Frugal Gardening: Four Inexpensive Raised Bed Ideas

How to make Inexpensive Raised beds | The Coupon Project

Last month I launched a series on Frugal Gardening. Watch for new posts each Monday and Friday and an update on my own garden each Tuesday through the month of May. I created a Frugal Gardening page so you can refer back to previously published posts.

Why I love Raised Beds!

I’m a big fan of growing food in raised beds in a garden space. Here are some of the benefits of doing so:

  • It’s easier to control the soil. You can start with fresh soil or soil mix of your choice! By raising the bed, you also keep the soil from getting stepped on and compacted. Your soil also may heat up faster, improving germination rates. 
  • It’s easier to tend your plants. You don’t have to bend all the way over to deal with weeds or to harvest your greens. Some people even raise the beds high enough to accommodate gardeners in wheelchairs or physical disabilities.
  • It’s fun to plan the layout and keep certain plants contained. I find it’s easy and fun to plan what I’m going to grow and where. Also, plants that may spread too quickly (such as mint!), can be more easily contained.
  • It’s a great introduction for beginning gardeners. If you’re not sure you want to go farm-style on your backyard, you can easily set up a small raised bed on toward the back near your fence, or even on your patio! You can start small with just one or two beds, and build more later if you choose. You can also create beautiful custom shapes using the raised beds and a number of materials.

100_4097 (800x600)

I have loved having raised beds in our garden! They’ve worked so beautifully for my family and I’ve been able to grow just about anything you can imagine in them including raspberries, tomatoes, corn, kale, chard, beans, peas, carrots, parsnips, cucumbers, garlic, quinoa, and even spaghetti squash!

Simple Ideas for Inexpensive Raised Beds

My husband and I built our raised beds ourselves and I need to be honest with you, we did spend some money. I’m a firm believer in selecting materials that are safe for growing food and we decided on cedar. All told, I would imagine we spent several hundred dollars to set up our custom 7-container raised bed garden including tool rental, tools, lumber, and soil, and installing irrigation (which we’ve yet to finish setting up). I do think we saved money in that we did all the work ourselves and it’s been money well spent for the food and enjoyment the garden has given us!

I say that to be completely upfront and honest with you, but I also don’t want to discourage you, because there are DEFINITELY ways you can do this for less money than we did! Here are a few of my favorite ideas for inexpensive raised beds:

Idea #1: Build your own

raisedbeds1

(Photo credit: Ana-White.com)

If you are looking to build your own raised beds and are a bit handy, I highly recommend the site Ana-White.com! Not only does she break it down for you, she has FREE pdf instructions including a materials list. The above photo is from her $10 Raised Bed post. Yes, she is insisting you can do this for $10! Honestly, I’d be a bit surprised if one could do that after the lumber and hardware involved, but regardless, you should save a ton of money following her handy instructions.

Search Ana’s site and you’ll find no shortage of additional raised bed and garden planter options. Highly, highly recommend.

#2: Grow Bags

One of my very favorite YouTube channels, GrowingyourGreens, suggests growing your food in $30 bags! These may only last for one season, but a great chance to try out gardening without a big investment. This would also be a good idea if you’re renting and cannot put down anything permanent. In the video below, he demonstrates how you might do this.

By the way, check out GrowingyourGreens’ YouTube channel! His videos tend to be on the longer side (about 30 minutes), but I enjoy putting them on while I’m cleaning up the kitchen or shuffling through mail. He’s got a phenomenal front-yard organic garden and is quite knowledgeable about all aspects of growing high-quality food in containers. He has hundreds of videos available, and many frugal and free ideas for gardening.

#3: Buy a Kit

I am hearing really good things about some of the small raised bed kits available! Many of these don’t even require the use of tools.

Greenland Gardener 42 in. x 42 in. Raised Bed Garden Kit 105981

This Greenland Gardener kit from Home Depot, for example, is currently priced at $28.97. It boasts easy assembly and no tools required! Even better, you can stack or expand it with additional kits to make a larger and/or deeper growing space. (Incidentally, if you’re interested in this particular product, it’s rated quite well! Make sure to read the comments to see how purchasers have used and configured it for their garden. You can also ship to store to save on shipping costs.)

#4: Concrete Raised Beds

Here’s an idea I’m seeing more of, and am digging: using concrete blocks!

raisedbeds2

(Image from: VegetableGardener.com)

You can head over to VegetableGardener.com for more information on how to do this. I like this idea as I imagine it would hold up a bit longer than wood. You could also omit “capping” the tops of the blocks and instead, filling with them with dirt. This way, you can plant herbs or flowers around the border.

I also want to mention pallets… I know they are wildly popular right now, but I’m on the fence about their use in the home garden. If you’re looking at going this route, I’d encourage you to see if you can learn more first on how the wood was treated (if at all), and how you might best clean it up first.

I would love to hear additional ideas for how one might save on the expense of building raised beds!


Comments

  1. Kweetkiki says

    Thanks Angela!!…I really liked the idea of the concrete blocks …was wondering if all these raised beds need to be lined on the inside in a way which inhibits certain critters from digging their way in ….I have heard ..u can put down newspapers to keep the weeds away ….and some gardener’s sheet etc to kep the critters away..

    • Angela Russell says

      We attached chicken wire to the bottom of our boxes and then lined the insides with landscape plastic. ;) You can definitely mulch to keep weeds away, but in general, I find weeding isn’t such a huge issue in these smaller boxes and I found that more mulch = more slugs in our wet weather!

    • Feline Randall says

      Cement is a nasty chemical… if you go this route, make sure you have at *least* 8-10″ of space between your cement and your plants. Personally, I would line it with some kind of heavy duty plastic. Not only are there nasty chemicals, but they are very basic (thinking baking soda) and porous. It will leach into your soil and could impact your the PH requiring you to constantly amend your soil… particularly if your plants like a slightly acidic soil (tomatoes). Pac NW soil is already low on the acidic scale….

      I wouldn’t grow food this way. Flowers? Ready; Set; GO! ;)

      • says

        I didn’t think of the cement impacting the PH. I almost bought some cement blocks the other day, but last-minute decided to go with fir planks for my beds because it was less expensive. Now I’m glad I did.

  2. Amy says

    My mom gave me these nifty fabric (not sure what it’s made of) bags for our potatoes and parsnips, I am going to be planting them this weekend. I love organic gardening!

    • Angela Russell says

      I know it, isn’t he? If you read the comments, they often say, “dude. You could’ve made the same point in 2 minutes – why’d you take 20?” But his passion is just so contagious! I love listening to him and it makes me want to do a better job of my garden!

  3. Angela Garcia says

    we rent the house that we live in. when we moved in the people who own it left behind a plastic kiddie pool that was broken. I poked holes at the bottom and then we filled it with dirt and we’re using it as a raised bed. So far we have baby carrots growing, zucchini, yellow squash, cilantro, and some cayenne peppers and I have to add some onion that I started from seeds.

  4. Feline Randall says

    Burlap! That’s my magic/cheap/awesome/green/pretty raised bed that works like a charm….

    You can buy used burlap sacks from Seattle Burlap… (http://seattleburlap.com/locations.php). At my location in Lake Forest Park they are $1 per bag. These are HUGE bags…

    You have to learn how to properly set them up for planting or it might look sloppy, and there is a learning curve, but once you’ve got it figured out, it goes together in a snap. I helped my good friend build a garden out of an old palette and 6 burlap bags, on her rooftop deck just outside of downtown Seattle…. the most expensive part was the casters I installed on the palette so she can move it around if she wants to entertain…. and the soil, but she paid for that! ;)

    There are websites that show you how to “roll” these sacks, but I think it’s better to fold them in half so the sacks are a double layer… Especially in RAINY Seattle. Plus, they are really hard and frustrating to roll… they fold easily. Once these are planted you cannot move them until the end of the season…. but the burlap can be put into yard waste or your compost bin.

    These sacks will hold 10 gallons of soil (plenty for anything you want to grow) and still have extra fabric to fold a nice decorative lip if that’s your thing. I have lots of photos of mine, and could probably put together a photo tutorial this weekend… (I have 20 tomato starts that wont fit in our garden… so I’m making a permanent home for them).

    • Feline Randall says

      PS… I just googled images of plants growing in burlap… my bags don’t look sloppy like the pictures on google… so don’t get discouraged… Rolling is the standard method, and it’s sloppy looking, IMO…

      I like clean lines ;)

    • Angela Russell says

      AWESOME information. Really appreciate all your helpful comments here today on this post! Thanks!!

  5. Tamara says

    We did a cinder block garden bed with or kids and LOVE it! We lined the bottom with several layers of wet newspaper to kill the grass and weeds. We just placed the bricks on top. Our entire bed with blocks, soil and plants cost about $45 bucks. We plan on doing another one at some point as well.

    PH maybe a problem but that’s really about it. It’s a safe and affordable option for a garden bed.

  6. Ann says

    I use cedar beds but will add a concrete block bed next month. Everyone I know has had great luck with them and it is so easy to add a layer and raise the height if you need too. I have seen them painted, stained and stuccoed. The stucco finish looked wonderful!
    Love your site!

    • Angela Russell says

      Thanks Ann! I think in the next few years, when the beds I’be built are spent, I’ll go for concrete or stone. I think it should hold up longer!

  7. lindacruz says

    I love the idea of concrete blocks. I rent and they arent that hard to use. My grandmother used this method and she also lined her walks with them and put flowers in them. I decided to have a little fun since I saved so much and let my nieces and nephews paint the blocks. They love gardening now. And the concrete blocks are $2 a piece at the most.

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