How To Fill A Raised Garden Bed Cheaply

For novice gardeners, how to fill a garden bed cheaply seems to be a challenging task. However, it is obvious that raised garden beds bring us a lot of benefits. For stance, you can easily control the soil type, the appearance of weeds and also keep the garden beds warm quickly in spring.

In fact, there are various ways to fill the soil in the raised garden that work very effectively. In this reading, you’ll find great ways on how to fill a raised garden bed on a budget while maintaining effectiveness. 

What’s Your Raised Garden Bed Used For?

Before you start filling your raised garden bed, decide its usage. This is because different plants have different root systems. Some plants have shallow roots while others have long roots. For example, drought-tolerant plants usually have long roots and vice versa. If you know the root depth of each pot, you can easily customize what to fill your raised garden bed. 

Calculate the Amount of Soil Needed

This is considered one of the most crucial steps towards filling your raised garden bed. Whether you are purchasing soil bags or digging soil from your yard, you must determine the amount of soil and organic materials needed for your garden bed. By doing this, you can know the estimated amount needed and the costs you’ll need to spend. Here is a simple formula for this.

Volume (cubic ft) = Length (ft) x Height (ft) x Width (ft). 

For example, if your raised garden bed measures 8x4x1 ft, then the volume should be 32 cubic feet. 

How to fill a raised garden bed with proper soil.
Image: Unsplash

Soil Source

With a tight budget, buying filler material bags might be difficult. Therefore, mixing the top layer of your garden soil with an adequate amount of compost is a good way to try. If you are still determined to invest in some, you need to be very careful not to be fooled into buying cheap stuff made from the ground. That won’t be good for your tree.

How to Fill a Raised Garden Bed With a Tight Budget

Here are four methods on how to fill a raised garden bed for those who don’t have too much money to invest in.

1. Core Gardening

This is considered one of the most simple ways to fill a raised garden bed cheaply. The main purpose is to create an internal sponge in the middle of your raised garden bed. The sponge’s responsibility is to hold water and absorb moisture evenly in both directions.

Filling Process:

Here are the details on how to fill a raised garden bed using the core gardening method.

  1. Fill your garden bed with organic matter
  2. Spread evenly to make sure it reaches around 4-5 inch thickness of packing material.
  3. Water it thoroughly, which will form a sponge-like center to provide your plants with during the season.
  4. Fill the rest of the raised bed with soil. You should also create a mound in the middle as it will settle down over time. Don’t be too picky! You can mix the topsoil and compost at the rate of 50/50, which is considered great for raised garden beds. You can also make your own compost to keep costs down, but this might take quite a long time.
  5. Add more nutrients and plants, typically if it is a new raised garden bed. Organic fertilizer will be very helpful.
  6. Cover with mulch and add compost on top of the soil. You should do this at least once per year so that you might not have to buy organic fertilizers in the future.


After one year, the organic matter may have turned into excellent compost for your garden. The core seems to have disappeared and the worms will dig through the garden naturally. So there is no need for plowing the garden.

Core gardening is one of the most effective ways on how to fill a raised garden bed
Image: Unsplash

2. Hugelkultur Raised Bed

Filing process

  1. Put old rotten wood and other debris around 10-12 inches in your raised garden bed.
  2. Fill in all excess gaps between big logs with wood chips, scraps, bush decorations, large leafy logs, and more. This saves a lot when it comes to filling a raised garden bed.
  3. Water thoroughly because these organic materials will be the main source of water for the whole season.
  4. Fill soil in the empty space. With a tight budget, it’s better to use pre-excavated materials initially rather than to buy more. You can mix the topsoil with several bags of compost. This is considered a good way on how to fill a raised garden bed.

3. Ruth Stout Garden Bed

Filing process

  1. Directly add a few inches of compost or manure on top of the soil without eliminating weeds or grass.
  2. If you plan to grow potatoes, simply place the seed potato in the manure or composite layer.
  3. Spread the hay over the potatoes 8-12 inches high and deep.
  4. You can water this garden bed or not and just wait to harvest your potatoes.

4. Eden Raised Garden Bed

Filing Process

  1. Start by coating some organic matter on the cardboard. 
  2. Mix topsoil and compost at the ratio of 50/50, and fill your raised garden bed with that mixture about 6 inches high.
  3. Cover it with mulch by spreading wood chips on the topsoil. You can put as much as you want, but generally, 4 inches is ideal.
  4. Add a few or more organic fertilizers for the first few crops. The wood chips will rot then create good soil for your plants over time.

Pro tips: Adding a few worms if possible for each method above because they can help enhance drainage, moisture retention, and oxygen flow to your plants’ root system. They also provide your plants with more nutrients by breaking down the organic matter in them faster.

Image: Unsplash

Frequently Asked Questions

How to fill a raised garden bed with a tight budget will not be a difficult task anymore. But here are some frequently asked questions about this topic that you can refer to apply to your garden bed.

What should I fill my raised garden bed with?

Here are some things you can put into your raised garden bed:
1. Organic matter, such as twigs, wood stumps, sticks. 
2. Rocks or gravels for added drainage.
3. Straw and grass clippings
4. Sandy soil
5. Organic compost

How many bags of soil do I need for a 4×8 raised bed?

You will need 4 bags of soil for a 4×8 raised garden bed. Each bag will be 2 cubic feet. You should avoid using topsoil from your yard because it can harbor weeds and pests.

What vegetables grow best in raised garden beds?

Here are the top 5 best vegetables to grow in a raised garden bed: 
1. Onions 
2. Potatoes
3. Tomatoes 
4. Leafy greens
5. Root vegetables 

Can I put cardboard on the bottom of a raised garden bed?

Yes, you can completely put cardboard at the bottom of your raised garden bed, typically when you have a tight budget. Cardboard will ultimately break down over time. Nevertheless, as it’s thicker and tougher than newspaper, it will take longer to break down.

Should I put rocks in the bottom of my raised garden bed?

No, you should not put rocks at the bottom of a raised garden bed. This is because they can prevent water from draining. 

Should I line my raised garden bed with plastic?

Yes, you can. This method can help you prevent toxins from seeping into the soil. It’s advisable to use landscape fabric or cloth fabric for the lining. You should avoid any kind of non-porous plastic because it might hold too much water and weaken beneficial and destructive insects.


Depending on the free resources you use, any of the four methods above on how to fill a raised garden bed will work effectively for you. Hope you find this reading helpful and don’t forget to ask any questions if you’re still confused somewhere.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *