I’m in the process of converting my 40′ x 40′ garden into raised beds. The cost of materials to construct the beds and the soil mix make raised beds a bit expensive. So here are the details of how I am keeping the costs down on my raised beds.
Keeping the costs down
I used wood that I found on the boulevard during Spring Clean Up Week. That means that the construction materials for my beds is almost free–just the cost of screws and bolts. The beds aren’t
necessarily pretty and they certainly aren’t uniform, but they serve their purpose. And I’m happy knowing I saved a lot of wood destined for the landfill.
Making the soil mix
There are three components of the soil mix that goes into raised beds: peat moss, compost and vermiculite. The soil mix can actually be more expensive than the beds themselves. Here’s how I keep the cost down:
In in the fall, gardening centers put everything on clearance prices. That’s when I buy as much peat
moss as I think I’ll need for the next season.
Then in the spring, I take advantage of the compost give-away at the City Landfill. For a limited number of days you can get a pick up load (or more!) of compost for free. If you can’t get to the dump during their give-away days, you can still buy it all summer long. It will cost $15/pick up load, which is still a pretty good bargain.
But it’s the vermiculite that is the single most expensive component of the soil mix. After checking prices all around town, on Amazon and the rest of the internet, I’ve found that the cheapest source for vermiculite is the Palmetto brand, sold by pool supply dealers on Ebay. It comes in a 28 lb bag, which translates to about 4 cubic feet. It costs around $25, including shipping. That makes it about $10 cheaper than local sources. And is a much better quality. Unlike the coarse vermiculite that the garden center sell, this brand is nice and fine.
Here are the plans
Here are diagrams to show how I constructed my raise beds:
The whole design is pretty flexible. You want to be able to work the bed from the outside edges and your arms probably can’t stretch much farther than a couple feet. So the beds shouldn’t be any wider than 4′. But you can make them as long as you like. The gate to my garden is off center. That means that part north of the gate is a lot bigger than the south half. So the beds on on the south side of the garden are all 10′ in length. But the beds on the north side are 17′ long. Eventually I will also put in a 2′ wide bed all around the perimeter, butting up to the fence that’s around the garden. I’ll use the chain link fence as a support for vining plants–squash, cucumbers and peas.
This video goes into a bit more detail:
I hope this helps you with your garden plans for next year.