building a raised bed - does this cost sound about right?

basiladdictFebruary 12, 2012

I'm working on pricing the materials I need for building my first (YAY!) raised garden bed.

It will be 4' X 16' (braced in the middle, not to worry)

The box will cost about $60.

The compost via third party from the municipality will cost $132.97 (that's 3 cu yds, a little extra for some needy beds).

So about $200 all said and done. Does this sound about right? Is there a way I can do it any cheaper? (Assuming no cinder blocks for construction?)

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You don't say how deep you are maiking the beds. If one foot deep, then you have more than enough compost. Are you going to add the peat moss and vermiculite to make Mel's Mix...? Or do you plan to grow in straight compost?

Price is okay...

    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 2:02PM
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Yes, 12" deep. I need some compost for some of the other beds. We are moved into one of these new build developments where they scrape off all of the top soil and leave you clay and gravel. I couldn't even get hostas to grow in it last year, it was pathetic.

I need to research the moss and vermiculite a bit more. How do I know how much to add to a full bed of compost?

TY for the response!!! :)

    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 5:35PM
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Well according to the SFG method, new beds are filled with 1/3 compost, 1/3 peat moss and 1/3 vermiculite. So you would need about 21.3 cubic feet of each of those materials to fill a 4x16 box 1 foot deep.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 5:59PM
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Thanks. I can't find peat moss in bulk - just in a 40# bag. Is that a normal way to sell it? How many pounds is a square foot?

And I can't find vermiculite at all! Not even in bags. Is there a substitution?

I'd be glad to mix it like that, I certainly don't know a better way! ha!

    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 8:05PM
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I can't find peat moss in bulk - just in a 40# bag.

Interesting. Seems the stores around here only sell them in 2-4 cu ft bales.

I can't find vermiculite at all! Not even in bags.

I trust you've checked the database for suppliers in your area? U might even call a nursery and see if they might help you out.

Check with Ace Hardware. I'm not sure if they stock it, but I've had them order other stuff for me before.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 11:38AM
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I'm betting you already built the bed, but in case you want to build another one, or anyone else comes across this thread there are cheaper ways to about it. One thing to consider is looking for old pallets to cut up to use as wood. You'll have to check that pallets, but most aren't chemically treated anymore, usually they are heat treated if they are used domestically. Of course, if they were chemically treated you might not want to use them for a veggie garden! I see free pallets come up all the time on my freecycle account or look for them on craigslist. Also, you didn't say how deep you were going to make them. For most plants you only need 6" of soil, so I wouldn't make the whole box any deeper, but what you can do is build some extra smaller "top hat" boxes for if you are going to have a space with carrots or potatoes. Basically, all you do is build a smaller bottomless box, toss it down inside the box and soil you already built and fill it up. That way you aren't paying for deep soil everywhere. If you are going to be making "Mel's mix" be aware that it's going to cost you. I used it and am very happy with it, but the ingredients are not cheap. Vermiculite is often hard to find. On Mel Bartholomew's website/forum the users have a database of where you can find it. It's a great forum and may help you find it. Also, for compost it really is critical that you use 5 different types of compost, which around here means going to different nurseries and garden centers as the big box stores only carry mushroom and manure! Also, the 1:1:1 ratio is actually based on VOLUME not weight, and they are different. I have heard some people have success with a slightly modified Mel's Mix in which they use 50% compost 25% Peat Moss, and 25% Vermiculite, but I can't say how well it works. What I can tell you is that I did 2 boxes, each 3.5" x 10.5" at 6" in depth and it ran me about $200 just in soil. Also, don't forget about if you want to build a trellis, and any fencing/caging/protection for your plants. I found the whole project to be expensive for starting up, but the results were great! Good luck!

    Bookmark   June 3, 2012 at 5:29PM
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I have 6 raised beds. 5 4x4 and one L shaped, the long sides are 8 feet. The 5 beds are 12" tall but i did NOT fill them completely and even after adding leaves last fall and compost this spring they still arent full. I estimated that it cost me around 60-70 dollars per smaller bed. I didnt use mels mix but organic top soil, peat moss and only 2 kinds of compost. Add to that the hundreds i spent on building low tunnels to cover them and seed and i still think we will com out on top by the end of the year, next year at the latest. So for us, it was absolutely expensive and if we were concerned with only saving money we wouldnt have done it.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2012 at 6:01PM
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gumby_ct(CT it says Z5)

Prob too late for OP but not for others. The info remains the same about the peat moss & cull wood. I got 10yrs (AND STILL GOING) out of some of these untreated boxes.

Posted by gumby_ct CT it says Z5 (My Page) on
Sat, Apr 11, 09 at 8:47

If it's not too late maybe you can save some money by not using peat moss. Since it adds no nutrient value to the soil many either add more compost or just leave the peat out of the mix. The peat only serves to hold moisture, if you have enuff organic matter perhaps you can save there.

HD also has a cull wood bin. I give a description how I did mine in the link below.

Cost of setting up boxes

Here is a link that might be useful: Borders for Bed Gardening

Borders for Bed Gardening
What I do is go to Home Depot (HD) lumber section where they have scrap wood. They call it cull wood. Not sure if Lowes does the same. Cull wood usually has some defect. Where it is warped, nicked, chipped, split, cracked, used, or just generally less than perfect. Who cares, just going in the garden anyway. The store I go to cuts the wood into 4ft. lengths (perfect) other stores 3 or 5ft. The wood is usually kept on a cart somewhere in the lumber dept. Ask if you don't see it, it will saves lots of time. HD colors codes the price for these pieces. Green (51 cents), Yellow $1.01, Orange $2.01, and Red $4.01. I have noticed some stores think their scrap is priceless. The guy at my store keeps the wood moving by painting it green. Needless to say I generally wait for the best price :-). I check everyday cause it moves fast, esp. the green. What is there in the AM won't likely be there in the PM. The wood varies but could be anywhere from 1"x2" to 2"x12", or 2x4ft plywood (I made many shelves from the plywood), could be pressure treated (they don't use arsenic anymore but copper and that is another discussion) or the composite used for decks (tho the composite IS more $$, and heavy too).

I can get in & out of the store in less than 5min IF they don't have any green. Sometimes the length varies but I grab one of their tape measures so I know what I am getting. I don't like to have to cut. The 4 ft lengths will fit nicely into the back seat of most cars and are far lighter than cinder blocks (less expensive too).

To illustrate an example, say they have 4 2x6's painted green. You look them over decide they will work and pay .51x4=$2.04 plus .13 (6%)tax = $2.17
Not bad. Now you have to add the cost of the hardware. I use some 3.5x3 inch angle brackets I have had laying around for some 20+ yrs. and 2 sheet-rock screws in each side of the bracket (4x4=16 screws). You can use nails, 3in sheet-rock screws, buy some angle brackets, or whatever you have on hand. So you want to make your beds 12" deep? Grab 4 more 2x6's and lay it on top & use a scrap piece to screw or nail the top to the bottom or don't bother. Cost= $4.34 plus whatever you use for hardware. You can paint them or just leave them. Even pine is likely to last 5yrs or more untreated. Anchor them? I don't bother, haven't seen one walk away yet. If you need to move it, just grab one end move it inches or feet. Level it? Well kinda anyway.

The down side. Well it won't be a perfect 48x48 inches. It may come out to be 45x48in depending on the thickness of the lumber you use. I don't sweat it. To make a perfect 48x48 with 2x lumber, you will need 2 lengths of 51 inch and 2 at 48 inch.

So what happens if you have to pay full price? A 2"x6"x8ft piece of Douglas fir (cheap stuff) cost $5.27 plus .32 tax= $5.59 You get one free cut per board (cut to 4ft length making it easier to transport even in a Honda Civic). You will need 16ft so double the cost =$11.18. Of course if you don't want to build your bed up, you could use 2x4's (little over $6 for 2-8ft lengths), use 1x2's, or simply use string or rope tied to some stakes pounded into the corners to mark the perimeter. Or simply get creative. The whole idea, NOT to walk on the planting surface. So think outside the box, just don't walk in the box.

Will untreated wood last as long as cinder blocks? No. Does it look as nice? Maybe, if you paint or otherwise decorate it. Then it may last as long. Is wood cheaper than cinder? Definitely. Easier to move? YES. Consider a cinder block is 8 inches wide. 2x8=16 inches off your planting area. That is 48-16=32, unless you choose to reach across a width of 48+16=64 inches. That is 5ft 4in. if my math is right. Quite the stretch.

I prefer to avoid cinders, rocks, or anything slugs can hide under.
I use leaves, pine needles, cardboard, newspapers, or something that will decompose and attract earthworms in the aisles to keep the weeds to a minimum.

That's MY story and I'm sticking to it. Hope it helps.

Life consist of a series of choices and seems to be a learning process.

Wishing you happiness,

Here is a link that might be useful: Cost of setting up boxes

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 8:59PM
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