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Filling raised beds

Hi all, I'm new to the forum so hello everyone! I've just ordered some raised beds (4ft x4ftx 1ft) with a plan of growing a variety of fruit & veg. I'm planning on using the square foot method although when I priced up the cost of filling the beds with the recommended 'mel's mix' it was prohibitively expensive. I'm wondering if anyone has any advice with regards to how to fill the beds (3 of them) cheaply but so that they will be productive?? Any other advice re veg growing in beds will be gratefully recieved!


  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 71,934

    Hi Kelsbels image

    I have three raised beds of roughly the same size.  I filled mine with roughly half and half sifted topsoil and well rotted farmyard manure - both bought in bags from the garden centre when they had good offers on.  Keep your eyes open and you'l find that the big garden centres often have 3 for 2 type offers in the spring image

    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

  • TopbirdTopbird Posts: 6,362

    Hi Kelsbels

    I used a mix of spent mushroom compost & topsoil in mine. It was a bit cheaper because we needed enough to warrant a bulk delivery of loose stuff on the back of a truck and the surplus was just spread on a new border. I made the mistake of increasing the ratio of compost to soil which meant that the mix was a bit too 'strong' and heavy for most veggie crops in that first year. Beans did well but carrots and salad crops really struggled. 

    But now it's all rotted down a bit more it's great soil - like planting in a grow bag.....image

    Heaven is ... sitting in the garden with a G&T and a cat while watching the sun go down
  • Where you are putting them? If you are putting them on soil and making paths between, you can lower the level of the path a bit  to make room for flags, gravel or bark and use that soil to help fill the bed. If you plan on minimising digging, then you will spread compost , manure or another mulch on top of the beds in autumn and leave it for the worms to work in. This means the beds should get a little higher every year, so it won't matter too much if the first year they are a fraction lower than ideal.

  • Thanks guys, I think I'll have a look at bulk bought topsoil & then scour for good compost deals in the garden centres. My local has 25% off everything currently so that'll be a good place to start.

    I'll report back with my success or otherwise! 

  • flumpy1flumpy1 Posts: 3,117

    We made a 8ft x 3ft bed, we got a one tone bag of top soil from local farm for £30 then  4 or 5 bags of compost on top and dug it all over, hard work but it was worth it to see how well the plants and veg looked image

  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 29,099

    why not just half fill them to get you started, 6" of soil is plenty , then add more as a mulch over time until you've filled them Cheaper to start with , yet you get going?

  • Have you looked at bulk bags of topsoil
  • GardenmaidenGardenmaiden Posts: 1,125

    OH built three connected raised beds and when we had a pond built to accommodate the koi and other fish we had, the builders wheelbarrowed it to fill these beds and we topped up with multipurpose. Our raised fruit and veg beds (we're on a hill) had multipurpose and manure that is topped up with compost and chicken manure pellets.

  • ninnin Posts: 216

    I built ten raised beds three years ago, and would of needed lots of compost to fill them all as it was i got through 5 cubic yards. My largest beds are all on soil so only barely half filled still.

    The beds on concrete are all filled to the top.

    I intend to fill all the beds this year and after searching freecycle and such like have found a huge pile of well rotted horse manure 3 years plus old for free.

    My beds have all been filled apart from the initial 5 bags for free from various boards. I have in fact built the beds for free from scaffold boards and decking found on the various free web boards. You never know when somebody two roads away will be digging out a pond or an extension and advertise for someone to take away all the soil you need.

  • Blue OnionBlue Onion Posts: 2,763

    I did the lasagna method to fill my raised beds.  Surrounds are build using free concrete blocks from a friends barn wall that fell down, just placed on the grass to form a long rectangular shape.  I filled the bottom (right over top the grass) with a few layers of cardboard, to kill off the weeds and grass below.  On top of that went whatever organic matter I could get my hands on.  Tree clippings and whole branches along the bottom over the cardboard, weeds around and between those, thick stacks of newspaper over top that to help kill off the weeds, the uncomposted contents of my compost heap, grass clippings, leaves, etc.  Anything that would eventually make soil. Over top the grass clippings I added a very thin layer of bagged soil (as I didn't have any spare topsoil around).  Ideally this should be done in the fall, but I did mine in the spring.  I planted it up immediately, just using my hands to make a space in the material and filling it with handfuls of bagged compost to give the seeds and plants something to grow in while the bed self composted.  It worked fine. This past summer was the second year, and it was fantastic.  I do the no dig method, so mulched everything with newspaper and grass clippings, and before putting it to bed for the winter added my uncomposted compost bin materials to the top.. covering it with newspaper then grass clippings and mown leaves.  Nature does all the work.  I just push aside the grass clippings a bit to make my rows, add an inch of bagged compost to cover my seeds, and collect the bountiful harvest in the fall.  

    Utah, USA.
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