Frugal Gardening: Four Inexpensive Raised Garden Bed Ideas

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Gardening doesn’t have to break the bank – here are some inexpensive raised garden bed ideas you can incorporate into your own garden at home!

Use these raised garden bed ideas to organize your garden on the cheap! Includes tips on making your own, inexpensive kits, and more.

Raised Garden Bed Ideas

Just because you are growing your own food does not mean that you will save money! It’s easy to drop hundreds – if not thousands – on a beautifully landscaped garden.

If your goal is to save money, you’ll want to consider ways of keeping your gardening costs down. Here at The Coupon Project, I’m interested in methods of frugal gardening.

Raised bed gardening is a popular method of growing vegetables and herbs, and it can be a spendy venture – depending on the types of materials you’re opting to use.

But there are ways to build a raised bed garden without breaking the bank, and I’m here to show you how.

Why I Love Raised Beds!

First, let’s answer the question “Why raised beds?” 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.
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I have loved having raised beds in our garden! They’ve worked so beautifully for my family.

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 & Inexpensive Raised Garden Bed Ideas

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

raised garden bed ideas - build your own

(Photo credit:

If you are looking to build your own raised beds and are a bit handy, I highly recommend the site! 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.

Idea #2: Grow Bags

There are a couple different options when it comes to growing your food in grow bags.

raised garden bed ideas - grow bag

This highly-rated Big Bag Bed (sold on Amazon) will set you back between $20-30 (depending on the size you choose). The benefit of this set up is that there are no tools or additional materials involved.

Just buy, spread it out, fill with dirt and grow! In the photo above, you can see we are using a Big Bag Bed to grow our strawberries this year. (You can read more about this method at my post on the Big Bag Bed.)


Even less expensive, you can grow food in burlap sacks. These would be good for one season only and at the end of summer, just compost the bags!

These would be more of a container method than a true raised bed, but I feel it’s worth mentioning. (For more on this unique, eco-friendly method, see my post Growing Food in Burlap Sacks.)

Idea #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!

This 48 in. x 48 in. Cedar Raised Garden Bed from Home Depot, for example, is currently priced around $47. 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.

If this doesn’t quite work for you, there are lots of other reasonably priced raised garden bed kits on Amazon.

Idea #4: Concrete Raised Beds

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

You can head over to Get Busy Gardening 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!

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy:

17 Creative Ideas for Frugal Gardening | The Coupon Project

17 Creative Ideas for Frugal Gardening

67 thoughts on “Frugal Gardening: Four Inexpensive Raised Garden Bed Ideas”

  1. 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..

    • 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!

    • 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! 😉

      • 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.

      • Same goes for plastic containers and plastic sheeting. Most plastics leech carcinogenic chemicals. I would avoid them. I mean, if you are trying to grow your own hopefully organic and healthier veggies, why taint the soil? Horse, cow, pig, chicken owners who make their own compost with the manure need to also be mindful of what you are feeding the animals. After worming with say Ivermectin, you wouldn’t want to mix any manure into your compost for several days. If you spray for flies or use bait instead of fly predators, again, it will end up in your veggies. I’m very careful about what goes into my horses and what is used around my property. In fact, since I switched to fly predators (Spaulding Labs and very cheap), we have noticed a huge increase in butterflies, ladybugs, birds, worms, lizards, and unfortunately, bunnies.

      • Cement blocks don’t exist. Cement is an ingredient in concrete, which is used to make blocks commonly known as cinder blocks. Cement itself is made from a mixture of minerals, primarily limestone and other calcium rich materials. It is processed with much heat, goes through an exothermic reaction and then is ground into a powder. If anything it is a lung irritant when in its powder form and then is caustic to skin during the curing process. When it is mixed with sand and water and formed into blocks it once again goes through a chemical reaction which generates heat and results in the cement solidifying the entire conglomerate into rock solid concrete blocks. While certain additives may be added during the mixing of the fresh concrete I am loathe to see them given the damning label “Chemicals”. By and large any “chemicals” added are bound or consumed during the curing process and will not be going anywhere. To say that inert cinder blocks present a food safety risk when used as construction materials for raised beds is ignorant and misleading. Remember the story of the boy who cried wolf!

        • Also, remember some/many homes foundations and basements are made with cinder blocks. If it was so bad, I would think we would have been trying to mitigate this in our homes for years now.

        • Thanks for the info. I really want to add a cinder block raised bed along my existing block property wall. If I bring the planter out about 3 feet and up about 2 1/2 or 3 ft. I think it will look attractive and neat yet practical.

        • Thank you very much for clearing that up. I’ve got a cinder block garden it. Block holes I plant marigolds.

        • Has the EPA responded to the decomposition effect of “fly ash” used in cinder blocks’ production? I’m enamoured with using them for stability and containment, but considering using a stable paint to seal.

          • Swimming pool paint? Rubber based and waterproof – sounds good to me.
            What about Bondcrete? Would that be a useful sealant?

        • I’ve read lime in cinder blocks harmful when growing crops Farfaglia also sent along information from the University of Maryland Extension: Cement block, cinder block and concrete block all are made with cement and fine aggregates such as sand or small stones. Fly ash is also often included. Fly ash is a byproduct of burning coal and so contains heavy metals and other hazardous waste. Labels do not give specific information on exactly what aggregate is used in the manufacture of the block. There is also little research data on this topic. Ultimately, this becomes a personal choice based on your comfort level. If you plan to use block as a raised bed material — and many people do – and you are concerned about potential risks, you could seal the blocks with polymer paint. Or you can choose to use another material.

      • PLASTIC has many chemicals in it.I would use that either.ALL plastic has some form of grude oil in it…Polyvinyl chloride,Polystyrene,polycarbonate,etc. None of which are same …Might as well eat GMO’s..

  2. 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!

    • 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. 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. 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… ( 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).

    • 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 😉

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

  5. 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. 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!

    • 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. 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.

  8. I’m curious about the cinder blocks.. I live in a hot, dry climate and have to deal with any concrete or brick around my yard leaching the water from the grass leaving it brown and dry while the rest is green. I assume cinder will do the same. What is a safe way to prevent this?? Thanks!

    • real “cinder” blocks are not made anymore… they are now concrete blocks. cinder block has not been made for more than 30 years. so unless you buy old block from somewhere you are safe. concrete blocks do not leach. i have done a lot of research and found this information out… just look it up if you are still unsure but fly ash is no longer used… just fyi

      • I built a planter using concrete block approx ten years ago. In last few years leaching has occurred. I have sprayed vinegar on the leached areas to remove the fluorescent,

        In regards to the fly ash, cement manufactures we’re adding fly ash to their product during the grinding process. Our company was purchasing fly ash from China and shipping to our plants in the western United States.

  9. I would avoid cinder blocks. They contain fly ash which has heavy metals. Not recommended for edibles.

  10. Hi and thanks so much for you post. I am building a garden for my family this Christmas your blog helped me to discover the small raised bed kits! Yay! I hope to find one today so that I can make my family’s dreams come true this Christmas. I am really excited, this going to be so much fun!


  11. Can plant directly into/onto straw bales. Have to prep the bales. There is a book about how to garden with straw bales

  12. I thought concrete blocks was a great idea until recently. There have been several write ups stating that you should not use concrete blocks with any kind of food gardens. The blocks have some kind of chemicals in them that are harmful to people. They are fine for flowers but not food. This put an end for me because my raised bed are for veggies not flower.

    • No the old cinder blocks had the bad chemicals they are not made anymore now they are concrete blocks. Look it up more.

  13. Cement blocks can be used for flowers in a raised bed, but show never be used for food plants as the chemicals in cement are poisonous to humans. If you do use it, make sure it is lined with a thick plastic to keep soil away from the chemicals.

  14. I just built 7 raised beds with concrete block. Block is porous and will leach water. I lined the inside with 3 mil plastic and plan to cover the blocks with a stucco like finish for aesthetics. The next challenge is figuring out how to protect my plants from the New Mexico sun and especially the wind. I’m thinking of using PVC hoops but does anyone have experience with this in very windy conditions?

  15. Making raised beds is really funny! It’s perfect for small garden just like at my house. My family love doing the DIY things so idea no 1 is definitely my first choice! Thanks a lot, my friend!

  16. That article is so inspiring, thank you for sharing it with us, Angela! I love DIY projects, it`s always better when you do things with your own hands!

  17. For years I’ve been using the simulated oak (heavy plastic/composite) barrel planters that I get from Lowe’s (about $20 a piece). For me, the secret to my success with this type of planter is to take a jigsaw and cut the entire bottom out, rather than just drill holes. I’ve put my planters in a bordered area and surround them with decorative mulch. Since I’ve cut the entire bottom of the container out and set it directly on the ground, I get excellent drainage, even during our rainy season.

    • I used old wire wreath forms (the ones you fold over the wires to hold the wreath foliage down) with the wires sticking up. You could lay branches down in bare spots between plants too. I’ve seen some people say plastic forks stuck in the ground (tines up) work too.

  18. Great post with easy to follow tips on raised garden beds. I have for along time used containers to grow flowers and some edible plants in my backyard but I love the idea of a raised garden bed kit. I can’t wait to buy one!!

    Thank you for sharing!!

  19. Hi Angela! I’m probably more frugal than most people I know. Years ago, I built my own raised bed, but the cost was ridiculous! I spent so much, it would have taken years and years to ever recoup the cost! So I started looking for items I could use to re-purpose instead!
    Voila! Enter kitchen cupboards and dressers! You know, the ones that are being thrown out when people remodel! The dressers on the side of the road with FREE signs on them! They already have divisions, the drawers can be used – giving you twice the space! Simply drill holes in the back of the dresser, the bottoms of the drawers, and they are good to go!
    A former neighbor owns a restaurant. They remodeled, she brought me several of their old cabinets they were replacing – they are now filled with flowers and a tree!
    The dressers get veggies, since they do have the dividers!

    I don’t use plastic to line any of these – there is no paint or any chemicals on the INSIDE of these items!
    They last for years, cost zero, and there are always more out there!
    hint: bookcases are great, as well!!!

  20. I have what might be a very stupid question but one that has kept me from setting up raised beds – where do you get the dirt or whatever else you fill them with, and what else could you use besides dirt? I’m on an extreme budget and really want to start growing my own veggies, but when I consider the supplies to build the frame, dirt, fertilizer, and on and on, it’s WAY beyond me….

    thanks for your wonderful series, though, it’s giving me lots to think about!

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