Wood-framed raised beds are the natural go-to, but there are alternatives you might want to consider. Two Wenatchee families have used concrete blocks or bricks for encircling their vegetable and herb beds. Both families are pleased with the results.
Advantages include being easier to disassemble or enlarge, and cheaper (perhaps even using extra blocks from a previous project). They might not be as fancy looking as those lovely wood surrounds, but they are very practical. And higher-raised beds are easier on the body than the low-to-the-ground ones.
Tomatoes, herbs and the more usual plants grown for food require only about a foot of good soil, unlike long-lived perennial flowers, shrubs and trees that put down intensive root systems.
Gene and Teresa Ockinga had previous raised beds of wood and the wood eventually gave out, so they wanted to make a new one that was more manageable and compact. They built their raised bed using three layers of unused wall brick they had on hand. Their south-facing bed basks in full sun behind their home that borders the irrigation canal in Wenatchee.
Last year, the Ockingas grew green beans, Roma and cherry tomatoes on supports along the north side, then filled the rest of the bed with an array of red, green and long peppers, cilantro, chives, lettuce, zucchini, carrots, parsley and basil.
The couple have four grown children, which leaves more time for things like gardening.
“Now with just the two of us, there’s plenty of gardening space,” says Teresa. And they enjoy giving away extra produce to friends and neighbors.
Their bed measures about 8-feet-by-12-feet, although they plan an improvement by dividing it with a row of brick, as 3 to 4 feet across makes for a better and accessible reach.
Barry and Debbie Benbow used concrete blocks for their raised bed in a full-sun location. In addition to peppers and tomatoes, they grew Sarah’s Choice cantaloupe vertically on concrete reinforcement mesh at the back of the bed. “They were amazing,” says Debbie, “Very sweet and abundant.”
Successful raised beds need quality garden soil with plenty of aged compost, a sunny location and a dependable irrigation system.
You can enjoy fresh-picked garden vegetables and herbs without a huge expense for a wooden structure with ideas like these.
A WSU Master Gardeners of Chelan County column appears weekly in The Wenatchee World. Mary Fran McClure is one of four columnists featured. To learn more, visit wwrld.us/cdmg or call 667-6540.