Monday, April 30, 2007

Raised bed gardens--easy, fast and inexpensive

april 4, 2007 by bobbi a. chukran

Mornin’ Earthly Gardeners!

As promised, today I wanted to give you a few ideas for some small raised bed gardens you can make in your own backyard, front yard or small piece of land. One uses common cement blocks you can find at stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot or a masonry supplier. They usually cost less than $1.25 each, last time I checked. The blocks are around 12″ each, so it’s easy to decide how many to buy.

Here’s a photo of my largest cement block garden.

And here’s another view, at the corner.

To make the bed, all I did was find a relatively flat spot in our front yard, stacked the cement blocks end to end until the bed was as long as I wanted it, filled it with a mixture of homemade compost, store bought compost, topsoil and bagged dirt and sand. I mixed it with a hoe, and raked the top smooth. Then I planted! It really was as easy as that. We didn’t have a lawn there, so it was a bit easier. But if you do have lawn, cut it as low as possible, try to dig out the grass, cover the grass with a thick layer of newspapers, then put down the cement blocks and fill with soil.

I told you it was easy! I eventually painted my bed to match the garage that you can see in the background of the corner photo. I used a very watered-down latex paint, leftover from painting the house. It’s been painted for years now, and still looks as good as in the beginning.

One thing I learned is that most smaller plants and vegetables don’t have to be planted in two feet of soil. Over the years, the organic matter has changed the consistency of the soil in these beds, and it’s deeper. But the height of the blocks is sufficient for most things you’d want to grow. I actually have a small fig tree at the end of the bed, and it’s doing fine.

Also, we have a series of cedar board beds, at the other end of the front garden. Here’s a photo of those:

Those are a bit more difficult to make, but basically I used 2″ x 12″ untreated cedar boards and screwed them together using butt joints at the corners. It wasn’t hard, but was unwieldy since I didn’t have a workshop set up at the time. I basically assembled them in the garden. Each of those are about 4-feet square and I grow all sorts of things in them: rosemary (seen at the left), lavender and native salvias (at the right in the front), garlic, potatoes, and even a few small crepe myrtle trees for shade in the middle of several of them. Since potatoes require deeper soil, I made a little division in the middle bed at the right side for them using two scraps of pine boards. As the plants grow, I’ll put in more soil in that area.

Neither of these beds take up much room. The cedar beds are in an area that’s smaller than a normal sized backyard. They could also be painted or “colorwashed” to match a fence, or whatever. I just wouldn’t paint on the inside of the boards.

And speaking of small container gardens, here’s a photo of my tomatoes I planted some time back in my new EarthBox. I spied a baby tomato on one of them yesterday! How exciting!

The weather guys are calling for colder temps this weekend. It wouldn’t be the first time we’ve had a “late” freeze this time of year. It’s already down in the 60’s (it was 86 yesterday!) so I’m keeping a close eye on the plants! That’s the beauty of the EarthBox, you can wheel it inside the garage, or to a sheltered location, if the weather threatens.

dig it!

bobbi c.

copyright©2007 bobbi a. chukran. All rights to text and photos reserved.

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