How to Fill a Raised Bed and Save 60%+ on Soil Costs

How to Fill a Raised Bed and Save 60%+ on Soil Costs

Get the raised beds I use in my garden: Raised garden beds are my preferred way to grow in my urban garden, but filling them can cost a pretty penny. Now, there are MANY ways to fill a garden bed on the cheap, and this is just ONE of them. It makes use of existing organic matter on your property (sticks, logs, brush, grass clippings, unfinished compost, etc.) to fill the bottom half of your bed.

Then, fill the remainder with a high-quality mix that you can either buy or make yourself. This method is particularly useful when growing in TALL (18″+) beds, as you don’t need the perfect soil mix all of the way down. Over time, the fill material will break down and become food for bacteria, fungi, and other soil life and turn into high-quality soil for your garden over the years.


Espoma Organic has been organic from the start and makes absolutely epic raised bed soil mixes, potting mixes, and organic fertilizers. Their Raised Bed mix is my favorite bagged mix to fill a bed up. To find out where to buy, click here:


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  1. ferrous719 on April 1, 2021 at 11:20 pm

    We just bought some big pots for decoration and I am glad I saw this before I put some of my good stuff in it. We’ve got a lot of sticks and logs that will work fine.

  2. lorraine heggie on April 1, 2021 at 11:22 pm

    I do the same trick with large pots… fill bottom with variety of items and top with good soil!!!

  3. Jacqueline S.S. on April 1, 2021 at 11:22 pm

    You always give the best info! In a couple months I will retire from teaching middle school math after 30 years. My husband is building three tall garden beds as a gift, so I am grateful for this video. I am wondering about the Peet moss; isn’t it bad for the environment? Do you have other options ?

  4. Sally Chandler on April 1, 2021 at 11:23 pm

    NEVER use uncomposted (Fresh) manure of any kind! It will burn your plants. Want to make your soil go further? Mix straw in your soil. It helps soil drain and will rot (turn into plant food) by the end of the season. Cheap trick I’ve been using for years in the AZ desert.

  5. Tian on April 1, 2021 at 11:23 pm

    it is already expensive to buy all those rise bed 😞

  6. Helen Rasmussen on April 1, 2021 at 11:29 pm

    Can I use hay and manure to fill the bottom?

  7. M M on April 1, 2021 at 11:31 pm

    Mark is awesome. Love his videos!!

  8. Precious Z on April 1, 2021 at 11:34 pm

    starts at 3:45 :))

  9. Timothy Folarskovic on April 1, 2021 at 11:34 pm

    Woodglut Blueprints has some very useful blueprints with all the details you need.

  10. Marnie McCulley on April 1, 2021 at 11:37 pm

    great video, finally a video that gets right to the point. I have a huge compost bin that will go to good use now filling up my raised bed. Thanks for the info!

  11. 1947 Pontiac on April 1, 2021 at 11:37 pm

    The Espoma mix on Amazon costs $26 for a 1.5 CuFt bag. Seems like the local places do not have it (yet?). My beds are 7’X4’X12" which I think is about 18 CuFt.. So 12 bags would cost $300…………………

  12. Karin Oshea on April 1, 2021 at 11:38 pm

    This last October we had a massive ice storm. The power company, as they cut down downed limbs and trees, they just piled them up and left them for homeowners to clean up. I used it to start six 4×12 foot raised beds. I have also gotten a kiddie pool and some fabric pots to start a small ‘necessaries’ garden until I can fill my beds with organic materials.

    Thank you for all of the info, am a new subscriber, and will be bingeing your channel tonight! Much love from Oklahoma!!!

  13. John Lone on April 1, 2021 at 11:40 pm

    Thank for the wonderful video! Learning more things to start my garden bed. Quick question, of i use a metal trough, should I punch holes at the bottom for drainage? How many and/or how big the holes should be? Thank you!!

  14. Amy Sorrell on April 1, 2021 at 11:40 pm

    You can get free mushroom compost at mushroom farms. Chip drop is free wood chips delivered from arborists. Perlite and vermiculite are pretty cheap. Peat moss is not sustainable, coco coir is an alternative but both introduce fungus gnats, especially indoors. Kratky is something to check out too. Happy gardening!

  15. George Email on April 1, 2021 at 11:42 pm

    nice call out to Mark at @selfsufficientme

  16. Mary's Bud on April 1, 2021 at 11:45 pm

    Can these metal beds be delivered to Canada specifically Ontario

  17. ratigan snowflake on April 1, 2021 at 11:46 pm

    nice one, great video

  18. NefFy on April 1, 2021 at 11:47 pm

    They throw away dryers in my apartment complex all the time…. and for some reason the inner drum is commonly out sitting Next to the machine…. I took one and it makes a perfect raised be (with drainage holes!) I’m not sure how hard or easy it is to take out the drum your self but it’s an idea and also there are also probably places that have all the washers getting thrown away I don’t know where but my apartment complex is one place LOL

  19. jcmilam1 on April 1, 2021 at 11:47 pm

    I’m building raised beds that are 23 inches high. Would it be wrong to fill the bottom 8-10 inches with leaves? That’s the only organic thing I have lots of for free.

  20. Brian on April 1, 2021 at 11:47 pm

    Hügelkultur is great but it can also draw in termites. That’s not always a problem but it can be if the raised bed is close to a wooden structure such as a house.

    Kevin, tell Espoma they need to be more accessible on the East Coast. Their products are great but shipping is prohibitively expensive on potting soil.

  21. Judy Ponce on April 1, 2021 at 11:47 pm

    can I use pine needles in the bottom layer?

  22. The Push on April 1, 2021 at 11:48 pm

    I thought I was going to save on my 10" beds. Guess not.

  23. Sierra Ecroyd on April 1, 2021 at 11:48 pm

    So I have a roughly 4×6 ft bed that’s 16 inches deep. Can I use this method? I compost food scraps and have been passively composting leaves mixed with last summers weeds, wood ash, and small bark bits from the wood pile.

  24. KTYLO Nox on April 1, 2021 at 11:48 pm

    I use the wood shavings I scoop out of my chicken coop. The wood is carbon, the chicken poop is nitrogen, and they break down into the perfect compost over time. Nothing goes to waste.

  25. Gail Mariage on April 1, 2021 at 11:48 pm

    What are those raised beds made of?

  26. Richard Caranante on April 1, 2021 at 11:55 pm

    What are the consequences to using eco-friendly styrofoam filler & liner? I just feel like organic matter will host bugs and you can possibly get an infestation of lets say- roaches…. but no bugs will want to live in the 15 inches of styrofoam.

  27. Effie Zafiriou on April 1, 2021 at 11:57 pm

    Would cardboard boxes be considered an organic matter to fill the bottom half of a planter with?

  28. iluv movie on April 1, 2021 at 11:59 pm

    can you put mulch on the bottom?

  29. MsLookinup on April 1, 2021 at 11:59 pm

    Does composted black walnut leaves, stems, bark, etc, still contain juglone? And if so, couldn’t getting free mulch from the community pile, be risky if you want to grow plants that are affected by it, like tomatoes? I guess I don’t know how much juglone needs to be present in order to kill your plants. Thanks

  30. Tess Jones on April 2, 2021 at 12:00 am

    Have you ever seen the birdie beds fitted with a chicken tractor on top?

  31. Shannon Easterly on April 2, 2021 at 12:01 am


  32. April Dawn on April 2, 2021 at 12:03 am

    I hope that you or someone can answer my question: if I remove the sod from under my raised beds, would I need 10-12”above ground level for my crops? What if I tilled that top portion then placed my beds?

  33. Doris Agape on April 2, 2021 at 12:07 am

    peppermintpatti58. Thank you for suggestions

  34. Amin Ayoub on April 2, 2021 at 12:07 am

    Can I fill the 60% part with wood chips?

  35. isabella davis on April 2, 2021 at 12:08 am

    Hi Eric we are finally setting up our Birdie 30 inch planters ,how do we start them off. What is the base on? Is it just fitted over the grass or possibly cardboard to help kill off the grass and then add the logs twigs etc.

  36. COG Birdman on April 2, 2021 at 12:09 am

    I tilled up my yard a few times this month and took half a wheel barrel of top soil from my yard and mixed it with 1/3 bag of Fox Farms potting soil to fill my grow bags. $130 to fill 100+ ten Gallon grow bags

  37. is h on April 2, 2021 at 12:10 am

    Why lying about your height man?

  38. Lisa Hannah on April 2, 2021 at 12:10 am

    Anyone else notice Kevin kinda looks like Dean Cain? I feel like Superman is teaching me how to garden 😄❤

  39. Colter Thompson on April 2, 2021 at 12:11 am


  40. Delighted Day on April 2, 2021 at 12:12 am

    How you made those raised bed? Look like roof? Beautiful though. Thank you.

  41. Pat Schmidt on April 2, 2021 at 12:12 am

    How about using a bag or 2 of non-related wood chips ar the bottom of the raised bed

  42. Andrée Mathieu Repta on April 2, 2021 at 12:13 am

    Super great tips! Thank you.

  43. Travis Dickey on April 2, 2021 at 12:14 am

    I just purchased some 15" beds. Do you typically do this with the smaller height beds as well, or just fill them directly with soil?

  44. Intriguingly Enigmatic on April 2, 2021 at 12:15 am

    Not sure if I’ll get a reply, but I was wondering if I could do this with soil I had last year. I grew peppers in 5 gallon buckets. Could I reuse the soil in the bottom half and fill it up to the top with new soil? And is potting mix a better option than like the garden mixes?

  45. Rising Lotus on April 2, 2021 at 12:16 am

    Could I use mulch instead, or some kind of wood chips bought at like Home Depot?

  46. Shanta Hsieh on April 2, 2021 at 12:16 am

    I’m sure you can do it too. Just look for Stodoys plans.

  47. shane sullivan on April 2, 2021 at 12:17 am

    If I’m putting my raised bed on grass should I put cardboard or anything down to block weeds? My garden will be about 12 inches high

  48. Deer Slayer 176 on April 2, 2021 at 12:18 am

    Would a soil made of Top soil, peat moss, and compost work well?

  49. Austin Bonde on April 2, 2021 at 12:18 am

    If i use weed clipping will the cause more weeds in my bed?

  50. Theresa Ranagan on April 2, 2021 at 12:20 am

    what is the high quality mulch you use

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