Build A Cheap Raised Garden Bed in Under an Hour

As we like to say here at Upcycle, getting the soil chemistry right is the bedrock of gardening success. If the plants can’t get the right nutrients, there’s no way you’re going to get a healthy result. The problem is that not all soil is created equal. Here in San Diego we have massive amounts of clay and decomposed granite that can be very difficult to grow in. Luckily any novice gardener can get around this soil problem by building a cheap raised garden bed with scrap wood in under an hour.

Where to Find Your Plans

Get familiar with the website Instructables. It is the crowd sourced repository for all sorts of do it yourself projects, including, cheap and easy raised garden beds. I’m using the term “plans” very loosely here as many of the products are built using scrap wood and materials laying around the house to keep the cost low. I particularly like this builder’s take on a family project building garden beds after tearing apart a pool deck:

raised garden bed photo
Photo by ABBones

My son helped me take the railing off of the deck. He liked whacking the spindles off. It appealed to his innate 9 year old destructiveness. In 100 degree weather I stripped half of the pool deck off.

Keep the costs down by using scraps. Low cost allows any gardener to focus on their plants, not their beds. In addition to creating a garden bed, you’re cleaning up the yard. With so many options, which ones must be exercised?

What Features to Focus On

There are some universal features each gardener is going to want in their cheap raised garden bed. First is to remember that you want it to be a sealed environment so that you grow what you mean to. Meaning you want to keep all the local critters out and keep them from eating your newly grown vegetables. Don’t just build a rectangle and plop down your soil. The cheap way to keep gophers and other subterranean vermin out of your bed is to use chicken wire. Lay that chicken wire across the bottom of the bed to create a barrier between your cheap raised garden bed and whatever it is sitting on.

chicken wire photo
Photo by Nanimo

Second, if you’re putting your raised garden bed on grass or over other raw yard soil, you need to keep a barrier there as well. This one is a little bit more complicated. Get some weed barrier fabric specifically made to keep grass and other weeds from growing up through your raised garden bed. Don’t let unwanted pests, flora or fauna, choke out your garden.

Cheap, Easy and Quick

There are a ton of cheap and easy raised garden beds you can employ. Look around your yard and take inventory of what you can use. Most of all this keeps the cost of gardening down.

Photo by Sarah and Jason

Prime Your Soil Chemistry For Optimal Garden Growth

When I first got into gardening I thought it was as simple as put some seeds in some dirt, add some water and wait a few months for a salad. I had no idea that you need to make sure your soil chemistry is top notch to ensure top notch results. Here are some basic tips to get you started on your soil health journey.

Start with the Right Soil for the Right Occassion

Put sod down the right way. You want to prepare the soil before you lay down the sod. Pull all the weeds and loosen the soil so the new roots can take easily. When the soil is clean, pack it tightly and create a flat surface. Moisten the soil thoroughly. You should lay your sod staggered, and have the joints offset. You want the sod to end up as a flat and even surface. If there are any gaps in between the sod pieces, then you can fill these in with some soil. Sod has to be watered daily for two weeks, and then it can be rooted.
Clay is difficult to dig through with a shovel, as it is sticky and compact. Rubbing wax on the shovel prior to digging can kick this challenge to the curb. The clay will no longer stick to the shovel, and this also helps to prevent other problems like rusting.

Pests Play a Huge Part in Soil Chemistry

The first thing you can do to avoid pests is to start with healthy soil in your garden. Healthier plants are greater in strength and resistance to illness and insects. For healthy plants, start with healthy soil that is properly amended and free of chemicals in order to avoid salt accumulation. A product like Native Soil is great for balancing out poor soil.

Make sure to pre-soak seeds, preferably in a dark location. Place a small amount of seeds in a little container, while filling it to the brim with water. The seeds will get the hydration they need to start growing. This gives the seeds a better chance of flourishing.

Where’s the Sun?

Whenever you are planting a veggie garden, it is vital that you place them in a location where sun shines down on them for six or more hours per day. This allows the vegetables to grow quickly and healthily. Some flowers have the same requirement for growth.

onions can control slugs which helps soil chemistry
Onions are a natural slug deterrent.

Use natural pest control when possible. Onions and marigolds can help to deter slugs. Mulch around the bottom of trees and shrub seedlings with wood ash to reduce unwanted infestation of pests. By utilizing these methods, you will not have to apply chemical pesticides on your vegetation.

Healthy Gardeners Make Healthy Gardens

Protect yourself from sun overexposure while gardening by wearing the proper clothing. Pair sunglasses with wide-brimmed hats and a dab of sunblock. When you protect yourself against the sun’s rays, you are more likely to avoid both skin cancer and sunburn.

The warmth of the day can make vegetables soft, making them more prone to damage as you pick them. See to it that you cut their connection to the vine as opposed to twisting them, because twisting could hurt the plant.

Now you should be ready to get gardening with some basic healthy soil chemistry. You though you had mad skills before? Now you have insane skills! The tips in the article should have set you on the right path to having a great garden and growing like the professionals.

Photo by Internet Archive Book Images