This is actually an extremely easy thing to do. Last week I moved into a new place in the Powderhorn neighborhood, where the soil is rumored to be full of arsenic. Not wanting to bother to test for it before I got my seedlings out of their bursting trays, I decided to go ahead and build a raised bed before I even unpacked my boxes (still not done).
So I set about searching the internet for instructions on how to complete my task (for more basic info about raised beds check this out), and I came across the idea of using cinder blocks. It’s got to be the cheapest, easiest method: 10 cinder blocks cost me around $12 at Menards (my new favorite store), where I also picked up some potting soil and compost. These sat in my front yard in a pile as my roommates and I hauled couches, tables, and our various things into the house.
A few days later, I managed to find the time and enlist the help of my roommate to choose a sunny spot, arrange the blocks, and make the thing. It took about 20 minutes. I arranged the blocks in a square, intending to create an area that was about nine square feet, 8 inches deep. The blocks I used were 8 x 8 x 16, making for easy math. To grow, plants need about six inches of good soil, so the eight inches the blocks provide are pretty ideal. Below you’ll see my roommate, Jennie, arranging the blocks and mixing soil and compost with her feet (super fun!).
Then as I began to transplant my seedlings, the adorable neighborhood kids came over to help. We planted basil, cilantro, dill, green onions and peppers I had started in a greenhouse. I tried to vary the placement, putting basil next to peppers and dill next to onions in an effort to companion plant. (Companion planting had worked out so well in my herb spiral that I was encouraged to continue. As you can see, it’s exploding). Even though we planted two basil plants per hole (because basil likes to grow with a friend), my two trays were nowhere near used up and I was able to give some to my helpers, who excitedly put them in a pot to take home.
Building this garden was so simple, and produced such a positive reaction around me, I was (still am) amazed. Maybe it was the kids: they had never done anything like this before, and they were so excited to learn how, to dig in the dirt and take home plants of their own.
This week I may build another, and I encourage anyone who likes food, the outdoors, and/or cute neighborhood children to do the same.