12 Cheap Ways to Fill a Raised Bed 

A lot of people ask me how to fill a raised bed cheaply. Since the bed is where your plants thrive, you need to be careful about the type of compost, mulch, or soil you use. In short, the best budget-friendly option is to use compost or mulch.

I recommend using locally produced and easily accessible materials to fill a raised garden bed cheaply. Your raised garden bed can be built using local wood as the base, local soil as your second layer, and a thick layer of mulch on top. You can use grass clippings and a lot of dead or decomposing leaves as mulch for your raised garden bed if you have access to them in your location.

You should consider what kind of soil, compost, and mulch you will use before determining how to fill the raised garden bed. This will simplify managing the raised garden bed’s fertilizer content, drainage, and soil PH.

Adding seeds to a raised bed

Why Used a Raised Bed? 

Small vegetable and flower gardens can be successfully grown in raised garden beds. They minimize soil compaction, provide adequate drainage, keep walkway weeds out of your garden soil, and act as a deterrent to pests like slugs and snails. When it rains heavily, the sidewalls of the beds prevent your garden soil from eroding or washing away. Because the soil is warmer and better drained above ground level, gardeners may typically plant earlier in the season when using raised beds.

Finally, raised garden beds increase the soil level and lessen back pain when bending down to maintain the bed. People with bad backs or older gardeners will find this extremely beneficial. The gardener can also sit on the edge of the bed while weeding if the beds are constructed adequately.

What To Use To Fill a Raised Bed

Local Soil 

My first recommendation for filling a raised bed cheaply is to use local soil! It’s seriously one of the best (and cheapest) ways to fill a bed or anything you’re growing plants in. Although some human labor will be required, local dirt is easily accessible and free. While using local soil to fill a raised vegetable bed is the most affordable option, it doesn’t necessarily make sense. It makes no sense to create a raised garden bed using the same soil if the local soil is comparatively deficient in nutrients.

On the other hand, you might use 30 to 50 percent local soil for the raised garden bed, and the remaining material should be compost and mulch. If your local soil has a lot of clay, break up the dirt as much as possible.

Forest Soil 

Use forest dirt to affordably fill the raised garden bed with as high-quality soil as possible. Most woods have rich, nutrient-rich soil teeming with beneficial bacteria, fungus, and microorganisms. The secret is to only use the top 10 inches or so of the forest soil, especially if the soil in the area is typically clay-based. In the raised garden bed, decaying leaves and rotting wood from woods can be used as mulch. I


Hugelkultur, or the practice of filling a raised garden bed with logs, is very beneficial for raised vegetable beds. The raised garden bed’s foundation should be composed of logs, then topped with a layer of soil and mulch. In your local forest, you may readily obtain dead or rotting wood. However, you should be cautious about the wood you select because not all types are suitable for Hugelkultur.

If you merely want to experiment with Hugelkultur in your raised vegetable bed, choose thinner logs or twigs because thicker logs will decompose more slowly. I do not advise using this procedure if your neighborhood has a termite issue and your home is primarily composed of wood.

Grass Clippings 

If you have one, you can fill raised garden beds with grass clippings from a well-kept lawn. Remember that any pesticides, herbicides, or insecticides you may have used on your lawn may impede the growth of the plants in the raised garden beds. On the other hand, you can use the grass clippings if your lawn hasn’t been chemically treated. Around a year after starting this procedure of filling the raised garden bed, you will have wonderful composted grass clippings.

The raised garden beds should ideally be filled with grass clippings such that the grass clippings are taller than the elevated garden bed. This is crucial because as the grass clippings decompose, they will lose a significant amount of volume. Next year, only cultivate plants in the elevated garden bed.


If you generate your compost, filling the raised garden bed with it will not cost much. On the other hand, producing enough compost to fill the raised garden beds can take a while. In this situation, you may combine your compost with compost that you purchased from a retailer. You should buy compost instead of manufacturing it if you are new to generating it because many things could go wrong. Keep in mind that creating high-quality compost is an art form.

Worm Castings 

Worm castings, or worm dung, can be made or purchased in large quantities. While adding worm castings to a raised garden bed can be costly, doing so can be seen as an investment in future crops. However, it can take a while until you have enough worm castings to fill your raised garden beds. On the other hand, you can always manufacture your worm castings because the process is rather simple.


Most plants require animal manure’s nutrients, bacteria, and organic matter to survive. You should use animal manure for your raised garden beds if you can access it in your neighborhood. The best manure for gardening is typically that from cows, hens, ducks, sheep, and horses. The greatest quality animal manure comes from organic livestock farms. Therefore make sure it is used in your garden.


It’s possible to grow plants directly in mulch; this process is known as the Ruth Stout method. Without digging or tilling, Ruth Stout grew veggies in her hay mulch. You need to utilize mulches that decompose quickly for this strategy, such as hay, straw, grass clippings, and leaves. The raised garden bed should be covered with a heavy layer of mulch so that your seedlings have a healthy environment to grow in.

Soil Mix

Your neighborhood garden center likely has a variety of soil mixtures, but if you want to get the most dirt for your money, you’ll need to wait for a sale. Typically, most garden centers will have huge sales near the conclusion of the growing season. Purchase soil on sale, then just fill the raised garden beds. Be sure to cover the soil completely with mulch before using the raised garden beds the following year.

Peat Moss 

If you reside in a region where peat moss is harvested, filling the raised garden bed with it can be inexpensive. Since peat moss tends to be slightly acidic, it will be ideal if you intend to cultivate plants that prefer acidic soil. On the other hand, if you care about the environment, you should probably steer clear of peat moss harvesting as it tends to stress the local ecology.

Cover Crops 

Consider growing cover crops if you want to fill your raised garden beds reasonably hands-off. You should be able to develop some cover policy as long as your raised garden beds are positioned directly on the soil. You can harvest and allow these cover crops to decompose once fully developed. Cover crops with quick growth rates include rye, oats, and red clover. You can also employ nitrogen-fixing cover crops since they draw nitrogen from the air and fix it in the soil.

Final Thoughts 

As you can see, there are a few excellent free or very low-cost options for filling your raised garden beds. You should be able to drastically reduce the cost of filling the raised garden bed if you use local soil and mulches. However, if the soil in your area is generally poor, you should purchase some soil for your raised garden beds.

How to fill a raised garden bed cheap

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