I have a love/hate relationship with gardening. I love loading up my cart with pretty plants at the nursery but I hate loading them into the car because it super stresses me out trying to make sure they don’t fall over and break on the ride home. I find deadheading flowers relaxing but weeding to be tedious. Digging in the dirt is a lot of fun but dragging heavy bags of it home stinks.
But I’ve solved those 3 problems and making gardening more pleasurable and less stressful for myself. Firstly, Rob loads the car full of plants these days and I just come behind him and tweak things for safe travel home. A little prep work in advance using weed guard material and mulch are musts for my new flower beds so weeds don’t get a chance go grow up and through my beds for me to deal with later. And finally, I can order Miracle-Gro Expand ‘n Gro Concentrated Planting Mix online and let the delivery man drop it off on my front porch eliminating the grunt work of bringing soil home.
Wait, what? Did I find a way to not have the hassle of dragging home a bazillion heavy bags of soil from the garden store? Have I found a way to avoid that fun drive home where I’ve got cow manure somewhere on my person that I must have picked up gathering after loading said bags of soil? Yes indeedy, I have!
After getting a few boxes of Miracle-Gro Expand ‘n Gro dropped off on my front porch I decided to plant a garden in front of the house. Facing north, the only things that sit in this space are moss and wet dirt. It isn’t pretty but it’s more often than not in shade so you can’t even see it all that well but I still hate it and it’s high time to do something about it… It’s the perfect place for a raised bed, isn’t it?
Working out my plan for a raised bed I went though the different options for materials and in the end I chose to build with cinder blocks for a few reasons… They’re super strong, are 8 inches wide which is enough to comfortably act as a bench while working in the garden (hello comfort), they won’t rot like wood and they aren’t super gross like creosote soaked rail ties.
Ooh, and cinder blocks are cheap. Like a buck and a half a piece cheap. On the downside they are really heavy but on the upside I was told that in the future I can always bribe somebody stronger and younger to do the lugging for me! Or there’s Mr. Rob who is not younger but is most definitely stronger and is down for anything he can consider exercise. Huzzah!
Now my project wasn’t without a hitch every now and again. My initial design didn’t work out in the space so I had to modify it, but that’s the way things go in real life and I learned from the experience. And even though it doesn’t match my initial design, I’m still super stoked about my raised bed. I’m so stoked, in fact, that Mr. Rob is taking me to the hardware store for another load of cinder blocks tonight because we’re building another on the other side! :) And guess what?!? Rob didn’t know it but he’s quite enjoys gardening so I even get a helper!
Want to see how to make your own cinder block raised bed? I’m not going to say it’s super easy, because working outside is almost always hard work, BUT the execution of this project is simple enough you can do it without any prior landscaping experience. Want to give it a whirl? For this project you will need:
- Miracle-Gro Expand ‘n Gro Concentrated Planting Mix
- Cinder blocks
- 8″ x 16″ concrete pavers
- Concrete stain in complementary colors
- Chip brush
- Plants and flowers
- Gardening tools (spade, shovel, water-hose, etc.)
Using a flat shovel scrape at the ground to level the surface where your raised bed will go. Once nice and level add a 1-3 inch layer of sand. Again, you’ll want to make sure this is level.
Place your cinder block bricks in the shape to create your raised bed.
Wiggle the bricks into the sand as needed to make them level. For bricks that don’t want to move quite so much, a mallet can come in handy. Where bricks need to be raised push more sand beneath to prop those bricks up to the correct height.
My initial design was to have my bed be 16″ tall, or the height of 2 cinder blocks stacked. As it turns out that meant my garden would either protrude out of the area I had planned for it to be or it would rub up against (and cover) the decorative work around the window. I didn’t want to worry about damaging the home but I also didn’t want to cover up the way the window is framed so nicely so the second stack of bricks came down. While the garden became shorter, I had plenty of bricks to make it wider and it worked out for the best in the end.
We quite obviously have a rectangle made out of cinder blocks at this point and it isn’t super attractive. To disguise the blocks top each with an 8″ x 16″ concrete paver.
Now I made a bit of a mistake. I made my plans based off of an 16″ x 8″ x 8″ cinder block but Rob and I wound up buying ones that were only 6″ wide rather than 8. That meant that my pavers were also 2″ wider than my blocks. I’d strongly recommend purchasing the “standard” sized cinder blocks so you can avoid trying to hide gaps in the back of your bed like I’m doing.
Bed is built but that gray concrete looks kind of blah at this point. Fixing that is super easy with 2 shades of concrete dye. Apply 2 coats in contrasting colors and allow to dry.
Seal the blocks to finish. If you want your blocks to appear “dusty” which looks more like real stone to me, rub some of your leveling sand into the wet sealer and allow to dry.
Once dry use a broom to brush the excess sand off of the blocks. Would you have guessed that was a cinder block?
Bed built it’s time to get this guy ready for planting. Grab your Expand ‘n Gro and fill to about 1/3 full . Soak the dirt with the hose really well and that moisture will start to expand the dirt so that it fills up the space.
Give the soil 15-30 minutes to expand and you’re ready to start planting. We like full beds so it was a challenge not to overcrowd our plants. Be sure to give everything enough space to grow into its own without covering (and killing) its neighbors.
With a little bit of time to fill out our raised bed is looking fab, right?
And since we had a bit of Miracle-Gro Expand ‘n Gro left we decided to fill up a whole mess of pots around the front door and our new raised garden!
Being in zone 9b or 10a, depending on who you ask, we can grow some amazing plants here in South Texas, including some of my favorite houseplants I could only grow indoors back in Oklahoma. Cool, right?
And then there’s the matter of that second raised bed on the right! That totally wasn’t in the plans but once we got started we couldn’t stop! It doesn’t hurt that we hit up a nursery where everything was on clearance and we filled that entire right side for less than $60, holy cow, right?
In the end I truly have Miracle-Gro Expand ‘n Gro Concentrated Planting Mix to thank for getting me back into the habit of gardening. Taking away that awful trip to buy bags and bags of heavy soil I finally got the kick in the pants to get going with growing again. It’s something I enjoy so much and it’s a good, calming activity that helps me spend some time outside. Plus it makes the front of my house really pretty and who doesn’t love curb appeal, right?