Sep 19, 2014

Adventures in organic gardening - building new raise beds!

This spring, we started our adventure into urban gardening. We decided to use the bones of the garden the previous homeowners left, assuming that it was there because it was a good location. We used some found lumber to add a triangle extension for beans & peppers, and were giddy with excitement to plant our first garden not in containers on our porch.

Here is a peek at the set up - it was a ton of room, and we planted lots! But, it didn't thrive, because the previous home owners had put the garden under the maple tree and it got little to no sun the majority of the day, save for the last beams of sunlight as the sun set each evening. Total oversight on our part, too, we didn't even take the shade into consideration in our excitement to plant our garden.

We did get a great harvest of beans, cucumbers, eggplants & some pumpkins - but our tomatoes, peas, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, spinach, squash and zucchini didn't do so well - some didn't grow at all, others just didn't produce any vegetables.

After carefully evaluating the sun's trek across our lawn this summer, we decided to optimize our lawn by building simple raise beds with cinder blocks in front of our porch. This area gets sunlight from about 10am-7pm and is right outside of our back door, making it easily accessible and freeing up the rest of the lawn for the kiddo to practice soccer in.

 We will be moving our fire pit, and building four more raise beds, two rows of three beds, with enough space between the beds for the lawn mower to fit through. The idea of using the cinder blocks is to maximize planting space - we will be building teepee like structures from lattice between the beds (where the fire pit is currently) and planting beans in the cinder blocks closest to the lattice to climb up it, and in the other three sides planting marigolds, which help repel certain insects that invade gardens.

Each raise bed will be about 3x3 feet, made of twelve cinder blocks, the perfect size for small plots to feed our little family & maybe produce enough to share with the neighbors. Or if the cucumbers do as well next year as they did this year, we may just have to learn how to can food! 

Since we are getting an early start on these beds, we are gathering yard waste and composting inside each bed over the fall & winter to reduce the amount of soil we need to purchase this spring.

To make two raise beds, it cost us $34.76 and took less than half an hour to set up. You could also probably get cinder blocks from Craigslist for less (or free), but this was a spur of the moment idea while we were at Lowe's so decided to buy the supplies & test out this layout. We really like it & can't wait to plant our garden next spring!

Do you garden? If so, do you prefer raise beds or planting straight into the ground?


  1. great idea! You may consider digging up the layer of grass that is in each bed. You could transplant them to your previous garden area if you want grass there. :-)

    1. Thanks Mel! We aren't too worried about the grass, we will be putting down cardboard in the other beds (it attracts worms which mean good soil aeration) but we were just cleaning up the yard and tossed the weeds & stuff into this bed. :)



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