Principles for Filling Raised Beds Cheaply, Effectively & Almost Free: Follow the 1/3 Fill Method!

Principles for Filling Raised Beds Cheaply, Effectively & Almost Free: Follow the 1/3 Fill Method!

The basic principles for the 1/3 fill method are best suited for larger sided raised beds around 15 inches or higher. For smaller raised beds you can use a modified version. Fill in layers using yard materials like sticks, logs, leaves, grass, compost in various levels of decay and earth from edging beds or old containers. Save money verses expenses bagged products and the cost of fertilizers. You really dont need either.

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Metric Conversion
1 Inch = 2.54 Centimeters
1 Foot = 0.3048 Meters
1 Gallon (US) = 3.78541178 Liters
1 Fluid Ounce (US) = 29.5735 Milliliters
1 Tablespoon (US) = 14.7868 Milliliters
1 Teaspoon (US) = 4.9289 Milliliters

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50 Comments

  1. Johanna Recalde on July 3, 2021 at 2:08 am

    Would this method work for beds that are laying on concrete? I’m planning on adding wire and landscape fabric at the bottom to prevent soil draining out.

  2. Sue Mlynarczyk on July 3, 2021 at 2:10 am

    Can you first put down a regular door screen to keep small rodents out?

  3. Gary Pilarchik (The Rusted Garden) on July 3, 2021 at 2:11 am
  4. Napoleon GARDENING FARMING TV on July 3, 2021 at 2:11 am

    I am excited to add higher garden beds in my garden. I only have low garden bed. Thanks a lot for all the helpful videos.!

  5. Joanna Ochoa on July 3, 2021 at 2:13 am

    Wow, how about dry hay or straw. what layer it would be. I also have 3 months old quails poop with other food compost, that wasnt filled up during winter. Do you think it could be good as 2nd layer?
    thanks for all info!!

  6. Robert Shorthill on July 3, 2021 at 2:13 am

    Hey Dr. Gary, I just made a 40" X 72" planter for my 8 squash plants. I had scraps of Trex deck somebody wanted to get rid of, so they gave it to me to make use of. I’ll most likely give them some toms and squash in trade and they’re happy to get it off their property, as they don’t grow much except a few flowers. It is about 15 or 16" deep and will sit on my back lawn. After securing it all together, I put down about 3 1/2" of cardboard, followed by about 5 " of last fall leaves. Then maybe 3" or so of unbroken down composted soil from last year’s pots and beds. When it comes time to plant, I will use the best composted soil mixed about 1/3 to 1/3 Miracle Grow, and 1/3 commercial local made stuff called Glacier Gold compost I’ve used for several years in my beds. The soil I used last year was given to me as well, but was nearly depleted. I will use most of it again amended with this stuff and bone meal, gypsum, Epson salt, a 5-5-5 fertilizer, along with 21 nitrogen MG solution for any yellowing taking place, which I don’t think I will see. Last year growing toms in #10 pots was the right choice as we had a cold front come through for about 3 nights in mid July that would have killed them, loaded with large green fruits. I was able to get them into my garage til the nights were not freezing. Overall, I think we here in Montana will have a decent season, if, and only IF we can survive our June long haul storms. Cheers, my friend. Bob

  7. wilhemina walker on July 3, 2021 at 2:14 am

    On a smaller scale would this work for a 10 gallon container? It would have the height, but not the width.

  8. Selina Nguyễn - Kinh Nghiệm Trồng Rau Sạch on July 3, 2021 at 2:16 am

    cách trồng hay quá ạ

  9. April Dawn on July 3, 2021 at 2:19 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?

  10. Tonya Drayden on July 3, 2021 at 2:19 am

    Wow, great information. Lots of errors when I set up my deep beds years ago: mostly compost, & hubby stomped on the top to get all the compost to fit. 🥴
    Things are growing well now.

    Would like reminders of how to rejuvenate my raised beds fall to winter. I have a few bean plants in. Planning to plant some fava beans too.

  11. Alejandra Escobar on July 3, 2021 at 2:21 am

    If I use the logs to fill the plant bed, could it get termites?

  12. Yzyxdolorza on July 3, 2021 at 2:22 am

    Couldn’t be more timely! Our new place is almost 3 acres on a wooded hillside, almost no flat areas. I floated a spot for the first raised bed, backed by a slope and tall enough in front for a plank edge to sit on (sort of like a terrace) but my husband nixed the idea because it would cost too much to fill. We don’t have compost yet so ‘good stuff’ has to come in a bag… Now I can show him this video and we can go for it! Thanks!

  13. Fergus Dangerfield on July 3, 2021 at 2:28 am

    Another great video, thank you can I add horse manure to the lower layers??

  14. miztri on July 3, 2021 at 2:30 am

    Gary do the leaves have to be shredded because I can just go in the back or in the fall when they hit the ground and put the leaves in bed. I don’t have a lawn mower to shred them. Also once I’ve laid the cardboard and put the wood on top of the cardboard can I add horse manure as a compost because I have access to that versus purchasing compost or I don’t have the means to make my own but I can get lots of horse manure, will that work

  15. fabiola sanchez on July 3, 2021 at 2:31 am

    pine branches are wood or is better other trees branches?

  16. piperquinn on July 3, 2021 at 2:32 am

    If my grass clippins have some weeds, can I put that in towards the bottom?

  17. Dawn Lauren on July 3, 2021 at 2:33 am

    Pool noodles cheap

  18. simon richardson on July 3, 2021 at 2:34 am

    I am just about to start filling my respects I know I’m filling it with the wood on the front of the fence chopping it all down to small pieces to put in there and I’m going to get some seaweed as well and some leaves and I’ve got some also soil which about 20 years ago I’m going to put that in the bottom I’ve got stuff what’s going on in the old soil and then I’m going to make a good mix to put on top which I’m gonna buy new soil mix with Pete Moss come in Manure and compost I’ll start to

  19. Daniel Geci on July 3, 2021 at 2:36 am

    Great video, I also used a similar technique in my 18" deep greenhouse beds. My bottom layer is logs and debris from trees and composted cow manure mixed with pumice and cotton seed meal and biochar. Mi middle layer is amended compost and biochar then I use a good raised bed soil inoculated and amended with beneficials and microorganisms like nematodes and also bugs like rove beetles and sow bugs plus worms etc then a cover crop of at min 28 doff species as I read a study about diversity and that 28 seemed for what ever reason to be where the most benefit was seen.

  20. Fancythat on July 3, 2021 at 2:39 am

    I used wood chips in the bottom of my 100 gallon galvanized planter. They held water all summer and my tomato leaves turned black from roots staying to wet. Also be sure you have a lot of drain holes in your planter. We have used rocks and chicken wire in the bottom in other ones and grew a lot of tomatoes successfully. Make sure wood chips don’t block your drain holes.

  21. Patrick Merlo on July 3, 2021 at 2:39 am

    Stop using cardboard. Do the work and find something better. Stop being lazy.

  22. Dina Voutour on July 3, 2021 at 2:40 am

    I love the video. Are you in the U.SA. And if so which area …such as north east, south west etc?
    I mostly want to know WHERE did you buy that wonderful raised bed???

  23. AlfredA Woods on July 3, 2021 at 2:44 am

    Can I use alfalfa pellets in place of greens

  24. Sree Sree on July 3, 2021 at 2:44 am

    Hello Gary, I live in New Jersey. Last year when I put cardbaord under my garden bed, it attracted termites. How do you prevent. I cannot even think of it putting again. Needed advice.

  25. The Busy Brown Angel on July 3, 2021 at 2:44 am

    Thanks for the tips!

  26. Rex Byers jr on July 3, 2021 at 2:46 am

    Beautiful idea. I can use fallen leaves , manure and trimmed trees to server the same purpose. I just saved a bunch if money by switching to rusted garden lol

  27. Rubye Wiggins on July 3, 2021 at 2:47 am

    Then it got cool and I have no wood for my outdoor fire bowl,I’ve got to go looking for more firewood now

  28. Chris Prestwich on July 3, 2021 at 2:48 am

    Where did you get that raised bed?

  29. Maureen M on July 3, 2021 at 2:49 am

    Hi, i have 4.5×6 Ft raised bed thats 16 inches (4 beds) when you use grass from lawn, is there a risk of introducing weeds to the beds?

  30. OfftoShambala on July 3, 2021 at 2:49 am

    Can you use soft wood chips? I have mesquite chips… I think that’s considered a soft wood.

  31. Cee Cee - The Garden Junkie. on July 3, 2021 at 2:50 am

    This is great! And timing couldn’t be better. Thank you!

  32. John Tan on July 3, 2021 at 2:51 am

    I have a big project: I’m raising all my beds to at least waist- 28" high. I have 5 major and 2 minor ones. Doing this because of age, I’m 67 and bending down is becoming an issue. I’ve watched your video and others trying to determine what to add to each level. I’m not going to fill them up all the way up (maybe 6-8 inches from the top). Most of my major beds (currently) 3-4 ft wide, 8-10 ft long, and about 8" tall. I’m on a budget and so, your videos will make my project not so expensive. In fact I learned about "hugelkultur". My question to all is about the brown material at the bottom. I’m asking my neighbors to supply a lot of the bottom level, but need assistance on how "hard" or which types tree or shrubs can be used? I know that using "organic", non pesticide materials, and compostable items but for instance are Oleanders, Hollys, junipers, herbs (sage, rosemary, thyme,…) privets, bamboo, etc. can be used? Should they all be "hard" or dead material? Thanks for your video I like the step by step and which levels each of the materials that are used. Also, I will be using my old soil to supplement the top portion.

  33. Rubye Wiggins on July 3, 2021 at 2:52 am

    I put logs over the cardboard and then dirt

  34. Sergey Bebenin on July 3, 2021 at 2:54 am

    I never understood the cardboard on the bottom. Grass or even infant trees/bushes won’t grow under 1.5 feet of soil. I’ve build many beds in my life and have never seen anything grow through beds.
    I just don’t get why in almost every video people do this. Seems like someone started the trend and the rest just copy.

  35. Love always Jasmine on July 3, 2021 at 2:54 am

    Can you put pea gravel and cardboard on top of that then good soil to top it off? Or store bought wood mulch/bark?

  36. Pax et Bonum on July 3, 2021 at 2:55 am

    What about water drainage? It looks like you are going to retain water from these materials. Water will have a difficult time draining. Water logged plants? Just a thought. Tell me I am wrong.

  37. lena sledge on July 3, 2021 at 2:56 am

    Does it matter what you fill the bed with if it’s a raised bed on legs and not coming in touch with the ground?

  38. Kim Anderson on July 3, 2021 at 2:57 am

    Hi Gary. Love your channel and your teaching method. Question about cardboard. I’ve been using it for years now- in raised beds and under wood chips (in ground). I have a terrible time with ants under the cardboard. Any solution to this? Thanks. Kim

  39. Nancy LO on July 3, 2021 at 2:57 am

    I put in several 16" beds last year. Soil test at the end of the fall showed very low nitrogen but okay on everything else. Before winter I covered my beds (after settling all summer) with a couple inches of shredded leaves and grass clippings. This spring I put a couple inches of compost on top, but the leaves/grass has not broken down. Should I try to remove the leaves or add blood meal or something else??? thanks!

  40. Plants4TheWin on July 3, 2021 at 2:59 am

    can you use pine cones in the very bottom on top of the cardboard?

  41. athela on July 3, 2021 at 3:00 am

    Great video, we’ve got an old 32gal container to fill up like this and been slowly gathering fallen twigs and branches/leaves from the yard over the last year for it.

    Thanks for sharing 😊🙏🏼

  42. Daisy wade on July 3, 2021 at 3:00 am

    What a terrific video!! So much valuable information!! Thank you so much!!

  43. CM Sag on July 3, 2021 at 3:01 am

    Maybe a dumb question – the "container" is made out of what? Understand that it is not good to grow in galvanized "containers" – again, sorry for the rookie question.

  44. HistoryHunter on July 3, 2021 at 3:01 am

    I did this with leaves from my yard not knowing what I was doing other than filling space to use as least dirt as I could for my potatoes. Well 5 mo ths later I had 2 big totes of leaf mold!

  45. Kevin Cantrell on July 3, 2021 at 3:02 am

    Can sawmill chips work as good as the wood shreds

  46. Leslie S on July 3, 2021 at 3:03 am

    I got a tall raised bed from the Epic Gardener Kevin. He is sells the Birdies galvanized steel raised beds. One thing I didn’t account for when I filled my raised bed was that the materials “settled” and sunk down about a foot. Next time I will compact down the materials and overfill the container. And perhaps wait a few days before I add the top soil to see how far the bottom layers ultimately settle.

  47. Adam Lowy on July 3, 2021 at 3:05 am

    I am just setting up an in ground garden for next season. Lots of your videos mention your container composition of soil. What do you do to IN GROUND SOIL? thanks

  48. James Merideth on July 3, 2021 at 3:05 am

    I’m building 24” deep beds. Is there really any need to put any sort of cardboard or weed fabric in the bottom of such a deep bed?

  49. Frank Hudgins on July 3, 2021 at 3:07 am

    Gary-I also live in zone 7b and would like to know where you get your galvanized raised beds. Thank you.

  50. Karen Vaughn on July 3, 2021 at 3:07 am

    Did you drill drainage holes or do these containers already have them? . Also, what are your thoughts on wicking beds/containers?

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