Inexpensive raised bed gardens

sarah.streitzMarch 21, 2010

I was wondering if anyone had any suggestions on creating inexpensive raised bed gardens. I went to Home Depot yesterday and I was a bit overwhelmed with the idea of spending $100+ on wood. Are there other less expensive options? I'm willing to be creative!

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I am thinking of doing concrete block beds.

Another idea, although probably not any less expensive, would be bags of cement. I saw a wall built with them once. Just stack the bags, hose them down good and they'll set up looking like big stones. Over time the paper will just wear away, or you could peel it off.

I toyed with the idea of livestock tanks, but they are pricey and would need the bottoms cut out.

I'll be watching this thread for other's input and ideas.


    Bookmark   March 23, 2010 at 4:56PM
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thisismelissa(z4a-S Twin Cities MN)

If $100 seems expensive, I'm pretty certain you wouldn't get a very big bed out of $100 worth of concrete blocks. I mean, Menards has the little mini ones for $1 each sometimes, but that'd be a pretty small or shallow bed made from $100 of those little guys..

I'm thinking $100 doesn't seem so bad.

But here's a question.... Why a raised bed? Why not kill the grass, edge with a sharp shovel, amend with some compost and call it a bed?

    Bookmark   March 24, 2010 at 9:14AM
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zenpotter(z4 MN)

When you say kill the grass. The best way to do that that is nasty chemical free is to lay down several layers of newspaper put the compost on top and you have a bed. To plant cut through the newspaper where you want to put the plant or seed. The newspaper will decompose in a couple of years. I have been doing that for 5 or 6 years and it is so easy.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2010 at 9:44AM
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mnwsgal 4 MN(4)

For my vegetable garden I made two tall raised beds.

As I posted on the livestock tank thread:

I made two raised beds using large square patio blocks that I got on sale about 10 years ago. I placed two per side on end partially into the soil. At about $2 per block that was less than $16 dollars. I think those blocks cost $3-4 now.

Last year I had to dig some of the soil away from the inside to reposition one side which had pushed outwards a bit. Just pushed it back into place and replaced the soil.

For flower beds I use the same technique as zenpotter.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2010 at 2:39PM
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Concrete block may cost a bit more than wood, but a) it is not chemically treated and b) it will last many years longer than wood.

Plus, if I ever want to "rearrange" they can easily be disassembled and restructured. Well....easier than wood, anyway.

mnwsgal, so you only used 8 patio blocks? Must be a very small bed? Can you post a photo?

The reason I am doing raised beds is because nothing will grow in the heavy clay soil I have. Plus, my yard backs up to a woods, so I feel I can control weed better in a raised bed.


    Bookmark   March 25, 2010 at 7:54AM
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mnwsgal 4 MN(4)

The eight patio blocks I used are those big flat square blocks, I think they are 18" squares, though might be bigger. I have two squares of 2 blocks x 2 blocks and use them for square foot gardening as well as having long narrow ground level beds surrounding the two raised beds with a path between.

Sorry I don't have any photos in my account to post but I will check my computer files and if I don't have anything there I will try to get photos this weekend. Will also take some measurements.

I must say that I am very thrifty and will not spend huge amounts of money on concrete blocks if something else will work.

My first square foot raised beds were 4' x 4' made with cedar dog eared boards. Very inexpensive. I used those for many years, though they do rot after a period of time.

I have seen beds made from stacking large rocks. Do you have lots of rocks around? Or access to someone who does? Many farmers have rock piles at the ends of their fields and are often happy to have someone take them away. Alas, all my farmer friends live in SD and I do not have a pickup or van to haul rocks.


    Bookmark   March 25, 2010 at 11:49PM
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mnwsgal 4 MN(4)

Here are photos of the layout of my vegetable garden.

This was originally a small flower bed at the back and was left as a flower bed where I have tulips and other rabbit favorites.

General Layout 12 1/2 ' w x 24' length March 2010

The back ground level bed is 12 1/2' by 3'. Other ground level beds are two feet wide as that is an easier width for me to work with. Side aisles are two feet wide. End aisles are three feet wide.

March 2010

The raised beds are made from three 18"squares (not two as stated above) per side. This would make them 54" square and 12" high. They are actually not square as there are some gaps where they do not meet at corners as over the years they have shifted a bit.

March 2010

Years ago I added tulips to the front half of the front raised beds. I plant veggies in between the tulips which take over the beds after the tulips die back.

Spring 2009

Summer 2008

    Bookmark   March 28, 2010 at 7:26PM
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mary4b(4b WI)

ok, how about this idea....if those 18" square blocks work by putting them 1/2 way into the ground, why not go to the Habitat For Humanity Restore and pick up some old those closet doors that are about 18" wide per panel. Each door could be a must have one of those Restores in the Twin Cities, right? Or, post on freecycle that you need old doors (or 18" square blocks)...Good Luck! (Obviously, I understand that the doors wouldn't last long, but they are very cheap, and long...and you could probably get a few years out of them while watching out for something more permanent to replace them.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2010 at 3:11PM
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zenpotter(z4 MN)

Yesterday I made two raised beds that I made from wood the neighbor had set out to get rid of. The cost $0.00. Try looking around. I noticed some free boards on Craig's list that would have worked, but someone already had gotten them.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2010 at 8:48AM
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thisismelissa(z4a-S Twin Cities MN)

I saw something the other day that made me think of this thread.
They were raised beds made from bales of straw.
I googled it and found this source:

I don't know how much a bale of straw costs, but it might be worth looking into!

    Bookmark   April 10, 2010 at 10:22AM
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I have used this website as my guide to for my raised beds and gardening tips...I found it very very useful.

Don`t spend a lot of money on premade materials. Besides your garden will look more natural. My garden beds and compost pile are all made from materials I collected on freecycle and around our property and (I have to brag a bit-chuckle) it looks beautiful!! The website I gave above gives illustrations etc.

Here is a link that might be useful: No dig Gardens

    Bookmark   April 15, 2010 at 1:53PM
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It depends on how high and large you want it.

Last year, I made mine of two 10-12 inch boards-just plain old lumber with two 8' foot board on the sides and 4' on the ends. (I made a planter of the same wood about 20-25 years ago and it is still in good shape) It's surprising how much that short rise helps.The bunnies love it too-hat to put a short fence around it.
I made another by mounding the dirt into a small berm and planting that.
I also planted some on a existiing small hillside on our lot. gramma jan

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 1:00PM
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jazzygardener(z4 MN)

We removed an inground swimming pool about 4 years ago and used the broken concrete as raised beds. By flipping the broken concrete over and stacking it we build some nice raised beds that looked like stacked flagstone. This was a great way to recycle and create inexpensive garden beds.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2010 at 1:31PM
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nick_b79(4/5 Southeast MN)

I'm picking larger rocks out of the neighbor's farm field to use to build a raised strawberry bed. I did something similar to build a raised azalea bed at my dad's place a few years ago. It looks a bit rustic, but I like the variations in color and texture that different field stones add. Plus, it's free material; all you supply is the manpower.

Farmers typically have rock piles on their property; maybe you could make friends with a farmer near you and fill up the back of a truck?

    Bookmark   May 6, 2010 at 5:54PM
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