Thursday, October 27, 2005

Raised Bed Redux

Somewhere between my rapturous exploration of the possibilities of recycled-plastic raised bed kits and now, I had a bit of a revelation. I could subscribe to a pair of organic farm CSA subscriptions for a couple of years for the money I was thinking of spending on raised bed garden kits. "Oh, but they will last for years!" "They are reusable!" and so on. All true. I still want to grow what I want to grow, and I don't eat nearly enough salad to make a CSA subscription as useable as it should be. So I still want raised beds. But I should plan something more affordable, and save the money toward our little patch of land up north someday.

So today I went looking for advice on cinder block raised beds, as I think those might be affordable and easy to build, and have the advantage of holding in heat during the cooler months. In fact, I'm thinking that covering a bed or two with black plastic, and letting it drape over the sides, would really warm up the soil. The blocks are light gray, so I could leave them as-is in the summer, or make a light lime wash to whiten them for maximum reflectivity.

I was browsing today for info on building cinderblock raised beds (for my own garden) and found that a common theme was using them as affordable and sturdy accessible gardening beds. If constructed well, they can be leaned on by gardeners who may need a little extra support when standing up, for instance.

Found lots of good ideas in a cinder block garden advice request from the (fascinating!) Square Foot Gardening forum at GardenWeb. Among the excellent suggestions:

  • planting invasive plants such as mint in the holes where they can stay contained

  • growing strawberries the same way (I imagine they benefit from the warmth and from being off the ground away from snails)

  • nasturtiums and marigolds in the holes, to form a bug-repelling border

  • using concrete stain in nice colors to relieve the dull grey
  • getting cap blocks in a contrasting color instead of planting in the holes

  • using more expensive split-face block, which looks much nicer

  • lining the bed with sturdy plastic to keep it from drying out quickly


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