Friday, October 19, 2012
Raised Bed with Landscaping Bricks
We also grow in raised beds, but we have made ours out of the curved landscaping bricks you get at the hardware store. I feel like this has a few advantages. First, there is no worry about whether you've gotten lumber that has been treated with arsenic or other chemicals, which is not something you want around your plants. Second, the stone will last much longer.
Third, however, is that I think making the bed more aesthetically pleasing is key to not rousing the displeasure of that one grouchy neighbor who knows that your HOA, neighborhood, or township has some arcane regulation on the book forbidding visible food crops or something. My theory is, if you make it look like a flower bed, it is no one's business if you are eating the "flowers."
What you see above is the first raised bed we ever built, sitting in our back yard. It is probably six to eight years old, and it is still doing fine. You can see the beginnings of some fall carrots growing in the foreground, and the summer leek crop still in the back of the bed. We have a few extra bricks stacked on the side for use when we build a cold frame over it for the winter.
The nice thing about this construction is the accessibility. The bed is roughly 12 feet long, but only 4.5 feet wide by outside measurement. This means that from any point in the bed, I can reach a middle section by sitting on the side and reaching comfortably in. There is no bending or stretching. I make this width requirement a given for any of our raised beds, so there are no huge eight foot circles on our property, for instance.
Although this seems like a spring project, there is no reason you can't spend a nice fall day constructing a bed for your use next spring as long as your hardware store is still selling bricks. Basically, you simply pace off the area of lawn you will devote to the bed, and lay down an expanse of old fencing or hardware cloth. This will keep the critters from digging up from under the bed and eating the roots of your plants.
Then, start laying rows of bricks down over the hardware cloth in a kidney shape (which will happen naturally with the bricks. You will have to play a bit while you build to be sure you are getting a pleasant shape and that you are covering the hardware cloth completely. Feel free to trim the hardware cloth as needed. Since we just used scraps of old fence on this bed, it was easy to be sure nothing was poking out.
The bricks layer just as standard square bricks do, with each subsequent layer covering the joint between bricks in the layer below. You may find that you have to split a brick or two to get everything to work, but that's where someone like Mr. FC&G comes in.
I like my raised beds three rows high, which makes the bed a couple of feet high once the inevitable settling happens. You can make it deeper if you like, but I wouldn't go much above four or five rows, because you will start losing interior space as each new row is just slightly narrower than the one below.
Landscaping bricks are usually available for between $1 and $2 each, so this raised bed took about 90 bricks for a total of about $150 in materials for a bed that will last many, many years.
Your last step is filling it with soil. Don't feel like you have to buy bagged soil at the hardware store. We lucked into finding a construction company that had removed soil from a site and wanted to get rid of it, but landscaping companies will also sell you a truckload if you don't have enough finished compost to fill your bed. (I actually did fill another raised bed with sifted compost one year, which took about a week's worth of evenings since I could only stand to do an hour or two at a time.)
Fast: Budget an afternoon to do this project, between hauling the bricks from the store and laying them out. It isn't hard, but you will definitely get your workout for the day!
Cheap: I find the cost to be pretty economically viable, especially given the bed's longevity.
Good: No matter how you do it, raised bed gardening is a great technique!
Posted by Jennifer Lorenzetti at 5:00 PM