The Cost of Building Garden Beds (And How You Can Beat It)

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Building Beds, and Cutting the Cost

So John said to me yesterday, “Gardening is expensive”

He’s not wrong. Whether it’s your hobby or your livelihood, things sure don’t come cheap do they?

Well, I hear you….Between the parts for building the beds and all of that topsoil, you probably feel like you are spending a small fortune. It is for good reason, and don’t lose hope because you are doing a good thing.

And let’s not forget tools, like rakes, fertilizer, hoes, the list goes on.

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Make Use of Mulch

Mulch is your one of your garden’s best friends, it’s not only beneficial but can be done for free, too! I’m sure you have used some form of mulch during your gardening career. Grass clippings, pruning plant stems, twigs and sticks are a wonderful source of free mulch. As an added bonus, this can minimize evaporation and slow the growth of weeds.This one simple step of raking up clippings and cuttings to transport to your beds is a great idea. Depending on how big your area is you might need something like a wood chipper – which you could probably rent instead of buying if the need arises.

Keep in mind that your mulch will need to replaced at some point as it does decompose naturally over time. One small drawback is that mulch can use up the valuable nitrogen in the soil – you may need to make use of other products to make up for this key nutrient’s loss. So save your branches and twigs and put them to good use, either in the filling of your beds, or addition to the soil layers, or better yet, both.

You May Also Like: Ruth Stout’s “No Work” Approach to Mulch

Composting

I’m sure unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve heard of composting. Almost everyone who maintains a garden has got a lot of organic waste on their hands, from grass clippings to dead plants No reason for it to be sent to a landfill, which is such a huge misuse of resources, when it can be better than any fertilizer. There’s a reason it’s known in the garden community s “black gold”! Your duty is to facilitate its decomposition as it will be chemically altered to become a source of nutrition.

Some people get a bad image in their minds of fetid odor and a disgusting mess. That’s because there’s a method needed to make it work. Start small, spread it out, DON’T pile it high and deep (not at first, anyway).. Choose a bin with adequate room. I’ve started a compost bin of my own using the hull of an old dishwasher. (Yep, you heard that right, you’d be surprised, it isn’t easy to offload one of those things.) It needs to have a lid as well – I used a wood frame and tacked an old shower curtain to it to make a cover for my bin. Yes, recycling and up-cycling all the way!

Things that can be composted include things like apple cores, coffee grounds, grass clippings, eggshells, etc. Paper and cardboard can make up a small amount – probably no more than a fifth of the entirety. Obtaining the stuff to compost is the easy part – the tricky part is getting it to compost. Everything should be moist, but not too damp, the key is in aeration, using a rake or shovel turn the pile so it will get plenty of oxygen which is necessary for decomposition to take place.

So yes, it is absolutely worth it, remember to turn your pile every day, it will probably take about six months of more to turn into the “gold” for your garden, and better yet, if you do it right it will not stink. It is not just some hippie-dippie activity, it is a way of thanking nature and returning the favor, and did I mention it is cheap or even free to do it (the cost here will be your time…) You’re welcome.

Keep an Eye Out For Good Deals

And don’t be afraid to haggle. I know John knows this!

Just recently, we purchased a whole pallet of topsoil from Walmart, for $1 a bag and at 45 bags, that’s a lot for under $50, not too shabby.

We’d originally planned on obtaining a bulk amount from a local supplier, which is a cheaper way to go than individual bags, that is another route you may want to explore. (The person that we’d contacted reneged on us) But you know, door closes, window open.

As it turned out, we stumbled into a sweetheart of a deal from a local Lowes in which we got 30 bags at a HUGE discount because the bags were no longer “new” And some of the soil brands, were exceptionally good. One of them was mushroom fungi based, another was by the brand Miracle-Gro (Just look at how rich and dark that one is!)

Rent, Don’t Buy

You may be able to rent certain tools (e.g., wood chipper, tiller)  instead of outright buying them. It depends on the tool. A rental fee can be much more reasonable for you, plus if you don’t have adequate storage it makes sense, especially with something you’ll only need seasonally.

Check the web sometimes with the search string “need to rent *” and see what you can find out.

Check the Classifieds

Last tie I checked around, sites like Craigslist are still around , although Facebook Marketplace is supplanting it by a big amount. I used to check the “Free” section of Craigslist in my nearest area and there was always someone wanting to offload some excess firewood. You could use something like that to fill your beds.

Also we go to flea markets form time to time on the weekend, and these places have anything and everything, Garden tools would be no exception. Some of them are true vintage – I always liked vintage things as they are usually made better.

And let’s not forget yard sales too…we’ve stumbled into some sweetheart deals on tools just from people wanting to free up space.

Wrap-Up

Well, that’s five things you can do to cut the cost of crafting (and filling) your beds. Can you think of any others?

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