Anyone who has spent much time on gardening blogs or Youtube channels is likely familiar with the concept of a raised garden bed. The basic idea is that regardless of what your local soil is like where you want to grow, you can create a growing medium above the ground that is optimal for growing crops. In fact, if you get your soil composition right, you can do intensive square foot gardening, where you can have extremely high yields in relatively low space (see Mel Bartholomew's book on square foot gardening). One problem, however, is that someone just starting out gardening might not want to go to the expense involved in putting in place a raised bed garden. Indeed, the standard for a cheap raised bed has often been around $30. MIgardener, a leading gardening Youtuber lays out the plans for a "cheap" $30 raised bed in this video:
But I know we can do better. That is why I came up with a way to get a functioning raised bed for only $1.
In this project, we will build a 4ft x 4ft raised bed for $1 (plus some free local resources that are generally available).
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Step 1: Get a Mulch Cloth From the Dollar Store
The one dollar we are going to spend on this project is for a simple 4ft x 8ft mulch cloth. I have found these at my local Dollar Tree.
Step 2: Choose a Good Spot for Your Garden
This step does not change from any other raised garden bed. Pick a place with good sun. More level ground is better.
Step 3: Add Cardboard to Prevent Weed Growth
Cardboard can be an excellent resource in the garden. You can just put it over existing vegetation, even a lawn to help prevent weeds from growing up into your raised bed. If you do have a mostly clear spot or don't want to use cardboard, you may want to clear out any weeds or vegetation that is present. You can use a shovel to do this.
Step 4: Build Supports for the Mulch Cloth
Measure out a 4ft x 4ft square and mark your corners. Now find something that you can drive into the ground at those four locations. I suggest using downed tree limbs, which are almost always in ample supply in my area. You could also use logs, rocks, fence posts, cinder blocks, garden stakes, or any of a number of creative options.
Step 5: Cut the Mulch Cloth Into Two 2ft X 8ft Sections
Straighten out your mulch cloth and cut it lengthwise in the middle. This will give you two 2ft by 8ft sections. Now fold those sections lengthwise and staple along the open edge. This should now give you two 1ft by 8ft sections that are two layers thick.
Step 6: Spread the Mulch Cloth Around the Supports
Each piece of mulch cloth will cover two sides of the 4x4 square. Spread the cloth, starting at one support and attaching the cloth to it (staples work well for this). Wrap the cloth around the next support, and finally attach the other end of the cloth to the third support. Now take the second length of cloth. Attach it to the same support as you attached the far end of the first cloth. Then spread it around the fourth support, and finally attach it to the first support. At this point, you should now have a 4 x 4 box.
Step 7: Reinforce the Back of the Mulch Cloth (Optional)
If you have pulled your cloth very tight, it may not be important, but I like to reinforce the back of the mulch cloth with a log (rocks or other things could also work). This also helps to keep the mulch cloth held down so soil does not leak out the bottom. If your budget for this project is more than $1, you could also put garden staples in to hold the cloth against the ground.
Step 8: Fill Your Raised Bed
I am using 100 percent municipal compost, which is "free" for me. If there is another medium that you like to use for your raised beds, then you can use it. Obviously, if you do not have access to growing medium for free, this might make the project a little more expensive for you.
Step 9: Enjoy Your New Raised Bed!
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