and technology apart from conventional gardening techniques.