It only took us two years but we finally got our veggie and herb garden up and running. Last year we decided we wanted to build a raised bed, so after tons of research we settled on building one out of cinder blocks. We chose this material/approach for a variety of reasons: easily accessible, low cost, ability to do it ourselves, durable, won’t rot like wood, modular — can add or subtract as needed, and modern. There are a zillion plans for how to build one of these floating around online, but it’s kind of common sense:
1. Measure the area where you plan on building the raised bed. Measure the size of cinder block you want to use. Do a bit of math then buy the appropriate number of blocks.
2. Clear out the soil of any other plants and roots and level it out. For our bed, Sly dug a couple inches down so that the base of our cinder blocks would be a bit sunken in rather then floating on top.
3. Construct your cinder block bed, creating stability by alternating the blocks so that the holes are not all aligned on top of one another. You can also reinforce your blocks in a variety of ways by sticking a pole of some sort down the holes to reinforce the wall, or by using some kind of masonry to permanently join the blocks together. We just left it as is and the wall is pretty stable.
3. Add a layer of rocks to the bottom of the garden bed. This is good for drainage.
4. Buy a crapload of soil — we chose an organic compost mix — to fill in the pit you just created. This works better if you can just go get bulk soil and have them fill a truck bed that you dump into the raised bed, but since we wouldn’t be able to back a truck up into our garden, we had to manually carry over 110 40lb bags of soil up and down a frickin’ hill to get to our backyard. By far the worst part of this project, and why it took us forever to get it done.
Then came the fun part: shopping for organic veggies! Next year we’ll try planting from seed, but this year, since the hauling of soil took a lot out of us we decided to just buy plants. This year’s crop includes: 9 tomato plants, cherry and heirloom, 3 eggplants, 3 cukes, 3 zucchinis, 3 yellow squash, 3 gypsy peppers, and 3 New Mexican hatch chiles as well as an assortment of herbs which I planted in plots and placed on our upper deck.
Growing your own garden is probably one of the easiest, most fascinating, and tastiest things you can do. Plus it’s a great way to get organic produce for cheap. A couple years ago when we started our first urban garden we were pretty skeptical about the whole thing — neither of us would consider ourselves green thumbs and we thought a garden would require a lot of work and a lot of space. We were wrong on both accounts. If you can dig a hole you can pretty much have a garden. It’s amazing how much a single plant can produce, and even more amazing to watch something grow into something you can actually eat. It’s like magic every single time.