How to Build a Raised Bed Garden on a Budget

untitledI have recently undertaken gardening in an effort to reduce the amount we spend on groceries. The price of groceries, particularly organics, is increasing with the rising cost of corn. Judging by the summer we have had so far, corn will be in even greater demand over the coming year.

Due to some large trees in the neighbor’s yard, our old garden plot is not very productive. I decided to build new raised beds on the other side of the yard for greater productivity and efficiency. As with most projects, keeping my monetary investment as low as possible is a high priority.


I built two raised beds, the larger of which has a makeshift greenhouse over the top of it. My goal was to keep the cost of all materials below $300. The beds were each 12 inches deep; the first being 4 feet by 12 feet, with the smaller plot coming in at 4 feet by 8 feet.

My first endeavor to scout lumber prices and start the process turned out to be very fruitful. I found pressure treated 4×6 lumber in 8 foot lengths on clearance for $5 each. I snapped up the five they had left. These would serve as solid ends for my two beds. One trick I picked up: a 2×12 is CONSIDERABLY more expensive than a 2×10. I saved about $20 by purchasing 2x10s and fastening 2x2s to them. This gave me the 12 inches of depth that I wanted at a fraction of the price. Some farmer’s sized galvanized nails and lag screws would be enough to piece this all together. Total cost of lumber and fasteners: $117


I then turned to my next challenge: the environment. Critters and weeds can be problematic, as can wind and cold. Frost has been a real possibility, even into June this year. My underlayment for the raised beds would be a small mesh wire fence (four feet tall) and some weed barrier. The weather related issues could be resolved with a covering of some sort. I found plans online for a “$100 greenhouse” that turns out to cost more like $300 to build.

I stripped the basic concepts from the plans and built my own greenhouse out of flexible ¾ inch PVC. Four of these created the round top I desired. I used hard PVC in 1 ½ inch on the sides of the boards to fasten the tubing to the garden while providing the ability to completely remove it as well. Two 10×25 packages of plastic and some snaps would finish the job. Then I used snaps that can be reinforced with duct tape on the plastic side, and the other side is screwed into the wood frame of the garden. Total cost for protection: $62


The last requirement for a garden is, of course, soil. Clean dirt can be expensive and most places require a five yard minimum order. On top of that, you never really know what you are going to get. Well, that alone would cost around $200, and I would have a mountain of dirt in my driveway for the foreseeable future.

After further investigation, I found out my city has compost available for $27 per yard loaded. Beautiful, clean, organic compost loaded into my vehicle for only $54. Two yards of compost, a few bags of sand, and several bags of organic peat moss were all I needed to finish the project. Total cost of garden beds: $85


I now have decades of growing potential with proper drainage, nutrients, and ability to be protected from the elements. The savings will grow exponentially greater every year as I gather a greater base of canning materials, dehydration aides, and other food storage methods.

Total project cost: $264

There are LOTS of different ways to save money and taking small steps can make a big impact on your finances. You can do it too! If you have pets, check out this post about “Keeping Pet Expenses Down“. Or, for tips to save money at the grocery store, read “How to Grocery Shop on a Budget“.

If you want some help setting up a budget you can stick to, building up emergency savings, or conquering your debt, call LSS Financial Counseling at 888.577.2227 to schedule an appointment. Our Financial Counselors will provide you with tangible steps to achieve your financial goals. So don’t wait to improve your financial future – take action today!

Want to get started right now? Click below to begin your online budgeting session:


Author Malcolm Johannessen is a Certified Financial Counselor with LSS Financial Counseling and he specializes in Foreclosure Prevention Counseling and the outdoors.


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3 comments on “How to Build a Raised Bed Garden on a Budget
  1. Shannon says:

    This is inspiring Malcolm! We want to put in a garden at our new house and this gives me a lot of motivation to figure out how to do it on the cheap! Great tips.

  2. S. Minter says:

    I have had a raised garden for over 10 years and it absolutely is the most efficient way to garden that I know of, regardless of where you live. I happen to live in the mountains of VA and I have access to literally as many pickup loads of rock as my back can stand to pick up and that is the border that I use for all my raised beds. Also, I had horses for many years and stockpiled manure behind the barn so I had a ready made pile of organic material for my bedding (although now most of that is gone and I supplement our beds with several bags of topsoil from Lowes every year). Nonetheless, we raise more vegetables and berries than we can eat or can so we have great fun going to peoples houses that we know and giving fresh vegetables away. Great summertime gift and it feels good too.

    • Kate Swenson says:

      Thanks for the comment! Your garden sounds amazing. I only hope mine can produce as much. I am hoping to can enough tomatos so I don’t have to buy any all winter. How amazing would that be!

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