Need Cheap Dirt?

This morning as part of #twitter4vg Tuesday chatting, @scoutsigns mentioned that he was looking for inexpensive dirt to use in his raised beds. In my opinion, the cheapest route involves compost.

Some options off the top of my head:

1. Make your own compost. This requires advanced planning, but it’s a good place to start. As it happens, @suburban_farmer has a new book coming out in May on that very topic. If you just can’t wait, look up the term “compost” on Google or check your local library.

2. Look for free compost from your city. Some communities create compost out of material (leaves, grass clippings) collected by their parks department. Make some calls and see what happens.

3. Place an ad on Craig’s List or check out TonsofDirt.comMaybe someone has too much dirt on their hands? It’s a long shot, but if you don’t ask, you can’t receive. A word of warning, however. You’ll want to investigate what’s in the soil (ex., you want “clean soil” free of any hazardous chemicals) before you commit to using it in your garden. 

4. Take an alternate route. No dig gardens require less soil up front, although you will want to add compost over time. 

Anyone else have any ideas? You can share them here, on Facebook or on Twitter.


  1. Great ideas. I have no-till, raised garden beds and just love composting leaves, tree limbs and grass clippings from all the neighbors. A trip to a horse farm for bedding works too.

    Don’t forget worm composting of kitchen vegetable and fruit scraps. Nothing is more soil enriching than adding worm dirt.

  2. Appreciate the ideas–and the quick response to my problem. I’m making 9, 4’X4′ beds, and buying by the bag is almost as bad as buying the wood.

    • You are welcome! I figured it was easier to consolidate everything into a blog post rather than slam you with tweets.

      We have a no dig bed and love it.

    • Hi,

      I’m about to start my first veggie garden in my back yard and built a raised bed frame of 4×8. I want to buy some good soil and compost. Any idea where I can purchase 1 1/2 yards of safe (chemical free), organic, quality soil and compost in San Antonio?

      Any help to point me in the right direction would be much appreciated.

      Thank You,


  3. Randy,

    I’m not sure what your budget is, but when we put in our beds, we purchased soil and compost at our local nursery. That’s a little pricier (per bag versus per load at a soil place), but given our transportation situation, that was the best option for us. If you’ve got a truck–or know someone with one, then you could try a local rock/soil yard. However, I just interviewed someone locally for a story who had trouble with a load of soil delivered; it was heavily contaminated with bugs. (Buyer beware.)

    If you want to go the bagged route–and be hyperlocal, check out Gardenville products. ( They’ve got a soil calculator to help you figure out how much you’ll need:

    I hope this helps you, Randy.

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