How to fill a raised bed on the cheap

How to fill a raised bed for under $10

Listen to the podcast

Growing food is fast becoming a lost art. It’s feared, it’s unknown, it’s challenging, it’s rebellious. But it doesn’t have to be hard.

Join me in the Love of Dirt podcast where we explore topics around growing food, fair food and sustainable living.

Subscribe or listen to new episodes here.

This past week we made a raised bed and shared a timelapse of us building it and filling it. It went a bit nuts on social media  and we had loads of people commenting on my technique of filling it.

I’ve filled my fair share of raised garden beds and I’ve got my technique down pat.

However when I made my first raised beds I made a rookie mistake. I bought the cheapest soil mix I could find just to fill the thing, I think I was paying $2 a bag from the cheap shops.

Everything I planted just basically turned yellow and died.

When ever I see people loaded up with a specific potting mix I want to run over to them an warn them. 

The second time around, I went to the landscape suppliers and bought the best veggie patch mix you could get. I think we paid around $300 to fill two beds.

Same thing happened. 

It took around 6 months with loads of other inputs for it to come good.

Now I want to share with you how I fill my raised bed so they are ready to roll.

Want my food growing secrets?

Check out the Dirt Lovers Guides here.

My lasagne method

I use a method called the lasagne method, many people have very different techniques but I’ll share what I do which is layers of organic matter, compost and manure.

In the base if I am planting direct onto grass I’ll start with a layer of cardboard. If there are trees nearby I may also turn it into a wicking bed or use geofabric to stop them sucking the life out of the bed.

Then I will go around and do some garden pruning. I’ll pop all these pieces – the big branches in the bottom of the raised bed. For our garlic beds I used all my sunflower stalks. 

From there I layer with home made compost, then a layer of cane sugar mulch, then a layer of  manure, I keep layering with around 2 cm of each in depth with the final layer being well rotted compost. I add a little sprinkling of my goodie mix on top of the compost – just not the top layer. My goodie mix is my secret sauce and reserved for my dirt lover members but it’s basically a mix of trace elements to give the patch a boost.

The bottom layers of compost can be not quite ready. By the time your plant roots reach the base they should be all ready to go. 

Of course the key to keeping the cost down is having access to home made compost and manure. I use a mix of well rotted chicken manure or horse manure from my hubbys uncles horses or my dad will bring me some sheep poo occasionally. Sometimes I’ll pay $2 for a bag of cow poo from some nearby hobby farms. 

If you don’t have access to these things you can still do this method with commercial compost and manure. And to keep costs low you can use the cheaper compost mixed with the premium stuff. A good variety of brands is going to make sure your bed is well balanced. 

If this is still out of your budget, take a look at straw bale gardening. This is a new method I’ve started using in areas where I want to build up new garden beds.

Want the step by step recipe for my raised bed method?
Sign up to grab the PDF cheat sheet here.

7 thoughts on “How to fill a raised bed for under $10”

  1. Hi! I made and filled my first raised bed this month, following your instructions. Most of my gardening attempts until now have failed due to being attacked by every creature under the sun. We live in the inner city, so don’t have much space, but I’m keen to try growing things with my kids. I don’t have room for a compost bin or access to manure, so I bought both. Very disappointed to discover the bed is overrun with fungus gnats! (I had to search the web to find out what they were). Has this happened to you? Any tips for avoiding it in future? I’m now busy trying to get rid of them… sigh… Thanks for the advice.

    1. Hi Lyndal, no I’ve not had that even in purchased compost / manure. If it’s full sun they should just move on as it’s probably not ideal conditions. Did you mix brands or all one type?

    1. Yeah I’d be contacting the company that you purchased from as that’s not right. They usually show up when it’s too wet and there is decaying matter. They may move on in the sunshine but you don’t want them to stay. As it’s a new garden I’d get a yellow sticky trap to catch the adults and then get some eco neem on the soil to target the eggs.

    1. Wood chip would probably take a little too long to decompose, I would use it as a bottom layer only not towards the top. Sawdust would be ok though.

  2. I’ve had fungus gnats before. I used mosquito dunks. They are just rings with a bacteria that sterilizes mosquitos and gnats. Organic and pet/human safe. Just put them in 5 gallon buckets of water and use that wAtet to water the garden . They will be gone in 7-10 days.

Question or Comment? Leave it below

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Notify me We will inform you when we have these seeds back in stock. Please leave your valid email address below.
Scroll to Top