When we were shopping for a home, I had grand dreams of the quaint, lush garden I would soon be tending to. In reality, what I got was a sea of hot concrete.
I have looked into ways to break up the concrete, all of which are either expensive or back-breaking. Due to my lack of money and muscle, this project has been put on the back burner…way back. Also, I have realized the one benefit to a concrete backyard: it’s easy to see spiders. Brown widows, to be more specific. Also, almost no weeds. Grass is difficult to grow in Los Angeles. Weeds, not so much. So, two benefits.
Anyways, I am the kind of person who once their mind is made up about something, there is no changing it. Which leads us to my concrete garden. Now, by no means am I going to be feeding a family of 4 on this garden, but I don’t have a family of 4, and this is just for fun. Let’s be honest, most backyard gardens are 5% for eating, and 95% for sitting back and being like, “Wow, I fucking grew that. I am pretty damn impressive.” Right?
So… I put together a cinder block raised bed right on top of the slab. Why not? If you can grow plants in containers, why can’t you grow them in, essentially, a container made of blocks. Answer: YOU CAN! Normally, raised beds are just better soil put on top of your crappy existing soil, mine is just going on top of crappy existing concrete. Obviously, you aren’t going to be able to grow something with super deep roots, but most veggies and herbs can be grown in containers. You can always add an extra layer of blocks to create more depth if needed.
Here is the easy formula…
1. Base: Hardware cloth so critters don’t steal from underneath. (If it strictly concrete below, you can skip this step.)
2. Cardboard, to help keep out weeds, if they are a problem.
Arrange cinder blocks on top, with hardware cloth and cardboard underneath extending to the outer edge.
Add rocks for extra drainage : optional (some water will already be able to drain out because this isn’t water tight)
Or just some bagged garden soil if you are feeling lazy. I had these things leftover from our landscaping makeover, so I used them.
Add plants, and water!
Orchard Supply Hardware was having a sale, so I went and bought all of these, and planted them in the rain. I didn’t need to water as I was planting, it was very environmentally conscious of me. Also, FREE!
I planted some things like herbs, flowers, and peppers in the outer holes.
And put my larger plants in the center.
I like that it can contain the spread of plants such as mint, which would try to take over this whole bed.
The outer sections dry out quicker because they don’t hold much, so keep an eye on them or set up a watering system. While we were going out-of-town, I bought a simple battery operated timer that screws right onto the water spigot.
To that, I connected a good old-fashioned hose and sprinkler. All I had to do is adjust the water to the level I wanted, and set the timer for every 2 or 3 days. I came back to happy plants, and didn’t have to worry about asking anyone to water while we were away. I can eventually use this same timer to set up a drip system…when I am not trying to get packed at the same time.
This is my first season with the concrete garden, so I will see how it goes, and keep you updated. So far, it’s looking good!