How to Make Cheap Raised Garden Beds
Making inexpensive raised gardens beds requires a little creativity and labor to reduce the costs of materials.
Making a raised garden bed doesn’t have to cost you a lot of money. Recycling items and using inexpensive or free products allows you to build raised beds without paying the high cost of kits and premade beds. When choosing materials for inexpensive raised beds, look for nontoxic, durable supplies that will not leach harmful products into the soil and will last several years. A low-cost raised bed works well for many kinds of plants, including vegetables, flowering varieties, herbs, annuals and perennials.
Ensure you will have access to all areas and sides of a raised bed. Keep each bed under 4 feet wide so you can reach its center for planting and maintenance, including weeding.
Medium to large rocks make natural-looking raised beds that last. Large rocks placed in a single layer and wedged against one another make a very durable bed. Some soil might wash out of the bed, but that situation is easily remedied by adding compost to the bed each year.
Medium rocks with relatively flat sides stack well to make a raised bed. A small amount of mortar will keep them in place if they don't fit together perfectly.
Although rocks have a high price tag when purchased from suppliers, farmers and home builders often have piles of them they’ll give away or sell for a low price. Quarries also may have reduced rates for imperfect rocks and rock pieces.
Sealed wood or wood with natural insect and rot protection, such as cedar, are simple to use to build inexpensive raised beds. People often give away wood, such as old fence planks and leftover building supplies. Check advertisements and contact builders for free wood. Look for untreated and unpainted wood for your safety. Seal the wood with non-toxic, oil-based wood sealant to provide it some protection from rot and insects.
If you can’t find free wood, then check for damaged or imperfect cedar fence planks, cedar boards or other wood boards at hardware stores. A simple 3-foot-wide, 6-foot-long raised bed can be made from scrap wood for corner posts and three 6-foot cedar fence planks.
Railroad ties and all other treated wood that contains creosote, pentachlorophenol or chromated copper arsenate should not be used in a garden. Those chemicals are toxins that are harmful to plants and people.
Concrete blocks, cinder blocks, bricks and other masonry building products make very durable raised beds. Bricks cost the most of the choices, with the others ranging in price, depending on how they look. For example, preformed, decorative blocks cost much more than basic cinder blocks. You might also find free or less expensive used masonry through advertisements and at construction and demolition sites. A 40-inch-square cinder block raised bed requires only eight blocks.
Always ask the property owner or contractor before removing building material from a site, even if the material appears to be trash.
You can make raised beds from just about anything that doesn’t leach toxins into the soil. Old metal roofing, glass bottles turned upside down, pieces of terracotta from broken pipes or clay pots and bamboo blinds can all be repurposed into raised bed sides.
Untreated straw bales, whole or sectioned, make very low-cost raised beds. They last about only one year, however, because the straw breaks down. Ensure straw bales weren’t sprayed with chemical treatments that could affect your plants' growth and the quality of the food, such as vegetables, you grow in the beds.
The soil medium you use to fill the raised beds also adds to their cost unless you use free sources. Making and using a compost pile provides you with free, rich compost that you can use to fill the beds. A mixture of equal parts compost, vermiculite and soil works well. Watch for sales to save some money on these bagged ingredients. You may find mushroom compost, aged manure and leaf compost available for free or at a low price if you agree to do the labor to move it to your location. Some municipalities offer free leaf pickup in fall, compost it during winter and then make the compost available to residents free of charge.
Kit Arbuckle is a freelance writer specializing in topics such as health, alternative medicine, beauty, senior care, pets and landscaping. She has training in landscaping and a certification in medicinal herbs from a botanical sanctuary.