Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Lazy Man's Raised Beds

Comes complete with DiggingDog (R)
This is a raised garden bed, one of about half a dozen that my back yard is sporting this year. It's 6 cinder blocks long* by about 2 1/2 wide. I have others that are wider and others that are longer, but this one is just long enough and wide enough for 8 jalepeno plants once they mature. It's not a sexy raised bed; in fact, it's just a bunch a cinder blocks with dirt piled in the middle of them. As you can tell from the very non-straight sides, they are not attached to one another in any way, shape, or form.

While on these internets one can find plenty of nice-looking, solid, wooden-or-plastic, permanent raised beds for gardening, I prefer the "Just stack cinder blocks in a rectangle" method for the following reasons:

1. It's not permanent.  With lots of other raised beds, once you mark out your territory, you'll have raised beds in those very spots forever. Their installation is just too painful to repeat.  But with cinder blocks, not only can I move them, which I occasionally do, but I could make an outhouse, a wall, or a boat anchor from them. When I'm done with that, I can re-build my beds with those blocks or others.

2. It's flexible.  You don't have to make rectangles, although it's a challenge to make circles and triangles. You can join rectangles, you can separate and divide them and you just have to move a little dirt. You can make them one block tall or two or even more and change from crop to crop. You are never stuck with an original design that may not work out the way you intended.

3. It's capital. While cinder blocks are probably more expensive than building something from wood, they don't rot, wear out, or get nail holes. My dog doesn't chew them. Termites and worms leave them alone.  That means that they are capital that I will always have. I never mind spending money on capital. The beds may be temporary, but the blocks are as close to permanent as one is likely to get.

4.  I can plant lots of little gardens all around it.**  On this bed, for example, I have 30 holes in which I can plant chives, marigolds, parsley, whatever I'd like. I can choose companion plants for support of the center crop, or for looks, or simply to keep a spreading herb like mint contained.*** Some of the larger beds have 50 or more potential planters attached, giving plenty of room to experiment.

5.  It's easy.  It doesn't take a lot of work or time or even a lot of skill to make a usable raised bed. That appeals to me not just in gardening, but in a lot of preps. Plus I can water lots and lots of plants without hauling jugs all over the place.

In many areas prep-related, there are a plethora of ways to accomplish a given task.  Each has tradeoffs, like look versus function, like cost, like flexibility.  When you're designing your preps, don't just ask, "How can I best accomplish this task?" Realize that every solution will someday wear out or become redundant and be replaced. Complete your planning with that replacement task in mind as well.

* not to be confused with city blocks, which are slightly larger.
** It actually took until this year to pull it off, however, as the lovely and gracious Rogue long considered the idea 'too redneck.' That's why the only plants you might see are chives. The other future residents, all newly planted, are still in the house but should make their way outside this week.
***  Of course, planting perennials around the edge tends to negate point #1.


  1. I was going to do that exact thing. I have some blocks, but I don't know if there is enough. So, is it better to go two blocks high than one? Does it defeat the whole purpose to go one block high?

  2. I went one on the rhubarb bed and they all died, so there is that...

    Actually, I think it depends on what you're planting and how much dirt you have. 2x blocks means 2x wheelbarrow loads...

  3. I placed some raised beds with Mel's mix in an uncleared area, but I suspect the beds were not tall enough, so I will double the height this time around.

    I have a concrete bed this is just one block high, but then it's in an area that has been cleared out and tilled several times.

    I agree with all the reasons for using concrete blocks, but I wouldn't necessarily call it lazy, as it's actually a bit more work than making a raised bed.

  4. Forgot to mention that the concrete bed had Jerusalem Artichokes and they did really well.

  5. Hey Doomfinger! How's your strawberry fence working? I am going to try it this year.

  6. We've actually got lettuce and spinach in it right now. I need to redo the strawberry area. If you want them to survive winter I think you need to cover them, or make them really deep somehow. The fence works really well for other plants.

    A southron friend tried it, but he said it didn't work for him. I don't know why. I haven't been able to visit, so I have no idea what the problem is.