What do you need to start a raised garden bed?

If you're on a budget, buying soil in bulk can save you money in the long run.
If you're on a budget, buying soil in bulk can save you money in the long run. (BestReviews)

How to start a raised garden bed

Gardening has been growing in popularity. With how relatively simple and rewarding it is to start a home garden, it’s easy to see why.

Raised garden beds, in particular, can be started without taking up much time or money. Raised beds can work almost anywhere, even in studio apartments. With a little bit of determination and patience, anyone can start a raised garden.


What do you need for a raised garden?

To start a raised bed, you only need a container and soil. You can make raised gardens out of almost anything.

If you’re on a budget while making your raised bed, look around you for things you already have. For example, wood pallets can be turned into raised beds.


When choosing materials, avoid anything soaked in chemicals — such materials are usually marked. Common offenders include railroad ties and treated bricks. When in doubt, ask before you buy.

You can also buy premade raised beds that only require assembly and soil. If you don't want to commit to a raised bed, you can start a container garden. Container gardens are a good option for apartments since they're adaptable and easy to move.

Filling your raised garden bed

Soil is important. If you buy low-quality soil, your garden won't produce as much as it can.

The best places to look for soil are your local nursery or other sources in your area. Some landfills have programs that can provide rich, healthy soil or compost.


If you're on a budget, rather than buying poor soil on the cheap, but good soil in bulk. While it costs more up front, it saves you money down the line.

How to fill a raised garden bed

Filling a bed with soil can be expensive. If you have a small, raised bed, it’s worth it to fill it with compost or soil. Luckily, if you have a large, raised bed, you don’t need to fill it all with soil.

Old wood works well as a base layer for raised beds. Since wood is an organic material, it will eventually break down into the soil.

Cardboard or other sturdy organic matter also works well to block out weeds. Wood is the most classic option, based on the hugelkultur method. Wood takes some time to break down, so in the meantime, plant shallow-rooted plant varieties.

After you have a base layer, you can fill the next part with softer organic matter. This includes lawn clippings, food scraps and leaves. Almost anything the plants can break down will work.

Finally, fill the bed with your topsoil. There is no hard and fast rule about how much of the bed should be soil, so trust your judgment.

Choosing plants

Once you have your raised bed made and filled, it’s on to the fun part: planting. When choosing vegetables, first consider your personal preferences. After your preferences, consider the plants’ needs. Light can be a particular problem if you’re low on space.

Best vegetables for beginners

Tomatoes work well for beginners because of their versatility and ease.

Green onions or scallions are hardy, making them good for beginners. Scallions can even be regrown from scraps, so they're handy if you're on a budget.

Arugula is fast-growing and hardy, making it perfect for beginners.

Best plants for limited space

Tall varieties of peppers are space-saving, since short plants like herbs can be planted around them.

Peas, like peppers, grow vertically. Likewise, peas and pea shoots grow quickly and easily.

Radishes are an easy option for growing in small spaces. They'll grow under trellis plants, as long as they get enough light.

Companion and succession planting are also helpful if you’re limited on space.

Books to read

If you think gardening may be a long-term hobby for you, there are some excellent books on raised gardens.

Raised Bed Gardening for Beginners is a good starting place. This book is particularly helpful if you know you want a raised bed but aren't sure where to start.

Grow All You Can Eat in 3 Square Feet is perfect if you're low on space but still want to grow a large amount. This book features some inventive ideas on how to use space.

Veg in One Bed is for you if you have a bed but want help developing a garden plan. This book discusses different growing combinations and why they work.

Jackalyn Beck is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

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