Raised beds can be made out of Anything, a photo essay

Posted: January 22, 2013 in Urban farming

Our soil is clay loam.  Probably a yellowish brown, aka 10YR5/4.  We made several pitiful attempts to grow anything in our soil over our years of living in Orange County and all were generally failures.  Sometimes due to inexperience or forgetfulness.  Sometimes due to Kazumi.  But, mostly due to bad soil.

There was a single shining beacon of growing success in 1997.  That year we grew the largest and mostest in chargest Roma tomato plants, ever.  In bad soil.  In winter.  All winter.  It was an El Niño year.  The rain never stopped, temperatures never really dropped, the Santa Ana flooded its banks, sea lions were spotted in the Burger King at Blackies, and tomatoes grew all winter.  Chaos reigned.   The tomato plants grew so large, we hooked them over the fence and ran the plants around the entire patio.  Those plants spit Roma tomatoes out by the dozens until March, when it got really hot, the rain stopped, and we did not manage to water them.

When we embarked on the urban farming enterprise, we decided we would use raised beds.  Friends swore by lasagna gardens, which required no additional fertilizer, were easy to build up, and most importantly, pretty cheap to fill.  Lasagna gardens layer browns and greens, with a little vermacompost thrown in, to create a bed for a season of pure compost.  Browns include straw, fall leaves (yes, we do get those here sometimes), and for us, animal litter.  Greens include prunings, clippings, or the remains of the ‘trim’ from Mother’s.  We layer these, drop soil on top, mulch, and plant.

Our first beds were so pretty.IMG_9620  Nice contrasting bricks.  We just stacked them.

Pros:  attractive, works nicely with some sort of outside support like these poles which prevent our neighbor from smacking the side of the house with their car.

Cons:  unless you have bricks lying around, a bit pricey.  Also, the short beds are fine, but the longer beds tend to sag  outward under the weight of the soil.

Our next beds went into the front yard.  We made some concessions based on the visibility of these beds and zoning ordinances.IMG_9610  These plastic panels click together and are designed to be used as raised beds.

Pros:  super easy set up, uniform, attractive

Cons:  priciest of all the raised beds on our lot

The next beds went into the backyard.  So, we raided the garage.  We want to cut our carbon footprint.  What better way than using up the excess items in the garage and making them into raised beds?  The sole caveat is this:  do not use  materials that will leak anything toxic into your soil.

Pros:  super cheap

Cons:  not uniform, sometimes not even attractive, occasional occupational hazards

IMG_4049This bed is located between the house and the greenhouse.  The pots are connected to the rabbit runs and provide a hidey hole for rabbits and a cool place on hot days.  The raised bed is made out of large Sterilite lids, metal pipe left over from a plumbing project, painter drop clothes to protect the house, and scraps of press board.  It is truly a bed made out found things from the garage-although I developed an acute case of tennis elbow from cutting the pipe, so it is arguably not the cheapest bed ever.


This bed was created by lifting up the paving stones which were already on location.  Our trash cans originally sat on these stones.  We relocated the cans to a shady spot and flipped the paving stones on their sides.


These are my personal favorites.  I drilled holes in the Sterilite lids that came with the tubs that now live on the roof (Sterilite plastic!)and ran wire to connect

the lids together to make boxes.  I cut the heck out of my hands, though.


The bed against the fence is made out of left over lattice and concrete board.  We nailed it together.

This weekend?  I think I saw some panel boards behind the dog food can in the garage.  And that boogie board has definitely seen better days…








We found the remnants of a bookcase abandoned by the trash cans walking the dogs last Friday night.  Perfect!

We found the remnants of a bookcase abandoned by the trash cans walking the dogs last Friday night. Perfect!







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