The original boxes for my raised garden beds are untreated cedar fence boards. The boxes hold up for 2 or 3 years in our area and then need to be replaced. We are up to our 4th replacement. We get a decent amount of snow in the winter where I live. Even cedar seems to not hold up long here. They were low-cost when starting. We did not know if we were going to keep growing our food. We did not want to put out a huge amount money for something we may not want to keep doing. After more than a decade, I think we are going to keep at this. Growing your own food is very satisfying. While out among the beds, it is very meditative for me. The bonus is getting foods we enjoy eating.
The beds all needed to be replaced. The boards went way up in price. I looked at other options and decided on getting the narrow cinder block bricks that are 16″ long x 6″ wide x 8″ tall. I am making the vegetable beds much narrower. I need to be able to reach across the beds. Even the 3′ wide beds is too wide. I decided on the length of the brick for the width of the beds. That may seem ridiculous to many. I am middle-aged. I need to be comfortable as I garden and to be able to reach easily into the spaces. A bonus, the peas and beans can be planted in the holes of the bricks, leaving the inside open to other vegetables.
I plotted out everything to the inch. I did not find out until the bricks were delivered that the corporation in WA the store ordered the bricks from lied about the dimensions, like so many corporations do these days with food weights, wood sizes, and so on. If the dimensions are critical, remember to measure the item before purchasing. The beds sizes are not critical, they will hold the soil and the plants will still grow. I found that the beds went from 28″ wide by 12′ long, to 27″ wide by 11’10” or so long. The bricks turned out to be 15-5/8″ long x 5-5/8″ wide x 7-5/8″ tall. sigh… Greedy turds shaved enough off to up their profits instead of charging more for the stated size. Whatever. I am not making a wall or similar items. The paths around the bed are the width of how I laid out the bricks for a bed, 27″. It still works.
I looked on YouTube for how people did their gardens using the cement block bricks just to see what others have done. Some went totally anal-retentive to get perfectly level beds, even though they are not cementing them together. The costs of leveling the ground and equipment we needed sucked. We live in the forest in the mountains. The land up here has curves. I got the area smooth enough and fitted the bricks together. Yes, the beds may look like a children’s roller coaster in a few areas, but not too bad. The beds follow the land, still hold the soil and the plants still will not care. laughing… There is a few spots with a tiny gap at the top from the curve. The soil will eventually “cement” the bricks together there. All in all, I am very pleased. And sore, even though my husband is helping me do this.
The picture way above is the original potato beds. We had to plant the potatoes in the side beds on the other side of the house because the seed potatoes were ready to go and the building of the new beds was slow going. Years of the snow blower throwing gravel from the driveway into the beds made for rocky soil the potatoes did not like. I did cover the beds the year before with plastic. The soil still needed to be cleaned out. I also needed to look for nasty june bug and mormon cricket grubs, so my husband built a “sifting box” out of 2x4s and 1/4″ hardware cloth.
We cleared off the area for the first bed, moving the dirt out of the way. After getting the bricks set using a tiling trowel edge to make sure the corners are square and the grooved side for “fluffing” the soil to make it easier to get the bricks seated more evenly, we shoveled soil from the next bed into the sifter sitting on a wheelbarrow. We got all of the gravel out of the soil and found all the nasty grubs. Those went swimming in a plastic container filled with water. We then filled the beds and the holes in the top of the bricks. So many did not do that immediately and ended up with nasty creatures in the holes. Since I plan on putting herbs in the holes in this area, I got it done as we filled the beds. I should add that I used cotton string tied onto wooden kebab sticks to help me keep a straight line as I set the bricks.
So… The leftover soil is under tarps. Until we get the kitchen area beds and side beds down, we are not going to distribute the extra until done. We may need it for the kitchen area’s beds, I am going to have more beds in that area. If they fit. See brick dimensions above and it seems my measurements before may of been a bit whacked. The side garden will have one or two beds. The rest of the “beds” will be the bricks filled with soil and t-posts on the sides to hold fencing in an arch for the bean plants. It is hard to explain. At some point I will get to the area and will take photos.
With all we have planned, it keeps raining. Of course. We have to wait for the old beds to dry somewhat before moving the soil. Sifting grubs and rocks out of mud is not doable. When we are done, this is going to be great. I can sit on the edges. NO splinters from grabbing a side and leaning over. I will not need to replace the bricks. This is a one-time cost. It will pay for itself by the second year. Did I say no more splinters?
For smiles, these are photos I took May 30th when the lilacs were in full bloom. The scent was lovely. I am glad I got these when I did. A storm came through and, well… It was hard on the blossoms. At least they still smelt great, though tattered. They are now gone. I also included a comfrey that is blooming. I did not take one yet of it fully opened. I may not get one in time.
I will add posts on the garden as I go. Enjoy!