Before we get into the progress on our raised bed victory garden, I would like to take a moment to wish my Mom a Happy Mother’s Day.

That’s my Mom and I (I’m the baby of course.) Ever since I was a little girl, I always remember my Mom has enjoyed gardening. She enjoyed it so much that she tried (and still tries) to teach me everything she knows about gardening so that I would develop and maintain a green thumb.

Look at the excitement I had for gardening at such a young age!

One of the first gardening-related words my Mom taught me was Begonia. I would point to the potted plant next to me and say “Be-go-nia!”

Mom, thanks for teaching me to be the best gardener I can be! Happy Mother’s Day!

Now onto the aching back, garden attack part of the post…

One of the first things we had to do was remove the old garden fence…

…our new plan involves shrinking the size of the garden area and changing the placement of the entry gate…

Believe it or not, there will be a path right here and the garden fence gate will be aligned with the edge of the house. We are going to put in a rain barrel (so the downspout will not be in the way of the path) and of course, finish hacking out this lovely shrub.

Speaking about hacking out shrubs…after Jim and I had most of the fence out, we were still left with the part where that extremely nasty Buckthorn was growing…

Jim attacked the fence with the wire cutters while I used the handy saw to slice at the base until…

VICTORY! The Buckthorn and the fence were removed! This was my trophy shot.

Here are a few shots of the garden area with the fence removed…

And here is what we were left with:

What a mess! (But, better than what we started with…)

Next I did some measuring and marked the corners of the garden area with stakes. The garden itself will be 18 feet long and 4.5 feet wide. I positioned it 5 feet from the side and back fence and 6 ft from the house to allow for plenty of room to get a wheelbarrow around all sides of the garden.

Then the going got tough. I started digging…

After several hours I had what looked like a giant freshly filled grave. Nice. I tried to make the dirt as level as possible and I also tamped it down with my trusty hand tamper (more ouch) before we got ready to lay the block.

This part was frustrating. It was very hard to make all the blocks level with each other, in a straight line and did I mention they are very heavy? Jim and I had a system going. Jim used the wheelbarrow to bring 5 blocks at a time over to the garden area (did I also mention that we unloaded the blocks on the opposite side of our house?) meanwhile I tried to level one block at a time…

It was slow going. Each layer is made of 32 blocks.

Leo was supervising of course.

After what seemed like an eternity, we had the first row in place. Of course we had to take it back up a few blocks at a time to lay the  hardware cloth (to keep varmints from digging up and eating our veggies from the underside) and landscape fabric (to keep out those pesky weeds).

We rolled them out one on top of the other so we only had to reposition the blocks once.

Ta-da! Now the subterranean pests won’t be bothering our garden!

While Jim brought the last 32 cinder blocks over to the garden, I used the dirt from the area I dug out for leveling purposes to fill in the holes in the blocks. You can fill the holes with the “magic” soil mixture and plant in them, but Jim and I wanted to cap the cinder blocks so that we could sit on the sides of the garden.

Then we worked on the next layer…

The second layer went a lot faster since we took our time leveling the first, but our backs were really starting to ache by the time we took this picture…with my strong and adorable husband Jim in the photo for scale purposes…

At this point Jim had moved about 2,300 lbs of block from one end of the yard to the other, so I excused him to guzzle water and go lay down inside…

It’s starting to shape up over here!

The last thing to do (for this weekend anyway) was to fill the second level of block holes with dirt and do a little back filling around the outer edges…

…and that’s a wrap for the weekend. Let’s hope for more good weather for next weekend!



    • Uncle Atom-
      Actually it was about a day and a half’s work. We removed the fence/buckthorn on saturday and the rest happened Sunday. Boy are we hurting today…ouch! Thanks for the encouragement! We CAN’T WAIT until it is done and full of growing veggies!

  1. You baby pictures are so cute!! awwwwwwwww The garden is lookin’ good – are you going to be able to plant anything in time for this year? I don’t know the seasonal planting, but I think my grandma already has lettuce and beans in?

    • Aww thanks Nicole!

      The plan for the garden is to get it all done so I can plant probably over memorial day weekend. It is still quite cold! I think I read that the first date for planting seeds directly in the ground in our area of Wisconsin was the first day of June….Hopefully we will get something to grow this year! Your grandma sounds like she has her cool weather crops in already….:)

  2. Boy, that was a LOT of work. You are doing it more by the book than I did 🙂 … you should have good luck and a garden bed that will be good for many, many years. Fun to watch your progress on this blog. Thanks too for the nice mention and pictures for Mother’s Day. It’s easy being a good Mom when you have such great kids to start with! Will always remember your little voice saying BE-GON-I-A! 🙂

  3. Would love to see the finished capped garden. Have I just missed that picture? Am thinking about doing a smaller one myself.. maybe starting today for fall greens and stuff!

  4. Pingback: Raised Garden Beds and more. Garden Challenge Day 5 | Urban Eden of San Diego

  5. I am so thrilled to see someone do this, with all of your wonderful photos! You two are amazing! I can not wait to do this myself!

  6. Hi there, thank you this is just what we are looking for. We want to do a few of these, it will be better for aging backs! LOL. How do the blocks stand up to winter weather? We have very dry summers and often extremely cold winters. Should we paint them with outdoor paint? I like the idea of hardware cloth we don’t have gophers in this neck of the woods but we do have moles. Although we do have a sonic repeller that seems to be working we don’t want to take any chances with hard won, precious veggies.

    • I live in Wisconsin and have had the garden for three years now. No signs of wear. There is some shifting in some of the blocks (I think because of tree roots underneath) but a good foundation can prevent that from happening.

  7. The raised bed looks awesome and even more so for all the work you and your husband put into it. I have a question about the cinder blocks – is there any chemical in them that can leach into your veggies to contaminate them?

    • Hi Hazel,

      Before I built the garden bed, I looked far and wide to see if this would be a problem and didn’t find anything. I bought a book called “cinder block gardens” where the woman who wrote the book grew all her food in cinder block beds like this. As far as I know there are no ill effects — but depending on where the blocks come from (if they were used in something before and salvaged or even new blocks) I can’t rule it out 100%. Knowing that, it is up to YOU to decide if you feel comfortable using them for a veggie garden. Hope that helps!

  8. Pingback: How To Make A Raised Garden Bed With Cinder Blocks –

  9. Your raised bed looks great. I’ve also built a couple of these and the leveling is a huge pain. You can save your self some trouble by pouring 1/2″-1″ of sand under the blocks before you place them. Then you kind of tap them in with a mallet and check for level. If they don’t come out level the sand is easier to adjust then your nicely tamped dirt.

  10. I would love to have one like this in my back yard. Its fill with leaves and weeds now but I would love to have it done before spring gets here!

  11. What a great idea. The cinder blocks would be easy to trim around. They would also make it easier to fence the garden – we don’t have a fenced yard and we live in the country.

  12. I really enjoyed your cinder block raised bed pictures…shows me just HOW to make one myself! I do have a question tho. If I added a 3rd row, do you think I should fill rows 1 & 2 with cement so it won’t shift or fall over? In the Sierras in N CA, we also have snowy winters.

    • I’m not sure Marsha, I’ve had a little bit of shifting in one corner of my raised bed garden that is probably from either settling or tree roots, but otherwise it has stayed in place for the last three winters in Wisconsin. You may want to consult with someone who knows more about building concrete block walls…

  13. Good job!!!! We want to do this also but on a smaller scale. Live in Florida and I’m concerned about the heat the blocks retain. Do you think it will be a problem? Also looking forward to your next set of pictures. Thanks for posting.

  14. Are you planting seeds in the blocks or small plants? Are you sure the block holes are enough room for something like a tomato plant which has a crazy amount of roots?

    • Patti,
      I would plant something like Marigolds in the little block holes. They are a natural bug deterrent and may help keep pests off your garden plants. You could start with just a seed or two or a small plant. There may be some other plants that are bug deterrents as well but I’m not sure which ones. That is what I plan to do when I put in my raised bed like this.

    • You could plant basil, herbs, peppers, cucumbers and have them vining where ever you want. Alot of choices you can do. Thanks for the Idea, what dirt did you use to fill the blocks with before planting.,

  15. Hi Kate, Good pictures & descriptions. I do believe I might give this a whirl now, especially knowing a fellow Wisconsinite has had good success at this. Thanks for the info.

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