Friday, October 18, 2013

How to Build a Raised Garden Bed with Cement Blocks

I am experimenting with a fall/winter garden.  Even if it doesn't grow, the beds that we've built will be ready in the spring.  So far I have planted lettuce, spinach (about to get true leaves), radishes (some have true leaves), kale (ugh, still hasn't come up, so I'll be starting these in the greenhouse), rainbow and baby carrots (I plan on mulching these for overwintering), purple sprouting broccoli, leeks, onions, snow peas, bok choy and green onions.  I also have some parsley, cilantro, basil and rosemary in the greenhouse and we'll see how long they survive.

I'm hoping that I have found some good microclimates in my yard that offer more sun and warmth and the beds are raised and might be mulched which will add extra heat.

I also have a walk-in greenhouse, which is about 4x6' and not glass, but I know it'll add a certain amount of protection.

Remember when I ripped out my tomato plants for a new bed? Well, we built one more raised bed out of cement blocks in that spot over the weekend!  I'm very excited to have another raised bed.  The drainage is a million times better than it had been, I can put bird netting over it (for our cat...grrr), and I'll be able to cover with a row cover if I want to by attaching it to the fence.

It was very simple to build, and we're really happy with it.

First, we measured the length and width of the bed.  We also decided on some specs.  One thing we were worried about was the fact that the bed is up against one wall of the house and a length of fence.  We wanted to protect them with extra cement blocks to prevent rotting, so we measured them out and found blocks that were a little taller, but also thin enough to not take up precious bed space.

Next, we bought the blocks and set them up.  This was probably the easiest part.  You might want to take some gloves to the home improvement store if you don't want your hands getting ripped up from the blocks.  I use my hand a lot, and they're definitely not smooth and delicate, but I was surprised at how much damage they received from my loading and unloading them to the cart, then helping my husband place them.

Next, we laid down a 2-3" layer of straw.  As the straw decomposes, it will add nitrogen to the soil, but also heat, which will be helpful for my fall/winter garden.

Next, we filled it up with soil from our favorite greenery.  Do you see how rich that soil is?  I tell you what!  I can get anything to grow in there.  Buying dirt was a little mental struggle for me, because it's DIRT.  DIRT shouldn't cost money because it's everywhere.  However, this dirt is awesome.  And the dirt in our yard is not awesome.  It's either rocky clay or rocky sand.

Not pictured, are the holes filled in.  I bought one last bag of dirt and filled them in after I'd already photographed this.  After filling them, I planted them with garlic as fortress of doom to keep the slugs out...or that's what I tell myself!  Ha.  I'm not sure if this is the best place for garlic to grow, but I've got it all planted around the yard, so we'll see how the experiment goes.

It may not be the most beautiful raised bed, but it's functional.  And I like functional!  What are your raised beds made of?  What do you like about them?  What would you do different?

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