One of the first things I wanted added to my homestead was raised garden beds. Raised beds are nice because they can extend your season, give you greater control over the soil that you use, and are easier on your back.
You really can make a raised garden be out of anything! I have seen tires, wood, railroad ties, concrete, store-bought, wheelbarrows, and more being used as a garden. I chose to use concrete block for a few reasons.
- First, I like a clean look and things like tires and other recyclables never seem to work for me. I am infinitely envious of the people who can make them look cute, but when I try things like that, unfortunately, it looks like I have trash in my yard.
- Second, I had access to 70 free concrete blocks, which was a good start to my garden. You can often find them free on craigslist if you are able to pick them up.
- Finally, I was not thrilled with the idea of using railroad ties or pressure treated lumber to make my beds because of the risk of chemical leaching. Non pressure-treated lumber touching the ground would not last long in the Arizona weather (it would be fried in the sun and eaten by termites).
Each bed took twenty-two 8″ x 8″ x 16″ blocks. The center garden is a plastic raised bed that we received as a gift. I used seven blocks on each long side and four blocks on each short side so each bed is 9′ 4″ x 4′ (about 37 square feet). The middle bed is 4′ x 4′ (16 square feet). I ended up using red stone caps on top of the concrete blocks to finish the look and give me a nice place to sit when I am weeding and staring at plants. I left the four corner blocks open so I can plant herbs and small plants in each so each bed took twenty red block caps.
I added a few things after they were made as you can see from the finished picture. I put solar lights in each of the open squares and I also put a garden “fence” around the outside of each bed (which is harder to see in the picture). The fence pieces allow me to drape shade cloth when needed while still keeping it off the plants. I bought both of these items at the $0.99 store.
The total spent for each bed (if you did not find any freebies) is:
- twenty-two concrete blocks at $0.97 each = $21.34
- twenty block caps at $0.71 each = $14.20
- 1 cubic yard of dirt (27 cubic feet) = $34 – check out my post on how to calculate how much soil you need in a raised garden bed
- solar lights and fence panels (optional $11/bed)
Total = $69.54 (each) without the “decorations”
I did not concrete the caps to the blocks. Since it is only one block high it should not be necessary. So far, it has worked great. I also added an irrigation system (more on that in a future post).