I'll be building several 4x8 raised beds this year. What do most folks use for the sides? In the past, I've used non-treated wood, but it only lasts for a few years without rotting. I currently have 1 raised bed that's built with leftover composite boards from my deck, but that stuff's too expensive for a raised bed, around $90 per bed. I had thought of using cinder blocks, but was concerned that they would be too hot in New Orleans summers.
I've asked around about this on different forums, and basically everyone seems to have their own favorite. Wood appears to be most popular because it's cheaper, but the composite specialty boards have lots of fans too. The thing with composite is that they're expensive initially, but then you don't have to buy anything for hopefully years. I guess it's a tradeoff that you have to calculate. I wouldn't think light colored cinder blocks would be all that hot, though.
I started with plain pine boards 5 seasons ago. Looks like I'll have to start replacing them next year (2012) because some of them are beginning to rot.
My rows are 24 feet long, so I use three eight-foot boards six inches wide on one side. This year, because I garden on a slope, I've changed the other side to three eight-foot boards ten inches wide to make each bed level.
When I crouch down on the lower part of the garden and look up the slope, I can actually see the terracing effect I'm trying to achieve.
I used railroad ties- that were 8"x8"x8' long. I did them in a double layer. 2 of my beds are L shaped with 24' long side and 12' short side. they are 4' wide. We pounded them in with rebar. The beds are 6 yrs old now, and there has been some splitting, but not bad enough yet to start replacing. I like the idea of having a place to sit while I gardened which is why I like the 8 inch wide ties. I also have 3 beds that are 16' x 4' down the "center" of the two facing L's.
My first raised box bed was a small cinder block bed stacked two high that I use for growing garlic. I have found that when working the cinder block bed I am constantly getting cut from the sharp edges on the cinder blocks. Using cinder blocks works really well but you may want to think about addressing the problem of the sharp edges.
I have since built four raised beds made from dry but not splitting (hand picked) R/R ties stacked two high and attached with 1/2 and 3/8 rebar driven 4-6 " into the ground. My beds are lined with tin. I have plans for two more.
Where I live I can get 25 hand picked ties delivered for $225.
The reason I went to R/R ties is because they are easier for me to level on a 16 or 24 foot length of garden space.
I too really enjoy being able to sit on the edges of the beds, if not to work them then just to admire them and have a coffee or cold drink.
I use 2" x 8" either 4', 6' or 8' length cedar. I stack them 2 high so I have a 16" depth of soil, and I use 4" x 4" cedar posts cut about 24 " long for the four corners. The cedar is light weight and weathers well so I don't anticipate having to replace them for many years.
My beds are 4'x16'x2' pressure treated. I bought the boards 16' long and had them delivered for free. It was much cheaper to get 2"x12"x16' boards instead of 8'. I stacked them 2 high to get the height I needed.
jomoncon, in NO you will be better off using the composite boards or cement blocks. If you hate the look, you can always get a couple of buckets of oyster shells and mortar them on the outsides of the beds.
Mine are made with cinder block and then stuccoed to match the house. They are lined with a sealing material to keep the water leaching through the cinder block. I have had to repair the stucco twice, in small areas but second time I did it because i watched the guy and it was not a big deal.
When they we constructed, the man that made them, measured me when I was sitting down and that is the height of the bed. They have a flat cap on the edge which I use as a seat.
I think you can see the cap in this photo. I am planting seed and plants on the 5th. Big trip to landscaping friends greenhouses for plants.
We used to use railroad ties for landscaping, but I'd be careful about having them in a garden with edibles because of the preservatives used. Same for treated wood, although I know they've changed the formulation to something less toxic.
We don't use raised beds but I'm very interested in high yield and succession planting.
I use rocks as edging throughout the garden, most were collected for free from construction sites locally.
For the vegetable/ herb garden I build up another row for height. Using the rocks enables me to create any shape bed I want.
I also have a combination of cement planters (also free) and rocks along the asphalt driveway.
This is a very hot area because of the reflected heat but the rocks seem to keep the roots of plants cool. I even had volunteer violets growing at the edge and they prefer a shadier cooler spot. Their leaves did crisp late in the season
but they are back now. I realize I'm in a much cooler part of the country so maybe someone from your area can tell you if the rock "wall" would work for you.
My veg/herb/flower garden is more heavily flower/herb/fruit currently but I'm interested in returning to more vegetables now.
That's really pretty. We have rocks around our pond, and so they wouldn't look too out of place we also added them to some of the other plantings, but in our vegetable garden/potager the walks are old brick and the paths are wood chips, so it's easier to get wheelbarrows in and out.
I use brick-colored paving stones stood on end and tilting inwards a lottle for stability.
They are around 98 cents to $1.20 each where I live.
8" x 16 x 3/4" or
12" x 12" x 1"
My main goal was to build them fast-and-easy so I had SOMETHING to grow in.
The only usable soil is what I create from almost-pure clay and stones.
For my first 5 years or so, I'm building them as fast as I can make soil (i.e., somewhat sloppy).
After that, I plan to widen most of them by a few inches or add a lower "terrace", and at that time re-make the walls much tidier, probably gluing them together and chinking the corners with wedge-shaped pieces of pavers, or pebbles-and-mortar.
I found that the up-ended paving stones gave good aeration and drainage, but the corners do dry out very quickly.
What I've started doing on new RBs is to use the heavy plastic from a 1-cubic foot bag of compost to line the corners from the base of the paving stone up to just below soil level.
I really like cinder blocks, and they do very well in our 100+ temps here. I grow all sorts of things in them- onions, spearmint, oregano, cutting celery- there is no limit as long as it isn't something that needs sidewise space. I usually color mine with some watered-down latex- sand or grass color. I just don't like concrete color in the garden!
I did not have a bunch of money to spend on wooden or whatever sides of my raised beds, and I like to till in green manures, so I just use hilled beds. I keep the grass out by using a half moon edger, which I learned about from Victorian gardening techniques. It works really well--lasts the whole season for me.
Oddly enough, yesterday I was looking at a gardening book from 1907, and it was saying that using beds was old-fashioned and you should switch to planting in rows, lol!
It's got a sort of ridge on it to make it easier on your feet. You press it down into the soil and rock it from side to side to cut. That cuts the edge. But what the Victorians did was tilt the cut edge away from the bed so the surface of the grass surrounding it is undercut a little. That helps keep the grass from growing into the bed. It really works. It's work, but not horrible like double digging or anything. And you only have to do it once a year. At least, that's all I do.
It works surprisingly well to stop runners because you are undercutting the grass edge so that the root layer is exposed to air. I find that it works a lot better than using any kind of edging to keep an edge neat and to keep grass out.
I don't know about Bermuda grass. When I had that, my soil was pure sand.
I use 2X12 pine which I scavenged from a construction site free. I asked their permission first. I got enough that if I need to replace... I already have the boards. At first I stacked 2X6's because I had not found the 2X12's yet. My beds are 4X4 so the short lengths leftover from cutting floor joists were close to the size I wanted.
Also, I will not replace as soon as I see rotting. I will only replace when the function of the bed is compromised by the rotting. Ive had mine for three years and they still look new. The color is changing from yellow to grey to some degree. I do not believe my boards are pressure treated but they could be... but arsenic is no longer a concern since it has been outlawed. The boards dont have that greenish tint that treated wood usually has. Me and my neighbors have been eating food from them for 3 years and no immedidate bad effects were noticed.
Paracelsus, that's what I was doing for years, but I got very frustrated when the lawn mower wheel kept falling into the ditch between the grass and bed. It does work, but you have to make that ditch very deep, and crabgrass seems to looove finding it's way in there. I guess if I could go out everyday, but that's not an option. That's why I'm leaning towards raised beds with walls. You can just weedwack around the walls, or even just kill all the grass by putting newspapers and crushed rock down between beds.
Yeah, but you have to build the walls, get the dirt to put in it, and then you cannot grow any green manure in there because there is no way to till it in. I can understand why people like that kind of raised bed, but for me they are way too much work and require too much outside input. The hilled beds with traditional edging as I described work better for me because I can get right in there with the tiller and mix in the white clover and peas I grow for green ferts, and because I don't have to bring in any dirt. True, there is no nifty thing to sit on on the side!:) I just have to sit on the grass and crawl around in the dirt. Which to me is part of the point of gardening.:)
Crab grass is a real problem if it goes to seed, but otherwise I have been able to contain it.
Paracelcus, I discovered that that weed claw or garden claw that was popular several years ago makes an excellent tiller for my square foot beds. I tilled in my green manure last season with it and was very pleased. I wanted a small Mantis tiller for the job but not in the budget. I got a garden claw from Big Lots for $10. I dont know how big your area is but I just have 8 4X4 beds and it works great for me. I use it to till in any ammendments and compost, etc. Cam
drumlin, I just mow close to the edge, but I have an electric mower, so it is very light. It's easy to mow an edge with a steep drop-off or next to a cement curb by just holding it level even if the wheels on one side are in the air.
steadycam3, I have about 2000 sq. ft. in garden. I use hand tools a lot but for working in green manure, I use a rear-tine tiller.
Loved those articles, Yehudith, but now I want one of those electric edgers. Im reminded of a story about a contest to win a $million. The interviewer asked each of the three finalists what they would do with the $ if they won. One man said he would invest in the stock market, another said he would donate it to charity. The farmer said he would farm with it as long as it lasted. I seem to have a never ending want list!!!
Actually, yehudith, I can understand that. It's a control thing! That electric edger looks pretty cool, but man, it goes fast. I can just see me losing control and ripping through some beloved plant. I have a couple of half moon edgers. With those, you HAVE to get the best and sturdiest, because the half-moon has a tendency to get bent back and forth, and a cheap one can end up so bent it's practically useless. Learned THAT the hard way.
The edger I saw in a catalog had a long handle I was assuming it was so you didn't have to bend down to cut the edge.
I recently hurt my knee so I can't put a lot of pressure on it or bend down I was looking for something I could use standing with arm strength only.
Sounds like the electric one is the one for you. Unless you are super strong or the dirt is really soft. Sometimes I have to stand on the shovel with both feet to make it go into the soil. I guess if I was smart, I would water it first. Did you look at those two links posted above by Yehudith? They are both good for selecting the tool. Cam
sempervirens, you use your weight to bite into the dirt. There's a little ledge on the edger to make that easier. Then rock it back and forth a little. I believe the long handle is because it is intended that you cut at a slight angle towards yourself.
>> The problem I have is not clay- it is ROCKS! Our house is built on an old river bed- complete with millions of rocks- I wish water would soften them!
Urrr! Not much you can do with rocks other than excavate and build a wall, such as the side of a raised bed, to sdtay "on-topic".
Dynamite? Diamond-tipped drills? Pitons?
Ground-penetrating radar to find the one spot BETWEEN rocks where you can drive a stake?
I saw this in central Oregon where I guess they had no big stones, and the soil was too sandy or soft for solid anchoring: They would make an above-ground "pillar" of small rocks contained in a cylinder of chicken wire, with a little bracing. The "pillar" was solid enough to hold something like a mailbox post upright.
Maybe use some of your rocks to build small "pyramids" reinforced with chicken wire, and build them around the stake that you wnat to hold upright. It would have a pretty big footprint! And take lot of time per stake.
Here's what all my gardens look like- edged with rocks! I had to put plastic edging between the rocks and grass to try to keep the grass from encroaching- it does help, but I still have to dig a lot. It is worth the work for the beauty of the flowers, though.
Thanks for all your compliments- yes, it is all real- When I moved here in Dec '07, the entire front and back yard was completely dead- I will post a photo- I worked like crazy- it had been empty for a year, and here you need irrigation or grass dies. I dug, aerated, added composted manure, and pampered it like crazy. I'm gonna go find a photo- be right back!
OK- Here is the yard about 3 months after I moved in. I don't think I could do it again! The yellow spots are newly transplanted sod that I dug in the back yard where I was making my vegetable gardens.
One more- I can hardly believe it ever looked like that! My neighbors think I am nuts- I am 76 years old! But hubby is disabled, and I love a challenge- in fact I have painted the entire outside of the house too- and I have photos of that!
Last one, I promise- somebody is gonna fuss at me for getting off topic here! This is me on the ladder with a neighbor holding it!
PS- Thanks for the comments on the Delphinium- it was gorgeous, but I'm not sure it will be back this year.
I use both rock and cinder blocks for various borders, but when it comes to raised beds I go strictly with treated lumber. I have opted for more expense vs. extra labor in this area, since I have enough to do as is with nearly a quarter acre devoted to raising edibles. I now have six 4ft x 8 ft raised beds having built two each year for the last three years. The fasteners for the corners actually cost more than the lumber, but I'm certain these beds will outlast me. The biggest problem I have is the pathways around the outsides of these beds. I have been building these up with clay from holes dug in the garden for tomato and other plants. The level around the beds is sufficient enough now that I will be able to lay down some ground/weed prevent cloth this year. But before I do that I will use Soferdigs suggestion of adding a layer of wood ash to prevent the spread of invasive grass and weeds.
As an added note I have read that the creosote in railroad ties is toxic to plants, but there are ways around that problem.
greenhouse_gal, our temps get above 100 here, but my pansies bloom all summer. Those in the photo were planted in spring '09, went all winter and lasted all last summer. Some of them are still going, but most will have to be replaced.
mraider3, I also use a combination of cinder blocks, composite decking that I recycled and cedar fence boards for edging my raised beds.
Man, after all those gorgeous pictures, JoParrott, I hate to ask for another one. But do you happen to have any pics of your cinder blocks (the ones with the holes in them)? Just curious to see them, both to see the color and also what you have grown in them. Like you, I am not too fond of gray concrete color.
I really want to grow a ton of herbs - especially oregano, parsley, basil and dill -- and I think the blocks might be a great answer. Any problems with them, like drying out? Or does painting them help with that?
No problem at all with drying out- or heat for that matter. I have irrigation sprinklers, but I like to hand water so I can check each plant. You will love them for herbs. Just don't put bushy plants side by side. I usually put scallions or chives in between basil, etc. I grow a lot of cutting celery since I don't like the stalks.
Between Jo and Sharon, I'm gettting pretty convinced that concrete blocks are not the ugly things I thought they were. OK, Jo, I have to ask. HOW do you get the edge so completely perfect against your blocks?
And I want to know how you get pansies to last that long. Mine always quit around April. We have 100 degree days a lot in July and We often have 75 in Feb and March. I am four zones away in 9a. If I moved them to the shade do you think it would help? I love your gardens and I love it that you are 76. I think gardening is good for longevity. I see lots of gardeners on here well past 60. Im 68 and without my garden, life would not be nearly as good. It gets me excited often and I love being excited about life. Im 68. Can you come help me install this gutter on the back of my neighbor's garage so I can have his rainwater? He said it was OK. chuckle. Cam
OK- To get the good edge I use strings tied to stakes- then some hard digging! The half moon tool would be good, but I have a spade that is not curved, and I keep it sharp. Lots of elbow grease and you got it!
As for Pansy longevity, I believe soil temperature is almost more important that air temps. A nice mulch would surely help, but in TX that means you have to control snails & slugs- we don't have them much here- When I lived in Louisiana (40 years) I fought them year round. Here Earwigs are my worst emeny, and I had never heard of them in the south! We all have our regional struggles, but it is well worth it. Today we have a perfect day and I am cleaning aroung perennials to see any signs of life. I am learning year by year about the hardiness in our zone.
This photo was just about at the peak of blooms last year.
Drumlin, in the case of cinder blocks, you could just use string trimmer held at a slight angle. It can give you a clean edge. I used it for years to edge with when I had a lawn. A string trimmer is not good around trees and shrubs...too easy to "slip" and girdle the bark enough to kill the plant.
Now without lawn, I have a more "natural" style. Im going for a more woodland or arboretum look so I dont use the string trimmer anymore. I have another tool rechargeable for about 30 minutes work that looks kinda like the clippers barbers use. I dont know the name of it but it's made by Ryobi. It has a long handle so it can be used standing but for the small tasks I use it for, I dont use the long handle. It has wheels on the bottom to assist when using the long handle. I think if you had yards and yards of trimming to do, this would not be fast enough. Good for small jobs tho. Cam
I just had to show you this- A few months ago I had bought several Dungeness crabs- one of my addictions! and after making broth with all the shells I ground them up in my VitaMix that I use for such things, and buried it in several places. Today I got out my B&D 18volt cultivator and went through all of it. It looks like gold to me! I am so impatient to start planting!
Jo, you're my idol! It's so inspiring to see what you do, and the results you get! I have the same problem with pansies that Steadycam mentioned; they just die on me. Maybe I need to deadhead them more faithfully but I'm really pretty good about that.
Today I planted peas, kale, spinach, broccoli raab, lettuce, chard, beets, arugula, and mixed mustard greens outside. And I put my pepper and eggplant seeds in my Parks BioDome inside to get them started. Tomorrow it's supposed to rain, so that should be good for my garden.
WormsLove Sharon~~ Wow. That's really pretty... especially with your wall. I was wondering how you put those hoops in, did you fasten them or stick them in the ground? And if they're PVC, what size are they? Thanks.
Gymgirl, I'm with you. I Think I've decided on cinder block as well. I really would like to to do them 2 layers high - about 16" tall with a capstone on top. I think this would be the perfect height for sitting.
To construct our raised beds my brilliant husband came up with a great idea using clearance wooden siding from Menard's. At 49 cents per 4 foot length we made each bed including the 2 x 4's to screw the siding into for about $12 a bed for a 4ft x 10ft bed. We primed the beds with an outdoor sealer to make the untreated wood last longer and this is the second year they're being used. We made 4 last year and constructed a "few" more this year. I'll post a few photos to get a better idea of what I'm talking about. The tomato bed has a series of screw eyes that we tie jute/sisal type rope into a criss-cross pattern that easily supports the weight of hundreds of tomatoes. It did REALLY well last year except that our soil level was too low and we crowded the bed with FORTY tomato plants... oops! Not the prettiest beds in the world, but they work really well and fast and easy to construct.
They have wooden siding available in various widths 4-8 inches I think and the clearance siding was in 4 foot widths, but if you buy a 10 or 12 foot length of non clearance siding it ends up being about $6-8 per 10-12 feet. (Not nearly as affordable as 49 cents for 4 feet) They do join together so you can stack them as high as you want. The tomato bed is maybe 16 inches high and the supports for the string (just 2x4's) are 5 feet high. You could always go higher, but I'm not all that tall so I wouldn't want them much higher. Our peas and pole beans are growing on 6 foot string trellises and if they get too tall I might need a step stool. :)
Crops that we just wanted to try on a trial basis we just made short beds like these butternut squash that I'm going to see if I can get to grow along this fence.
We didn't line them with plastic, but we did get lazy on a few of them and didn't dig them out. We just stapled in landscaper's fabric over the grass and dumped the dirt in. Our garden did REALLY REALLY well last year and we had more veggies than we knew what to do with, but we called it our "learning" year. We didn't have nearly enough soil in the beds so our veggies didn't get enough sun/air, but that didn't stop them from making enough to share with the whole neighborhood and then some. Heck, what year isn't a learning year? I read the best book at the library! http://www.amazon.com/Small-Plot-High-Yield-Gardening-Turning-Organic/dp/1580080375 It's called "Small Plot - High Yield Gardening" and it was full of such useful info that I never knew. Because of that book we're working towards setting up a rabbit hutch somewhere to have rabbits just to keep the poop. According to the author ONE rabbit produces enough perfect fertilizer to feed 500 square feet of garden space. Next year we are going to give rabbits a go. This year we've planted garlic and onions around all the beds because I read that it helps keep pests out of the beds, but I think I went overboard. I've planted over 300 onions and at least that many garlic. We decided that we would grow things that we just wanted to try out in pots and if it turns out we like them then maybe next year they'll get a spot in the ground. Our entire back yard is sunny... there isn't a single tree. So we're very luck with sunny space. :)
Gymgirl - you could build an enclosure for your rabbit. Domestic rabbits don't "wander" like wild rabbits do. They are happy to stay near their home.
Ours were in separate cages with trays underneath so I could collect the droppings. Each had a little box that they could hide out in. One thing to know about rabbits: they need to eat some of their droppings. I don't remember why, had something to do with the bacteria in the poop being needed for digestion.
I am very impressed with all the ideas of building materials to make raised beds. I've done the wood beds and they do rot. Can't afford cedar, so I used treated wood. I am really liking the idea of cinder blocks. Build the bed up 2 or 3 blocks high with a capstone on the top sounds perfect to me! I am interested like some others as to what you use to seal them with??? Doesn't concrete chemicals leach into the soil/ground around it unless it is sealed?
Something else occurred to me ... what about constructing your own concrete "walls" for a bed? I was wondering how hypertufa would work instead of solid concrete? Use cheap plywood to make the forms: http://www.all-about-planters.com/articles/build_concrete_planter.html Pour hypertufa or concrete into the forms to make solid walls? A lot more work, but it would certainly outlast me over time.
I really need to find an alternative to wood. Between the carpenter ants, the termites, and rotting ... wood just doesn't last at all here in Florida.