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July 15, 2012

Raised Garden Beds

Woo hoo! It's been a whole month away from my blog, and I feel pretty ashamed of myself. But, to my excuse, we cannot do that much in the summer in Florida, other than waiting for the cool weather to come back so that we can start planting our veggies. But I do have an exciting project to share with you - a plan how to build raised garden beds on the cheap!

My mother moved to a new place and was eager to start a garden. The problem with her property is that it looks like it's located on the beach, there is nothing but white sand, and what's worse, there is no suitable vegetation to build compost from. So, we had to make a raised garden bed for her.

Being a senior citizen on a budget, she only had so much money to spend on that venture, so we had to be creative. After reviewing a multitude of options, mostly comparing by longevity and cost, we settled on a plan that involved landscape timbers. Granted, these are treated, but because in today's day and age that treatment is not as deadly as it was two decades ago, we decided that it was OK to use these, besides, there is only a small surface of dirt that would be immediately contacting the treated part.

She wanted a large garden bed, so we purchased fifteen (15) landscape timbers, 8 foot length each. Stacked three timbers high, these gave her a nine (9) inch of height and four by sixteen (4x16) perimeter. The timbers are held together with eight inch stakes that look like huge nails. They have them next to the timbers at Lowes or Home Depot. Here's a close-up of the raised garden bed structure:

To fill this mass of a garden she would need a lot of soil. But, she has a few oak trees on the property, and a lot of fallen leaves. She raked them up and fill the bed half way up with these leaves. The, we called around and found a place that delivered top soil. She filled the rest of the bed with top soil, humping over the top of the bed because the leaves will decompose and settle pretty quickly, and she did not want to end up with a half-filled bed. So, here's the finished raised bed:

The cost was around $180 total (not counting the mulch) - $90 for the timbers and about $90 for the soil including delivery.

I should note here that this soil is not sufficient to grow healthy vegetables; although it is nice and black, it is not very loamy, so there will have work to be done enriching it with compost and vegetable matter.

What I like about this setup is that you can sit on the edge of the bed while doing your weeding or other garden work. Another good thing is that this is actually a huge bed; if you are into square foot gardening, this bed will give you sixty four (64) squares. You can feed a family on 64 squares!

All in all, the project turned out very nice and worthy. Considering that you could build a humongous raised garden bed with soil for $180, it is certainly a thing to consider.


  1. I filled a bed with 'bought' soil, and it surely does need help. I've been trying something that seems to work. I planted a bunch of beans, let them grow to about 6 ", then chopped them up into the soil. I had read it would add some nitrogen and organic matter. I have found that it also helps the 'soil' hold water I love your blog and have used many of your ideas. Thanks and welcome back. Missed you!

    1. Thank you!

      This is exactly what my mother is doing to help her bed before the fall planting. She seeded a pile of cowpeas into that bed and will do exactly what you're doing - clipping the plants into the bed. This is a "red neck" soil improvement, but it works, it is cheap, and she will get some "green beans" in the process. Hey, it works!



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