How to Make a Raised Planter Bed on a Cheap Budget

Raised beds can be made from scrap lumber, stones or cement blocks.
Raised beds can be made from scrap lumber, stones or cement blocks. (Image: Michael Blann/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Raised beds allow you to garden in areas where soil is unsuitable for gardening by placing the gardening zone above the natural soil level. Not only does this provide plants with loose soil for roots to grow, it allows you easy access to tend the plants. Raised bed design ranges from elaborate beds made from decorative lumber or stone to simple beds made from recycled materials. By choosing inexpensive materials for the frame of the bed, you can tailor a raised bed to nearly any budget.

Things You'll Need

  • Level
  • Garden rake
  • String or chalk
  • Rake
  • Tape measure
  • Rocks
  • Garden loam or topsoil
  • Compost
  • Peat moss
  • Manure, well-rotted
  • Fertilizer, 10-10-10

Choose a location for your raised bed in an area that receives six to eight hours of direct sunlight a day. Many flowers and vegetables prefer full-day sun, but the amount of sun required depends on the plants you intend to grow. Choose a location that matches the sun exposure your plants prefer.

Level the area before building the raised bed to prevent runoff when watering. What looks like a small slope may pose problems once the bed is established, and you may find yourself battling water draining from one side of the bed after rains or when watering. Rake the area smooth and add gravel or soil to any low-lying areas.

Mark the perimeter of the bed with chalk or string. The size of the bed depends on your needs, but should be no wider than 4 feet to allow easy access from both sides of the bed. If the bed rests against a structure, such as the house or a fence, keep the width to 2 feet.

Gather rocks to line the perimeter to create a solid wall for the outside of your raised bed. Choose stones that are at least 6 inches tall to allow room for a bed of soil, unless you intend to stack stones to build up the height of the bed.

Cover the bottom of the bed with landscape fabric, newspapers or gravel to prevent weeds from growing up through the bed. Plastic, such as opened garbage bags, can be used, but must be perforated to allow adequate drainage through the bottom of the bed.

Fill the raised bed with soil. Many prefer to mix garden loam with compost and peat moss to create a lightweight, loose soil suitable for growing. Typical mixtures include 1 part garden loam or topsoil, 1 part peat moss and 1 part organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure.

Add a balanced fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, following the recommended application rate on the package. Mix the fertilizer into the soil mixture to avoid injuries to tender roots or young seedlings.

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