When it comes to gardening, my wife likes order and I like chaos. She likes raised beds and neat rows – I like hacking holes in the ground and throwing seeds around. I like mixing everything together – she likes keeping things sequestered.
Our styles are very different but between the two of us, our plots are much more productive than they would be with either of us alone. Her preferences dial me back a bit… and my experimentation stretches her. As I’ve posted on before, I built Rachel some raised square foot beds in the Mel Bartholomew mold. One of the first of those was made from cinder blocks but I never liked the open industrial look or the weeds that came out of the holes in the blocks. Another thing I didn’t like was the amount of water we had to give the plants in it. We went with 6″ of Mel’s Mix over weed cloth. The plants did well but needed quite a bit of water.
That’s all changed now. I found an aesthetically pleasing and water-retentive way to re-invent this bed by melding the wisdom of Sepp Holzer with the neatness and order of Mel Bartholomew. This is similar to my Melon Pits, but contained by lovely Bauhaus-style concrete. Well… at least they WERE Bauhaus before I busted out the tiles and mortar.
Behold! The Hugelfoot Bed Of Mosaic Cinderblock Incredibleness!
Isn’t that cool? And it’s not just pretty… it’s a super-duper raised bed – now with hugelkultur goodness.
What makes this bed special? Let me show you:
Here’s the foundation. I put solid cap blocks on top of standard hollow cinderblocks. After I leveled everything, it looked nice, clean and solid. I then dug down about 2′ further.
After that, it was time to throw in waste paper, junk mail, old paper plates, sticks, moss, corncobs and other carboniferous debris.
Yeah, that needs a stomping!
Ah, that’s better. Now time to water everything in.
Then I put in a heaping load of mostly finished compost.
That completed, I topped it off again with the original 6″ of Mel’s Mix.
And voila! Magnifico!
That looks good enough for most people. But I’ve been itching to do more mosaic work, so the kids and Rachel and I had a mosaic day. I assigned each of the older children a solid cinderblock and let them have at it. The next day, I did a few, then the day after that, Rachel and I did the rest and grouted everything.
Here are a few shots of the mosaic:
As it is, this bed has about 36″ of depth, plus tons of compost and a wood reservoir in the bottom. My hope is that this marriage of hugelkultur and square foot gardening will meld the strengths of both.
Here in Florida it’s tough to keep things watered and happy in the heat of late spring… we shall see how this bed performs.
If it works significantly better than my other beds, I’ll do the same with them (though I’m not sure I’ll have time to mosaic everything!).
For mosaic inspiration, I highly recommend this book:
For Square Foot Gardening, get a copy of this book: