Over the years, my husband has become the king of making cheap garden beds with materials we already have. Whether that be some extra wood from a project in the barn, or some trees he cut down, there is always something we can use to build a raised bed. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that any dime you can save on a homestead is well worth the effort.
We live on sandy soil, so raised beds are the most effective way for us to grow anything. We need to build up some walls and fill it with a mixture of compost, our soil, and organic garden soil that we purchase from the store. Any time we have tried to grow anything in the natural sandy soil, the plants dry out very quickly because the soil doesn’t retain any water.
Our garden is built out of rows of raised beds that are easy to weed and harvest when the time comes. Each of our cheap garden beds is also surrounded by chicken wire to keep the animals (and children) out.
Here are a few suggestions on how to build cheap garden beds of your own based on our experience.
This one is our personal favorite and is the design we use for almost all of our garden beds. The idea is to build walls out of wooden planks and hold them in with wooden “stakes”. You simple connect the four planks into a square and then build up from there. Once you reach the desired height, usually 2-3 feet, you put it in place and stake it down.
This process is much easier if you use wide wooden planks, like 1×8’s or wider. The skinnier the wood, the more rows you will need to build to get to your desired height, and the more room for error. The only thing we suggest staying away from is plywood. It evidently isn’t made to get wet and hold back we soil for a long period of time (lesson learned).
If you are going to purchase the wood, make sure you get something pressure treated so that it will survive the weather for years to come. If you have wood laying around, I wouldn’t hesitate to use that instead, no matter what it is. Our first raised bed was made with pine and it still holding strong 10 years later!
Another concept that words really will if you have the items laying around is to stack logs in a square then fill it up. We have used this technique a few times and been very successful. The only caveat is that I would only classify this is one of the cheap garden beds if we had to buy the wood that is needed.
The concept is pretty straight forward, simply stack the heavy pieces of wood in a square formation and add a few large nails to hold it all together. My husband likes to take a chainsaw to the top and bottom of each log to create a flat surface to sit on, but he has also be successful holding them up with the logs running perpendicularly as well. Hot Tip: Build these in place, don’t think you and your husband are going to build it in the barn and move it into place.
If you are looking to start small, grow bags have really become popular over the past few years. These hefty bags are cheap and are incredibly easy to set up. We use them for a few plants, mainly because we were curious what all the buzz was about!
The bags are made from thick material that hold the dirt in while allowing excess water to escape. It also allows for more air from to the root system, a great benefit to some crops. The only thing I worried about was the durability, and how many seasons they would really last, but I will say that I haven’t had to throw one away yet.
If you have never works with cinder blocks, don’t just scroll past this because you think it will be too hard. If you have ever worked with Lego’s, you can build with cinder blocks as well, trust me. Best of all, cinder blocks are really cheap and sturdy.
Simply make a square out of cinderblocks, apply some mortar, and then stack on the next layer. If you really want to make sure it lasts forever, you can will the walls with concrete and rebar once that are at full height. Once they are dry, you can fill the middle with soil and have a great garden bed for years to come
Some of the raised bed kits on the market are rather inexpensive for what is included. Most of them are really easy to put together and don’t even require tools! If you are looking to build a few really cheap garden beds, buy they in the fall on clearance so they are ready to go in the spring.
This is probably the best option is aesthetics is a top consideration when you are building these beds. They are going to look much better than a pile of logs in a square in the back yard, but might not last as long. Either way, this will require much less effort and homestead skills to achieve if you are looking for something quick and easy.