So you have finally decided to grow your own veggie garden and decided on growing in raised garden beds after researching about its benefits. Now the real challenge is filling the beds efficiently and inexpensively without negatively impacting soil quality. After all, you wouldn't want your plants to be lifeless due to cheap poor quality soil.
My goal in this article is to share one simple method for filling up your beds which not only is cost effective but also great for the plants. To give you an idea, our beds are 6.5'X3.5'X17" (from vego garden) and the cost for filling them up was less than $100 per bed.
We will walk you through the Hügelkultur method in this article. Hügelkultur is an excellent way of recycling tree/wood waste and organic debris. This method generally improves soil fertility over time, helps with drainage, and enhances moisture retention. Also, depending on the age of the wood used, the filling will last anywhere between 8-15 years.
Don't just take my word for it but see for yourself in the pictures of our garden below. Or even better, try this method and find out for yourself in your own garden. That being said, let's get into the details.
Materials Needed and Procedure:
1 - Cardboard boxes from your Amazon packages or moving boxes: This is your base layer, use at least 2-3 layers of cardboard. If you plan on putting the beds directly on top of your lawn, this step is a must to ensure that the grass dies down and weeds don't emerge.
2 - Wooden logs (preferably old and almost rotten): This is a key ingredient in Hügelkultur. Collect enough logs to fill your beds about 30-40%. You can check Offerup or Facebook Marketplace in your area to get these for free.
3 - Twigs from your trees, dead plants, and leaves: These can be used to fill up gaps in between the wooden logs. If you have plant waste or dried leaves, dump them in but make sure that you are filling no more than 50% of your bed.
4 - Cheap topsoil: You won't need to fill your beds entirely with expensive good quality soil. Use cheap topsoil to fill up to 70-80% of your beds. You can get the soil at Lowes for only $2.50 per cubit feet of soil.
5 - Rich, quality soil and compost: Finally the real meat of it. Fill the remaining workable area of your bed with a mix of rich quality soil and compost. We used Miracle Grow raised garden bed soil from Costco, you can use whatever soil is available to you. Purchasing in bulk from your local garden stores is a cost efficient option, since we did our filling in iterations we purchased bags as needed.
Just keep in mind that soil settles over time so make sure that you fill your beds up with soil slightly higher than what you planned/intended. Additionally, it's beneficial to add some organic mulch like sugarcane mulch or straw mulch on top of your final soil layer to help with moisture retention.
Just filling up the beds and planting seedlings is not enough for a healthy garden and steady supply of delicious vegetables. You need to feed the soil regularly with organic matter like manure, compost, bone meal, blood meal etc. (once a month is working fine for us). Also, keep rotating crops so that the soil stays alive and gets enriched.
If you don't have the luxury of your county providing free compost, our article for the no nonsense composting can be found here.
For organic fertilizer, some options are: fertilizer, fertilizer sticks, blood meal, bone meal, and last but not the least - black cow available at Lowes. Adding composted manure is one of the best nutrition for plants.
On a side note, if you already are an experienced gardener, let us know what method worked for you and share any tips or tricks in the comments below.
That's all from me and hope this was helpful to you. Peace !!!