So far I have not proven my skills as a grower of plants. This is something I am working diligently to change. In a catastrophic disaster or economic collapse the ability to produce food is something that will be necessary for survival. Besides that, I have been told growing your own food has benefits for healthier living and a more economic lifestyle. As I have spent several thousands of dollars in gardening plans for little produce I am not so sure about gardening being cheaper, but I still hold out hope.
I will say that since making a cinder block raised bed garden and using the wood chip mulch method, I have done much better in my agricultural pursuits.
One thing I have learned from my aquaponic adventures is that plants need a loose growing medium to let their roots branch out, and they need to be left alone once all their needs are met. I have been pretty lazy in using my rototiller to break up my soil, and it is mostly clay. To deal with this (and to leave me less grass to mow) I decided on more raised beds this year.
Last year I did not pay attention to the plant’s requirements for sun, as my main reason for my beds was to keep the dog from digging out from under the fence. They worked great for that, but when the shade combined with the dog’s digging out the beds I did not get any harvest last year.
My front yard is much sunnier and should do much better, however, as nice as the rough oak planks are, they are just to heavy, bulky, and EXPENSIVE to use in my front yard.
Cinder Block Raised Beds are Inexpensive
To deal with the expense I made this years raised beds out of cinder blocks.
New cinderblocks cost $1.07 each at the time I made the beds. I used 102 of them
My intent was to keep the inner dimensions 10×2 so I could utilize square foot gardening techniques.
If I made each row 11 blocks long with two blocks separating each row then the outer size is 11×3 and the inner 10×2. I also decided to fill in the centers of the blocks to give me additional growing space.
My calculations tell me the cubic feet of topsoil needed for the beds would be near 4 cubic yards. I added extra for the block centers and ordered 6 yards to ensure I had some left over to use for other projects.
I find that building the beds is much easier (and more fun) then filling them with dirt. It took me about 5 wheelbarrow loads of dirt to fill each bed, and after the beds are full I came back and added another couple loads to the top to smooth the bed level and fill the side holes. Everything is looking neat and ready for my plants.
I hope to be able to brag on my produce this year. Let me tell you, buying a paint can of “survival seeds” is a BAD idea. If you ever have to open the can your going to use a LOT of energy breaking your yard up for planting. You probably won’t have access to the materials needed to build a garden. Additionally, you may not have the skills to keep the plants alive (or in my case keep from killing them).
It is much better to learn this skill now. It is not something you learn from a book without putting in the work.