Some time during 2016, shortly after my son was born, my wife's passion for gardening began to grow rapidly. It was around then that she asked me to build some proper garden beds for everything she wanted to start growing. Seeing this as an opportunity to flex my engineering muscles, while getting dirty in our yard, I gladly accepted the request.
To start, we decided that this very ugly and oddly shaped chunk of soil was going to be an excellent spot for the new beds. This area was previously outlined with cinder blocks which I knew I wanted to reuse for their structural durability. I began to dig up the existing blocks and clear the space for the new layout.
Constructing the Beds
To begin the construction, I ordered a palette of additional 8x8x16" cinder blocks from Home Depot which was delivered to my home.
I laid out the supply of new cinder blocks near the construction area to check for damage and get them ready for placement.
I began to roughly place the cinder blocks in the garden area to get the dimensions and aliment I had in mind.
After a couple days of carrying, placing and fine-tuning the blocks, I had the two beds placed exactly the way I wanted. I was very pleased that I was able to almost entirely reuse the materials which were previously in this space. Carrying this many cinder blocks was by far one of the best art workouts I ever had!
Using my Dad's handy pickup truck, I made a trip to the local Carpinito Brothers farm store to pick up a load of fresh soil. Upon my arrival back, it was time to begin downloading the goods.
Here's a view from the truck bed showing the soil progress. Soil packed into the cinder block holes would provide additional rigidity for the beds. This kept me from needing to use mortar and helped to keep cost low. Additionally, I placed spare cardboard boxes as a foundational layer at the bottom of the beds.
When both beds were completely filled with soil, the progress was looking great! Already this area was looking nicer and would be far more functional in comparison to what was previously there.
My two year old son stopped by to do a final quality check on the soil. The smile was a sign of approval.
Constructing the Canopies
To take this gardening project a step further, my wife mentioned that she wanted to use the newly built garden beds for tomatoes. Tomato plants generally don't do well with rain, which causes their leaves to wither. Since it rains nine months out of the year in Seattle, I had to design a solution to keep the tomato plants happy. The final plan was to build canopies which would allow sunlight in while blocking the rain. To achieve this I picked up several other supplies:
Using a miter saw, I cut all the PVC pipes to size.
With all the PVC pieces cut to size, they were ready to be assembled into the supporting frames for the canopies.
Here's progress of the canopy framing coming together.
Here's the top framing section for one of the canopies completely assembled.
To create the vertical canopy support, I hammered the steel rods into the beds and placed the cut PVC pipes over them. This provided additional support at the base, making sure the canopies wouldn't get torn out during high winds.
Next it was time to cut the polycarbonate roofing panels to size and get them ready to be attached to the canopy frames.
With the roofing panels cut to size, I began to attach them to the PVC frame using short .5" screws.
With more panels attached the protective rooftop began to take shape.
After one canopy was completed, getting the second one up was a matter of repeating the same assembly process. At this point, the garden beds were completed, my wife was pleased, and it was time for her to begin planting the crops.
Side view of the completed garden beds. The smaller cinder blocks were later utilized to grow peas.
One Year Later
A year later, the garden beds have settled in well, the canopies were still standing strong, and the plants (tomatoes, strawberries and zucchinis) were thriving in their new home.
My son checking out the abundance of crops we had for the season, eager to start doing some picking.