Easy raised beds

2014 09 16_1345

The new raised bed, three blocks high and filled with three layers of straw alternating with three layers of soil mix.

 

 

Last year I built five raised beds for my garden. I have gotten tired of tilling and more importantly, tired of bending all the way to the ground. As my age goes up, my flexibility goes down. Funny how that happens.

The first two I built were 3 x 12″ lumber and they went together pretty quickly. Unfortunately, they are just one foot above ground level and that still leaves me with having to bend over, especially since the fill material sinks as the season goes on.

The final three I built last year are made of concrete block and they are generally taller than the wooden sided beds. The first two, one for winter veggies, the other for strawberries, are two blocks high, or a total of about 16-inches from the ground. Better, but still not good.

 

2014 09 16_1348

This view gives a good look at the mortar I use to hold the blocks together. you can also see how the cavities are filled with soil mix in preparation for palnting.

The final bed I made last year is three blocks high and measures 5′ wide and 16′ long. This one was planted this spring with tomatoes, squash and peppers. This one is beautiful, I don’t have to bend very far to pull the occasional weed and being so far off the ground makes it easier to harvest veggies.

Last weekend, we bought a couple of pallets of concrete block and hauled them home for more raised beds. By Saturday evening, I had the first one complete and partially filled with our soil mixture.

 

2014 09 16_1350

Spray foam insulation has enough bonding capability to hold the blocks in place.

We made the beds by first laying down 1/2″ hardware cloth to prevent burrowing animals from coming up from the bottom and raising havoc with out garden plants. Atop the wire, we place flakes of straw, then a layer of the soil mixture and alternate straw and soil until the bed is filled. We also fill the holes in the block with soil and plant them also with onions.

The construction of the block walls is fairly easy–heavy, but easy– and goes fairly quickly. I depend on spray foam insulation to bond the concrete block and apply it where there is room to do so. The alternative is to stack the block and use grout to bond the block. The soil in the pockets also hold the block. To leave the block stacked one atop another would likely not hold the block with the pressure of the soil inside.

Last year’s beds held well and worked extremely well. The soil/straw mix did shrink down during the season, approximately 6 inches over the course of the summer. The straw mix also held the moisture well and where possible, I placed straw over the bed to prevent wind evaporation.

From a minimum of plants, we were able to take most of the vegetables we used over that time. The tomatoes grew so tall, they grew over the tomato cages, sagged to the ground and probably put on some 10′ of growth. Plant growth is one thing, but the important part is the tomatoes. We don’t grow them simply for the vines, but for the fruit and they did very well in that category.

 

2014 09 16_1346

Watering was simple; used pvc pipe was laid in the bed and holes drilled into it along the length of the pipe. Most watering lasted some 15 minutes and I didn’t have to water every day, but for the most part twice a week. It was a quick process and very easy.

Now those two beds that were put in last year, those will receive another course of concrete block to bring them up to the correct height and more soil will be added to fill it to the top of the retaining walls.

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