How To Build A Raised Bed With Concrete Blocks

I built my first raised bed from concrete blocks (aka cinder blocks) a few years ago, though my garden wasn’t too successful because our yard had become much shadier. But now that we moved, I have a big empty yard that gets lots of sun!

You might be wondering about the blocks, since chances are most raised beds you’ve seen were made of wood. I didn’t like the wood idea for a variety of reasons.

  1. treated lumber has poison in it, and I don’t care how safe or how little gets into the food. I don’t want poison around my vegetables. Better safe than sorry.
  2. lumber rots.
  3. lumber has to be nailed/bolted/etc. together.
  4. lumber has to be cut to size.
  5. once you make your garden box, that’s the size of your box.

So I thought about suitable alternatives. Some people do freeform beds without any supports. Just pile up the dirt and organic matter and start planting. Some use old tires. Some go fancy and get landscaping rocks or bricks. I decided to go cheap and ugly with regular cement blocks. Standard 8″x8″x16″ masonry blocks, which I got at Menards for about $1 a piece.

The advantages:

  1. no chemical leaching.
  2. no nails, no cutting.
  3. they last forever.
  4. even cooler, if I decide to expand beds, change their shape, move them, or make them smaller, I just move the bricks one by one.

Did I mention they’re cheap?

But hey, you can use whatever you want to make your raised beds. Just adapt these instructions to fit your needs!

Here’s a quick photo of the back yard, in it’s not-quite-spring-yet, grey and scraggly state:


Now let’s start building!Read more…

Garden Update – Winter Sowing Progress

After weeks of almost non-stop rain and even some snow (EW!), I think it’s finally really spring! It was 65 degrees today, and I took advantage of the nice weather by finishing up the first raised bed for my vegetable garden. (More on that in a few days.)

I thought I’d post my progress with my winter sowing project. I have lots of sprouts and seedlings now, which makes me do the happy garden dance. I’ve sown 86 containers so far! Here’s a picture of my so-called “pot ghetto”.


Not the most attractive set up, but there’s no way I’d have enough space to start that many seedlings indoors. I’ll trade form for function any day.

Of the 50 or so containers I sowed in February and March, I’d say about 60% have sprouts now. I did a giant batch of containers a few days ago, including the first of my veggies!

Here’s a little sample of the progression my Russell Lupines have made, which were my first seeds to germinate:

These seeds were sown on February 14th and I saw the first signs of germination on March 30th.



A few more seedlings have poked out their heads! This photo was taken on April 4th.


April 22nd and the first “true leaves” have appeared!

So the verdict? Winter sowing totally works, and it is AWESOME. I’ve sown enough flower seeds to fill a 250 square foot bed. If I’d tried to buy plants to fill that, I’d have to spend over $1000.

With winter sowing, I got over half of the seeds for free in a seed exchange. The other half I bought and paid about $30. Add in the cost of potting mix, and I’m still only at maybe $50 total! The containers are free. The lighting is free. The space on my patio is free!

Winter sowing tutorial

Yeah, it’s February. There’s snow on the ground. But I’m gardening. GARDENING!

I stumbled across this article about winter sowing a few months ago, and I was instantly fascinated. I’ve started seeds the traditional way before, both sowing indoors under lights and direct sowing outside once it gets warmer. Both methods worked okay for me, but the idea of winter sowing appealed to me for two reasons. 

1. Being able to do a lot of garden prep work when I start getting cabin fever in the dead of winter is awesome, and

2. I don’t have to find space in my house for the seedlings, nor do I have to invest in shelving, lights, etc… that means I can start lots and lots and lots of plants for cheap/free.

Cheap and free is good because I have big plans for my yard. I hate grass. Mowing blows, it turns brown when it gets too hot and dry, and it’s not pretty! I do not understand lawn-people. I would be much happier to look out into my yard and see something like this:

Though I suppose I’d still like to have somewhere to walk, and also somewhere to grow veggies, so maybe something a little more like this:

See more of my garden inspiration photos on Pinterest!

In either case, you get the point. Out with the grass, in with the plants!Read more…

Idiot Proof Gardening

This post brought to you by Bulbs. Dig, Drop, Done.. All opinions are 100% mine.

Bulbs are my secret gardening weapon. And it doesn't hurt that many of my favorite plants happen to be bulbs. If you dream of a garden bursting with color, but you kill every plant you come in contact with, bulbs are the answer.

I planted a ton of bulbs in my first garden – tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, snowdrops, allium, and crocus. And they kind of spoiled me. I thought gardening was easy. It wasn't until I tried planting other things that bulbs might be easy, but gardening was not.

You literally dig a hole, drop in a bulb, and that's it! Come Spring time, you'll have colorful surprised popping up all over your yard. You don't even have to water them… it's that idiot proof. The only issues I ever had with bulbs was that squirrels, rabbits, and deer absolutely loved to nom my tulips. I solved that problem by planting the tulips right up next to the house and planting the less tasty bulb varieties out in the yard.
Aside from being the most no fuss plant I can think of for the garden, bulbs can bring a little Spring time color in the middle of winter by "forcing" them! My mom forces an amaryllis every year, and there's nothing like those giant red trumpet shaped blooms to scare the winter blues away. Bulbs for forcing (or traditional planting) would make a great gift for the holidays.
You can visit to learn more. Check out the Garden Guru Tool that will help you figure out which bulbs are perfect for your location:
Step 1 – Pick your Country 
Step 2 – Pick your location within that Country 
Step 3 – Choose the type of bulb you want to grow 
Step 4 – Check out the Planting Guide that shows you how to plant your bulbs.
Also visit Curbside and check out their $5000 yard makeover.

Oh, what I would do with $5000 for my yard. I'd be tempted to do a whole yard of jonquil daffodils. Jonquils have a bunch of smaller blooms on one stem and they are the BEST smelling flower on the planet. I'm not much for perfume, but if they made something that smelled like jonquils, I'd drench myself in it.
If you're on Twitter, every share with the hashtag #CurbsideChaos, "Bulbs. Dig, Drop, Done." will donate $1.00 to Rebuilding Together – the nation’s leading nonprofit, working to preserve affordable homeownership and revitalize communities.
Also, through 11/30/12 you can receive a free gardening themed Scholastic book with every Dig.Drop.Done flower bulb purchase, while supplies last! Just clip the Dig.Drop.Done logo from your bulb package and send in for your book. You can find flower bulbs at a variety of lawn & garden retailers.
Visit for more details and the Official Rules. The offer is open to anyone eighteen years of age or older who is a legal resident of the 50 United States or Washington DC. Void where restricted or prohibited.

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How does your garden grow?

This post brought to you by Bulbs. Dig, Drop, Done.. All opinions are 100% mine.

As I mentioned a few posts ago, we just bought a new house. That means a new yard to play in! One thing I planted a lot of in our current house were tulips and daffodils. They’re some of the first flowers to bloom in spring, which is probably part of why they’re two of my favorite flowers.

I might dig some of my bulbs up and take them with me, but even if I don’t, the good news is that bulbs are SUPER easy to plant and grow. They really are one of the most idiot-proof flowers. The only problem I’ve had with my tulips is the squirrels stealing my bulbs! I moved most of them from around the yard to right next to the house, and that helped a lot.

Aside from being super easy to plant and maintain, a lot of bulb varieties naturalize, which means that just a few bulbs will multiply to fill in an area all on their own! I planted a bunch of naturalizing crocus bulbs in my lawn, and the purple and gold colors looks so pretty poking up through the grass and (sometimes) snow. I always do a happy dance when I see the first crocus blooming, because that’s when I know it’s REALLY Spring!

If you’re new to bulbs, I’d suggest you visit to learn more about bulbs.

I love Marcy’s tip here:

I rake my leaves over every part of my garden! It beats bagging or burning and the plants love the mulch.

Because bulbs are so easy, they would make a really nice holiday gift. One thing I learned from the DigDropDone website is that you can actually plant bulbs in snow!  A lot of bulbs are also suitable for “forcing” indoors during winter, so you can have a little splash of spring color in January!

Bulbs work well in pots, too. I love this little collection of potted bulbs. I have a red polka dot enamel tea kettle that’s just begging to have some jonquils planted in it (they are THE best smelling daffodils on the planet!).

After you check out the DigDropDone website, be sure to submit a photo of your yard at Curbside Chaos to be entered to win a $5000 yard makeover and help from landscape master Taniya Nayak.

Curbside Chaos has a great Garden Guru tool that can help you determine when and what to plant depending on your planting zone and when you want your flowers to bloom. Just pick your country, location, and what month you want blooms.

Here’s one of the suggestions it gave me:

I love allium. The big globe shapes look really great in rows on both sides of a walkway!

For every share on Twitter, “Bulbs. Dig, Drop, Done.” will donate $1.00 to Rebuilding Together – the nation’s leading nonprofit, working to preserve affordable homeownership and revitalize communities.

So be sure to tell your friends about the #curbsidechaos yard makeover contest from @digdropdone!

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