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More Concrete Hardscaping for the Garden

By beckygardener
December 7, 2016

Concrete is my favorite medium to work with for hardscape structures. I look at concrete in various forms and try to figure out ways to use them in my garden. This is my latest idea.

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Name: Marilyn, aka "Poly"
South San Francisco Bay Area (Zone 9b)
"The mountains are calling..."
Region: California Garden Photography Garden Procrastinator Daylilies Pollen collector Dog Lover
Moon Gardener Irises Heucheras Vegetable Grower Garden Ideas: Level 1 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Dec 8, 2016 11:01 PM CST
The problem with odd shaped beds, such as your "keyhole" bed, is that they can potentially have areas that can be hard to get at, for maintenance or removing the plants (digging out the daylilies!!!) or harvesting or whatever else needs to be done. I found this out the hard way, when our landscape contractor had a landscape designer lay out my (ipe wood) raised beds. (The beds are roughly 22" high, and 3 - 3.5 ft interior width, with a 9" or so shelf atop the perimeter of the bed, as shown in the image below - convenient for resting tools and plants on, inconvenient in other ways.)

Thumb of 2016-12-09/Polymerous/e831f6

Yes, the irregular forms make for a more visually interesting garden than several plain rectangular beds - but each of those beds that has a "keyhole" (U-shaped indention, as in an "h" bed and some "I" beds) or turns a corner ("L" bed) has been a problem for me. Each of those beds has an area X where it is hard to reach from the exterior of the bed (whereas if the beds were plain rectangles, all of the interior would be easy to reach, depending of course on the diameter of the bed).

(Perhaps it would be less of a problem for me if the raised beds were shorter, or if they did not have those ledges. I really prefer taller raised beds, for overall ease of work... but then, I am not climbing into those beds. Raised beds where I know there will be relatively frequent turnover (such as my "new" seedling beds) are much shorter (so I can climb in, if needed), are rectangular in shape, and do not have ledges.)

Click on the image below to see all of the problematic raised bed shapes Hilarious! ... (Sorry that it is badly drawn and the beds are not scaled, but the red "X" roughly marks spots that are hard (for me) to get at from any part of the bed exterior.)

Thumb of 2016-12-09/Polymerous/3e7ea5

Apart from that caution (I hope your keyhole bed works out better for you than my beds have worked for me!), good job on recycling/repurposing and adding color and functionality to the garden! (And you clearly have a whole lot more patience than I do... Hilarious! )

A 'Premonition of Spring' - PCI time already?!
Name: Becky
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Daylilies Hummingbirder Butterflies Seed Starter Container Gardener
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Dec 9, 2016 12:30 AM CST
Polymerous - Thank you for your insight and experience! Your comments and drawings are very helpful and worthy of consideration for anyone thinking of building a raised bed (regardless of what material you use).

The key-hole bed design has worked relatively well for me. I can reach into every part of the raised bed because of the short walk-in area. But you are correct that some areas are not as easily accessible in many designs. I also chose not to put a ledge on my bed frame. I had used cinder blocks w/topper blocks on a previous bed which made it wide enough to sit on while weeding. But on the key-hole bed, I didn't want the wide cinder blocks to take up additional planting area, so instead used the narrower pavers which worked well for me. This is just a personal preference.

Probably the best design would be a long, straight 3'- 4' wide bed that can be accessed from all sides.

In my article, it really wasn't my intention to promote the key-hole design. My article was sharing my experience using 12" square pavers to build and form a raised bed. Wood just does not last very long at all for me here in Florida. 16" square pavers would also work, but they are heavier to lift and keep in place while the adhesive dries.

I have had great success using the concrete pavers for a raised bed frame. I also like cinder block to frame out a raised bed as well. As you might have read in a previous article, I have used a variety of concrete pieces to build numerous raised beds and have eliminated most of the wood structures in my garden.
What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us.
Garden Rooms and Becky's Budget Garden
Name: Marilyn, aka "Poly"
South San Francisco Bay Area (Zone 9b)
"The mountains are calling..."
Region: California Garden Photography Garden Procrastinator Daylilies Pollen collector Dog Lover
Moon Gardener Irises Heucheras Vegetable Grower Garden Ideas: Level 1 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Dec 9, 2016 2:35 AM CST
Becky, we use wood here (or, at least, I do; some people use stuff like Trex) for making our raised beds. We do not have the heat and humidity that you do in FL, and the wood that we use is fairly tough anyway (ipe and cedar). (Redwood used to be popularly used for raised beds and fencing, but it has gotten fairly expensive over the years, and redwood does not have the rot-proof longevity that ipe and cedar do.)

For my "new" raised seedling beds, we used cedar, and the beds are straight and simple (8" to 12" high from grade, no ledges, roughly 3' interior width, length anywhere from 6' to 8' - at least that is what I recall of the dimensions (it's after midnight now, not going out!)). We also designed them for easy removal (note the handles). (The older raised ipe wood beds in our side yard are more or less a permanent fixture.)

Thumb of 2016-12-09/Polymerous/8a2fef

"new" seedling beds - straight and simple, and short enough to climb into, as needed

I am not a big fan of concrete (I much prefer rock and it is easy to get here), but I do like what you've done in recycling the pavers and painting your beds.

A 'Premonition of Spring' - PCI time already?!
Name: Peggy C
Graham NC USA (Zone 7b)
hand drumming with friends
Region: North Carolina Butterflies Irises Garden Photography Cat Lover Zinnias
Native Plants and Wildflowers Garden Ideas: Level 1
Dec 10, 2016 9:16 AM CST
Shortly, I will probably be making a raised bed ... not large, but due to drainage problems - I am left with bricks to re-purpose.
Iris, Daylily and who knows what will be move after the process of filling the hole ( under the bricks ) and whatever type of access through the Garden sections is installed .. nothing can be planted where the bricks were because of the way the yard is graded (per previous owner).
So, this is timely for me -- do appreciate it very much.
Attaching 2 photos - one in Spring of this year -- the other after discovery that bricks began falling into a hole ..

Thumb of 2016-12-10/PeggyC/3ae949 Spring

Thumb of 2016-12-10/PeggyC/7042ba Problems - 2 sections of sidewalk removed; concrete from that area is in the hole - temporary - until completion.

Live like every day as it is your last because one day -- it will be.
(if I can find who said this, I'll credit that dear Soul -- wasn't me, but it makes a lot of sense)

This isn't a dress-rehearsal ~

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