What do I put on the bottom of a raised garden bed?
That’s a question that has been lingering on my mind in the first few months until I tried several DIY hacks that have pretty worked well for me since then.
Well, for starters, a raised bed garden is the only ideal solution if you have bad soil or simply if you significantly need to reduce the amount of work required towards gardening.
And because space is always a challenge, you’ll want to utilize even the tiniest bit of it available.(source)
Also read on herbs that can be planted together.
In this guide, we shall discuss different things you can place on the bottom of a raised garden bed.
A-List Of Things Can Be Put On The Bottom Of a Raised Garden Bed
Cardboard is one of the excellent materials that can be put at the bottom of a raised garden bed.
It’s affordable and is easy to use and install.
The cardboard will decompose after 4-6 months thanks to its thickness.
However, the duration will depend on the type of cardboard you’ve used.
There are places where you can get cardboards for free in some recycling areas or retail stores.
Thicker cardboards work best than thin ones.
Their corrugated structure and sturdiness enable them to take long before decomposing.
Avoid cardboard with gloss print since it releases toxins and chemicals into the soil after decomposition.
Also read on seeds that grow easily in a cup.
The toxins contaminate, causing stunted growth in the seedlings you plant on the bed.
Newspapers are another great material that can be used on the bottom of a raised garden bed.
They are cheap and easy to get since they are in high quantities.
To use it, simply spread some sheets on the bottom of the garden bed then fill it with soil.
The newspapers will act as a barrier for keeping weeds away.
There are many places where people are looking for a way of getting rid of old newspapers.
Most of them give out the newspapers for free or at a very low price.
Reach out to them to see how much they can give.
Newspapers don’t decompose easily so it will take several months before breaking down.
Once the decomposition takes place, carbon is released into the soil to help feed microbes that live in the soil to make the soil healthier.
To slow down the decomposition rate, use multiple layers of newspapers as more layers mean more time.
Most people have had questions concerning the ink used in the newspapers.
Well, you don’t have to worry since the ink used in most newspapers is soy-based that is harmless to both the soil and the plants.
3. Landscape Fabric
If you are not on a budget, you can go for landscape fabric to use on the bottom of a raised garden bed.
It is expensive but its quality is worth the extra coins.
The best part of the landscape fabric is that it is more durable compared to newspapers and cardboard.
It resists decomposition and can last up to 10 years making thus a good long term investment.
The material is permeable allowing good soil drainage.
Most people tend to confuse landscape fabric with landscape plastic.
The two are totally different as the plastic only keeps out weeds but does not allow drainage since it has no holes or gaps like the landscape fabric.
Burlap is also another excellent material for using at the bottom of a raised garden bed.
It’s a great alternative for landscape fabric but its life is shorter.
It can last several years before it decomposes so it will have served you.
Burlap is cheaper than landscape fabric, so you can go for it to save some money.
There are gaps and holes for letting water pass through so you don’t have to worry about drainage.
The other best part is that the material is environmentally friendly since it’s made of fibers from jute plants.
On the downside is that once the burlap you tear or cut it, the edges fray easily.
This will make it start wearing out to give it a messy appearance which speeds up the decomposition rate.
Leaves are yet another option to use at the bottom of a raised garden bed.
They are easily available as you can collect plenty of them around your home.
Leaves keep weeds away so you will not have to deal with weeds anymore.
Check my post on how to kill weeds with diesel.
Filling them at the bottom of the raised garden is pretty easy compared to the above options.
The only issue is that leaves decompose fast within a duration of 6- 12 months.
The bright side about the decomposition is that they make the soil fertile by adding organic matter.
To slow down decomposition, use a lot of leaves to make them clumped together.
The more the leaves the longer they will last.
If you don’t have deciduous trees around your home, you can borrow the leaves from neighbors or friends.
Alternatively, there are websites such as craigslist that can be useful.
6. Wood chips
There are many things wood chips can be used for and one of them is to put on the bottom of a raised garden bed.
Wood chips are very effective and last longer than some of the materials I discussed earlier.
However, it will eventually start to decompose after a couple of years depending on the type of tree the wood chips are from.
Wood chips can be purchased in wood workshops at an affordable price.
Ensure that the wood chips are not from a chemical treated wood as they can affect the pH of the soil.
Small rocks, stones and pebble make good material for use at the bottom of a raised garden bed.
This is a great option since they don’t decompose like the materials we discussed earlier.
It a permanent barrier meaning you’ll not need to replace it.
The only problem is that you’ll need a lot of them to make the raised garden bed.
You may not find enough stones around your home, so you’ll probably have to look for the others somewhere else.
The small stones are the best to keep weeds away from your garden as the big ones, allows weeds to grow through the gaps.
What type of soil should I use in the bottom of a raised garden bed?
Once you’ve chosen the material to put on the bottom of a raised garden bed, you’ve to know what kind of soil you should use for your garden.
Use 60% of topsoil, 30% compost and finally 10% potting soil.
The above proportions are estimates since soil volume varies from one source to another.
Use a soil calculator to know the accurate amount of soil you need.
Peat moss should not be added in high amounts since it’s acidic thus not great for growing vegetables.
If you can’t find quality topsoil, the alternative is to use compost and potting soil in the ratio of 1:1.
Additional Tips On A Raised Garden Bed
- The number one rule of a raised garden bed is that you should never step on the soil.
The soil is usually light, fluffy and adequately drained to allow good plant growth.
Once you step on the soil, you compact it to reduce aeration thus slowing microorganism activities.
To avoid this ensure that your garden is not too wide such that you can reach all the areas while standing on the edges.
- Over time the soil you added to your raised garden will be lower than the initial level.
This is because the soil is settling into the new surface that why you should refill it from time to time.
- It’s good to add manure to the garden two weeks before you plant.
- Use mulch to cover the top for the soil to hold moisture for a longer time.
Final Thoughts On What To Do I Put On The Bottom Of A Raised Garden Bed
Now you’ve got a list of materials you can use at the bottom of a raised garden bed.
All the materials have both advantages and drawbacks.
It’s up to you to choose which material is the best depending on availability and how much you are willing to spend.
Make sure you water your garden for good plant growth.