While I was building the wood fired pizza oven, I decided to use some of the same basic easy masonry techniques to also build a raised garden bed. It's the ultimate in farm to table--less than 10 feet! The soil here in Arizona isn't great for growing, well, anything, so I knew I'd need to augment the soil for any garden. Why not make it a raised garden, so it would be easier to maintain, and add extra seating, and look lovely and match the pizza oven?
Materials for Building a Raised Herb Garden Bed:
- concrete cinder blocks
- dry bags of concrete mix
- stone veneer
- thinset mortar (the appropriate color to match the stone veneer)
Start with a level section of land. My dirt was nice and flat, so I didn't bother digging out a foundation to make it all completely level, but if you're on a slope, you'll need to create an even track on which to set your first course of cinderblocks.
Set out the first course of concrete blocks in the shape you want the garden bed to be. I wanted a narrow rectangle shape, three bricks long on the short side, and eight blocks on the long side. Make sure that you set the blocks as snugly together as you can, but there's no need to mortar the blocks together.
Dry stack (again, no need to mortar) the second course of concrete blocks on top of the first course. You don't want the vertical seams to line up, so be sure to stack the blocks in a running bond pattern.
Mix up some concrete (a wheelbarrow and a hoe are perfect for this job) and fill every other column in the stacked concrete blocks, just like we did for the base of the pizza oven. No need for adding rebar to something this low and small, but it certainly doesn't hurt if you have it around.
Apply the stone veneer using thinset mortar. Regular mortar will work, and is less expensive, but for a novice like I am, the extra stickiness of the thinset mortar was really nice to work with. I just slathered some thinset on the back of the stone veneer like making a peanut butter sandwich, and stuck it to the cinder block.
Top with 12x12 stone veneer capstones (mortared down as well).
You could certainly stucco the concrete block garden bed instead of doing stone veneer. I think that would be easier (but what do I know, I've never tried stucco!).
Fill with garden soil and plant away!
There is absolutely nothing finer than making a fabulous pizza in the wood fired pizza oven, walking over a few feet, and picking some fresh basil to throw on top of the hot pie.
Now, if only I could get my local garden pest (ahem, my five year old daughter) from eating all the mint before I can make a mojito. Too bad she doesn't like the parsley in the same way--that's threatening to take over the garden!