Raised bed gardening is a great way to grow food in your own backyard.
In this blog post, I discuss the benefits of raised bed gardening —> Beginner Gardening Series #1: Planning Your Location.
Recently, I’ve been getting alot of questions about how to fill new raised beds without breaking the bank. So I thought I would lay out my ideas in a blog post for future reference.
Depending on the depth of your boxes, it may cost too much money to just buy dirt and compost for your beds. You may want to put something else in the bottom to fill the void.
Here are some ideas of different raised bed methods, depending on what materials you have to work with —> 12 Creative Raised Bed Ideas for Your Garden.
I started gardening with water troughs last year, and I love this method of gardening. You can read more about my experience here —> Water Trough Garden Experiment Results.
But water troughs are deep and your plants won’t likely use all of that soil to grow. You really only need the top foot or so for soil and compost.
So what should you fill the rest of your raised bed with? That’s what we are going to discuss today.
8 Things to Fill Your New Raised Beds to Save Money
I prefer to use biodegradable, soil nourishing materials in the garden. Nothing that will give off harsh chemicals or byproducts, since we will be eating the vegetables.
Each of these ideas fits that bill. I also want these ideas to be cheap and easily available so that starting your new raised bed garden won’t break the bank.
1. Cardboard Boxes
We just moved, so I used most of my used cardboard boxes in my new garden beds. I tried to remove any tape or other plastics from the boxes before I put them at the bottom of the water troughs.
You can tear up the boxes into smaller pieces so they decompose faster or just lay them down as a flat barrier. It depends on your space and what you need in your box.
2. Logs or Wood Pieces
Wood is great to put at the bottom of your raised beds. It will decompose over time and add nutrients to your soil.
Make sure the wood or logs you are using haven’t been treated with any chemicals, otherwise those chemicals could leach into your vegetables. Definitely don’t want that!
3. Wood Chips
Just like logs or wood pieces, wood chips are great to use for the bottom of your boxes. You may be able to get wood chips for free from a tree cutting service. Ours will even deliver them right to the house. Win, win!
Not everyone takes the newspaper these days, but if you do don’t throw them away!
You can put them at the bottom of your beds to take up space.
Newspaper ink is vegetable and mineral oil based, so it poses a minimal risk to your garden. I would not use magazines or publications with shiny pages in your garden though.
Don’t be afraid to ask your neighbors for their newspapers as well!
5. Grass Clippings or Leaves
If you keep your grass clippings after you mow or have leaves in the yard that need raking, put them in your raised beds. They are kinda fluffy, so you will need more of these than other materials. But they’re free, so keep collecting!
Because they are very light materials, you will need to add more soil or mulch to your garden as the grass clippings or leaves compost in your raised beds the next season.
Again, make sure you haven’t used pesticides or other materials in your yard if you are going to use grass clippings or leaves near your vegetables.
6. Straw or Hay
I use hay for my mulch on top of my garden. You can read all about that here –> Deep Mulch Method for Gardening: The Results.
But you can also use straw or hay to fill the bottom of your boxes. Just like grass clippings or leaves, straw or hay my compost faster and make your soil sink faster over the season. You will just need to add more to your boxes for the next year.
7. Rocks or Gravel
I add this suggestion because you might have a free or cheap source of rocks or gravel on your homestead. If you have to buy rocks or gravel, it won’t be cheaper than buying soil or compost, so there’s that.
But using rocks or gravel at the bottom of your raised beds can help air flow in the beds, which will help with drainage and aeration. They will also make the beds really heavy, so make sure you have them in the spot you want to stay for awhile.
8. Kitchen waste (no meat)
Using kitchen waste or scraps is a great way to fill up your garden beds.
Instead of putting your scraps in a compost bin, or giving them to your chickens, put them straight in the garden box instead. They will decompose overtime and add tons of nutrients to your soil.
Do not put meat or anything else that will attract animals and disease to your beds. For some ideas on what is good for the garden, check out this composting article –> Compost Household Scraps into Nutrient Rich Soil.
Do you have some of these things laying around your house or homestead? Using things you already have to fill your boxes will save you time, money and help the environment.
If you would like to learn more about recycling in the garden, check out this blog post —> 10 Household Items to Recycle in Your Vegetable Garden.
I love gardening in raised beds. It’s a great way to grow vegetables in a neat and manageable way in your own backyard.
Good luck to you and your new raised beds! You’ve got this!
What things have you used in the bottom of your raised beds? Let us know in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share. Thanks!