Cheap and Easy Raised Bed Gardening

Year 2013 marks only our second year of gardening! We currently use three raised beds to grow all of our vegetables.
Our 2012 garden.

They are each about 4x8 feet, and about 12 inches high. The taller you make your raised bed, the less trouble you should have with weeds. At 12 inches there are still a few weeds I have trouble with. I tried to put newspaper underneath, hearing that it would help deter weeds. I am not entirely impressed with this, however, because when you go to mix the soil it will move the newspaper and then it no longer serves its purpose. You might be able to get some sturdy landscape material to put under your beds if you are really worried about weeds. The less weeds you have, the less work your garden will be, but every garden has at least a few weeds.

Some of our 2012 year (not counting the egg - ha!)

Here is what we used for our raised beds to fill them, and so far things seem to be growing great!
  • We use the 1/3 rule. We used 1/3 of compost manure, 1/3 fill dirt, and 1/3 of rice hulls/straw/etc.
  • I think we got enough fill dirt for all three beds for about 25-35$, I can't remember exactly because we split it with the rest of our family. Also, we did our own delivery so we weren't out any money there.
  • We purchased composted hummus/manure the first year we gardened. We bought this at the Wal-Mart garden area. However, now we save money by using composted horse manure from our own pony! See my blog post: Manure Monopoly
  • We also bought a bag of rice hulls the first year and used that one bag across the three beds. Rice hulls help to loosen up the soil a little to allow the roots to breathe, since the top soil and manure mix is really dense. This bag costs around 15-17$. This year, to save money, we just bought a bale of straw for about 5$ and use that to loosen up to soil. 
I really like the above mix because we found that it was the cheapest for us, and to me that is the purpose of having your own garden: to save some $! 

So in one of our 4x8 beds, we put 1/3 topsoil, 1/3 rice hulls (or straw), and 1/3 compost manure. Then we planted our seeds and seedlings. Pick what seeds you like, and just follow the directions on the back of the packet for planting. Once you have your bed all planted, lightly spray/mist your seeds. Do this every evening. It is important not to put too strong a stream of water on them at first or you might move the seeds below the surface. Also, once weeds start coming up, be sure to pull a few weeds each day if you can. This will make your job a lot easier than if your garden begins to be overtaken with weeds. Then you will have to work long and hard to get rid of them.

In winter, overgrown with weeds.

As far as what to make your actual beds out of, you can use different things. We used non-treated lumber, just because my brother-in-law had some laying around and so he built our beds for us. (CHEAP and FREE!) I don't expect these beds to last too long since they aren't treated, but they work for now. You can also use cinder blocks, these make a more permanent garden. 

Cost Break Down:
(Not counting seeds)
  • First year garden costs: $85 (included fill dirt, compost manure, and rice hulls)
  • Second year garden costs: $5 (straw)

The beginnings of our 2013 gardens.

(Buying straw instead of the rice hulls really lowered our cost this year and of course using compost pony manure instead of paying for it from Wal-Mart saved us lots, too. Also, we have not bought any fill dirt this year so far, but we may have to at some point. If we end up getting some, this will cost us somewhere around $15 because we only need it for one bed.)

Happy Gardening!! Leave any tips or experiences in the comments below.


  1. Nice blog, Lana! The newspaper trick mostly works if you're doing lasagna gardening. You put layers of newspaper or cardboard down, then other organic matter or soil. Then you plant. The newspaper decomposes and the soil is nice and loose. Something that might help is to make sure you weed well in the fall. That really can keep down the weeds the following growing season. Hope that helps!

  2. Thanks so much for your comment, Kristina! We definitely did not weed in the fall and that is something we will be sure to do this year. As you can see, we have had to do a LOT of work this spring to get the beds de-weeded! Thanks so much for visiting, we hope you come back. :)

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  4. I use a lot of raised beds for vegetable gardening myself, and I appreciate the realism of your post. You showed how simple and inexpensive it is to do the beds, and your beds look great!

    We also have better success if we get out beds cleared out really well at the end of summer, and we often grow a winter garden - kale, lettuce, chard,spinach, that kind of stuff. But many a year we have not cleaned up the beds and had the dried heaps of weeds and grass to face in the spring. We have been gardening in the same beds for about 15 years. Picking weeds is just part of it. I don't find that most of our weeds come up from the ground - most of them come in as seeds to the top. My best advice is - MULCH!

    1. Thanks so much for taking the time to write such a great reply! We are hoping to do a much better job this year of keeping the weeds under control, and I LOVE the idea of doing a winter garden! My biggest trouble is the Bermuda grass.. that stuff is awful to pull.

      I am checking out your blog now and will be sure to follow you. Thanks so much, again, for your wonderful reply! Happy gardening! :D

  5. In my Dallas yard (postage stamp sized...) I container garden. I currently have lettuces, radish, beets, tomatoes, and all kinds of herbs. We also have a tiny house in Arkansas which someday I plan to have raised beds like yours! Good work!

    1. Thank you. I think some of the most inspiring gardeners are the ones that make the most of a small space and use their imaginations to make it work!


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