Gardening is a hobby that’s good for both body and mind, and this is especially true during a quarantine year. Growing plants is a contemplative, meditative process that provides me with something beautiful to look at when the world is difficult to comprehend. And home-grown produce almost always tastes better than store-bought because it’s picked when it’s perfectly ripe. There’s also the added confidence of knowing exactly what went into the soil that produced it all.

But you must first sow before you can reap. Although there is much to be thankful for, gardening is passive—simply watering, waiting, and watching—the hard work is all front-loaded: lifting bags of soil, compost, and fertilizer; tilling the earth; and, of course, building beds for your plants.

Last year, my partner and I moved into a new house—our first as homeowners. We were tired, our bank accounts were nearly empty, and we didn’t have many tools In the garage. We knew we wanted a property. We knew exactly what we wanted. raised Betts

Being a Wirecutter writer, I’d love to tell you that I obsessively researched the subject before building my garden Beds. I didn’t. Instead, my partner was at our local home-improvement super-center and stumbled upon Oldcastle’s planter wall blocks.

“Hey,” She sent me a text message with a photo. “These look like they might work?”

I browsed the tomato starters while she browsed them. These bricks are a hit with people, I discovered quickly. Gardeners of all skill levels spoke in video after video about the ease and cost-effectiveness these concrete blocks offer. They also shared tips on how best to use them. I was convinced. I ran outside and measured the space. Then, I texted my friend the dimensions. The beds were complete a few hours later (yes, the same day).

As it turns out, I wasn’t the only Wirecutter staffer who was bewitched by these marvels of modern engineering: Two of my coworkers were building their own block-based beds at the same time. All three of us were amazed at how easy and inexpensive our gardens came together.

Why is it important to raised garden bed?

In-ground is possible in areas with fertile soil gardening is easy and inexpensive. You can amend the dirt naturally found in your soil and go straight to planting.
But if you’re dealing with a high water table, bad soil pH, or a rocky hardpan underlayer (like me), raised-bed gardening is a great alternative. Building a raised bed can create the soil mixture you want from scratch. And you don’t have to deal with rocks, roots, and other obstacles to getting your plants seated in fertile ground. Because of the rocky and volcanic soil in Central Oregon, raised beds are the best option.
Raised beds can also be used gardening It’s easier on your back, helps keep pests away from your bounty, allows you to plant earlier than with in-ground gardens, and makes it easier for you to get started planting.Why not use these Oldcastle blocks instead of other? raised-bed Solutions? Oh, I’m glad you asked!

The Oldcastle blocks cost very little. They are really cheap.

First and foremost, they’re wallet-friendly and readily available at most big-box hardware stores, which is something that can’t be said for many raised-bed-in a-box Kits

“I did a lot of research on building garden beds, and by research I mean I looked at buying a garden kit because I’m not handy,” said Alejandra Matos, Wirecutter’s senior audience development manager. “My local hardware store was sold out of the most basic garden kits, and even those were a lot more expensive than buying the Oldcastle blocks and wood.”

A quick glance at listings from Lowe’s and Home Depot confirms that many raised-garden Kits can run upwards of $100 for small wood or galvanized beds. Others are more expensive. These bricks sell for $3 each and you will need four for a basic project. bed. Add four lengths of suitable lumber, and you’ve got a rock-solid raised bed For as low as $50

Can you make a less expensive product? bed These bricks can be used to attach boards together by simply nailing or screwing them together. Yes (video). However, there are many other benefits to the block-based approach.

They make assembly super-easy

It is so simple to put together that you can do it while holding a drink in one hand. Photo: Jessica Bell

These blocks offer a great deal of value, aside from the cost. The beds you’ll make with them are still DIY, but they’re the gardeningSimilar to IKEA flat-pack furniture.

You don’t need power tools, you don’t need to figure out the most secure way to screw the whole thing together, and you don’t have to worry about connections failing at the corners. Your actual labor cost to construct your home. bedThe effort is minimal, though it is quite tiring to carry the soil, blocks, and wood from your car. The soil holds the boards in place and the bricks do the alignment work. It all comes together in a matter of minutes.

“It was so fast!” Jessica Bell, Wirecutter software engineer used Oldcastle block to build a two story house. bed garden With her mother. “We did it all in one afternoon, and it looked way better than we thought it would. My mother really loved it, and it was so fun to build.”

The best that can be said is: tools you’ll need are a tape measure, a shovel, a rake, a hammer or rubber mallet, and a level (if you want to make sure everything is square and flat). You could also fill the container with a level. bed with just a shovel, as long as you don’t mind slight imperfections: Just slide the wood into the slots in the blocks and add soil.

“My biggest piece of advice is not to overthink it,” said Alejandra. “My garden is in a sloped area of the yard, and I probably should have leveled it off, but the basil, shishi to peppers, and tomatoes still thrive.”

Your garden Any shape can be used, provided it has right angles.

Your garden Because each side of the Oldcastle block has a slot that can grip the end of a 2-by-6 board, beds are extremely modular. Tetris can be played with your Oldcastle blocks. garden Add extra boxes An existing side bed You can also create different shapes to make it easier for different plants to be accessed. To create a terraced effect, you can have different depths of beds attached to each other.

Jessica explained to me that Jeanette, her mother, is ill. “really short,” They calculated her wingspan to determine her width. garden Betts “We decided on a U-shape since it allowed her to reach all parts of the garden,” Jessica said. “It was also a more interesting shape, and she kinda liked that.”

Here’s how to build a raised garden bed With Oldcastle blocks

To start, make sure there’s a sunny spot in your yard with room for a raised bed. Think about how big you are. You need to have enough space to support the number of plants you wish to grow. Keep in mind that every vegetable plant requires anywhere from several inches to several hundred feet of space. garden Space to grow properly

Remember, too, that you’ll need to be able to reach into the center of the bed can prune plants and harvest your produce. And you’ll want to leave at least a few feet around the perimeter so you can easily access all sides of the garden.

Ideal is the spot where you are most comfortable. To promote drainage and even watering, the area where you will be planting your garden should be level. If it’s not naturally flat, you can level it with a shovel and a rake before constructing your bed.

Get your materials

Oldcastle wall blocks for the planter. You’ll need at least four of these blocks—one at each corner—to create a 6-inch-deep garden bed. You can stack up to three blocks in each corner, but the manufacturer recommends three blocks. Just bear in mind that your costs will increase exponentially with each layer of blocks, since you’ll need to add more soil and wood. My 12-inch-deep beds have proven to be very productive for greens, tomatoes, and chilis. Alejandra claims that her 6-inch deep beds have produced bountiful produce. Stock lumber The notches in the Oldcastle blocks are designed to accommodate 2-inch stock lumber, so for optimal fit you’ll need at least four lengths of 2-by-6 lumber. For increased rigidity, you can double the height and add two blocks to each corner. If you don’t have your own saw, Home Depot and Lowe’s will both gladly cut your lumber to the desired length. (Both chains have a limit of two free cuts per visit, after which there’s a small charge per cut. My experience is that this limit is not rigid and often waived. As for wood choice, there’s some debate in the gardening world as to whether it’s best to use natural or pressure-treated lumber; pressure-treated wood lasts longer than untreated wood, but the chemicals used in pressure treating contain fungicide and insect repellent, which may leech into the soil. The use of arsenic-free versions of these chemicals is safe. gardening. Many gardeners avoid them because they are too cautious. Since untreated cedar is naturally rot-resistant, we think it’s a great all-purpose choice for raised Betting. If your budget can’t stretch to cedar, untreated pine will work as well—just don’t expect it to last quite as long. While longevity depends on the environment and drainage, these are some estimates of the life expectancy of pine-based products. raised bed The average lifespan is between five and ten year. Cedar and other woods with a higher resistance to rot can last up 20 years. Soil amendments. What you use here is very much a personal choice, but we’d recommend an organic soil (local, if you can get it) mixed with mushroom compost. You can also add natural nitrogen-based fertilizer such as chicken manure. Here’s a good calculator for determining how much total fill you need for your garden bed.Optional: Bed liners You may add landscaping fabric to your yard depending on its content. bed You can prevent weeds growing in your carefully cultivated soil. You may also want chicken wire if you live in an area that is home to underground pests such as gophers, moles or voles. In either case, you’ll need a staple gun to secure it to the wood. Reinforcements (optional). If you’re stacking blocks for a deeper garden bedYou can make them stronger in two ways. The first is to simply drive a stake of rebar through the holes in the center of the Oldcastle blocks (that’s what they’re there for). You can also use the following: Oldcastle claims that you can secure layers of blocks using landscape block adhesive between them.

On to the construction

Two people assemble boards and blocks into a raised garden bed.The Oldcastle Blocks make it easy to customize your shape gardenBetts Photo: Jessica Bell

Once you’ve gotten your materials home, assembly is easy (video). To create the block, simply place them at pre-measured intervals. Give it a shape. After that, insert the wood and add your landscaping fabric or chickenwire (if necessary), tighten the things with a rubber mallet (or you foot) and then fill the hole. box. Yes, it’s really that simple.

These are some additional tips that can help increase the stability and longevity your property. raised garden Betts:

Place your boards. To prevent water from leaking out of your soil where the wood meets the ground, you can dig a shallow furrow in the ground for each board to nestle into—a half-inch to an inch should do it. A layer of cardboard could be placed in the bottom of your soil. bed This has the added benefit that it will smother any weeds below. Reinforce with glue and rebar As I mentioned above, the weight of the soil should provide enough pressure to keep your boards and blocks in place—both my own beds and Jessica’s have stayed firmly put for more than a year. You can also drive a length or rebar through the holes of the blocks to give them more rigidity. Alejandra did this with her beds. If you’re stacking multiple blocks, you can also use landscape block adhesive to ensure they stick together. There are many other uses for the rebar holes. You can use the holes to attach rebar or in addition to it to trellises. They are great for vine-y plants like peas, and for PVC-based mesh covers that deter rodents, birds, and deer from stealing your produce. To add nighttime lighting to your garden, you can also slot solar lights into the holes. gardenarea For a more finished look, add wooden toppers. These beds look very DIY in their simplest form. You can create a more sophisticated look for your bed by adding a few extra touches. You can also add lumber to the top of the blocks. This is slightly more difficult than building the basic. bed because you’ll need to measure, cut, fit, and attach this layer, and that will require additional tools You can also have the cutting done by a hardware store. Since the blocks are 7½ inches wide, you can use 2-by-8 lumber and wood screws to attach them to the vertical boards. Be aware that your vertical boards must be flush with the tops, unlike the photos below.A few months later, Jessica’s work paid off handsomely. Photo: Jessica Bell


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