my first raised vegetable garden: the materials

I spent most of my life in Ohio, so moving to the Pacific Northwest was a shock for this laissez-faire gardener, who used to just throw tomato seeds on the ground, then sit back and harvest all summer long, thanks to the hot weather and frequent storms. Our first summer in Seattle, I got a reality check: it was in the 60s most of the time, so my tomato plants just kind of did…nothing. Silly me. The disappointment put me off vegetable gardening for five years, with last summer moot as I wasn’t living here at all.

This year, I decided to finally learn to vegetable garden in Seattle. I knew this would take a lot of planning, and it seemed that raised beds were the key. Not only are they better in a cooler climate because the soil warms up faster above ground, they are easier to weed and, in my case, easier to keep out of range of two big, nosy dogs.

Cement Block It Is

After doing some reseplace, I realized that I didn’t have to go all spendy on (admittedly nice looking) wooden raised beds. Instead, I could simply use concrete blocks to put a bed together. I’ve been using this SHTF blog tutorial on building a concrete block raised bed as my guide. I love the idea of cement block because they’re heavy (so there’s not as much digging required, as “Ranger Man” at SHTF points out), they’re inexpensive, and you can even plant inside the holes in the bricks. We’re putting our beds in a section of yard that’s oddly shaped and not visible from our house, so it didn’t matter to me that the cement block wasn’t quite as pretty.

How Much Will Blocks Cost?

After measuring the space where our beds will go, I calculated what I might spend, figuring that prices at the Home Depot site were probably a good standard to follow. The typical 16″x8″x8″ blocks cost $1.32 each at Home Depot. If each bed was three blocks high, three blocks wide, and seven blocks long (exactly the same as the SHTF post, basically), for a total of 60 blocks, I would be spending about $80 a bed. That was more expensive than I had hoped, so I went to plan B:


I posted that I was looking for concrete blocks, and got two responses in less than a week: one from a man dismantling his old retaining wall (those are his aged blocks above) and one from a woman whose blocks were just a few years old — and all for free!

Scaling Back

I ended up with 60 blocks total, and we decided to try to break these into two smaller beds rather than keep trying to find more blocks for two bigger beds. Partially this is because I don’t want to burn myself out by taking on too much garden since it’s still a learning experience for me. Partially this is because, well, remember how I like the idea of concrete blocks because they’re heavy? Yeah, they’re heavy! Which means, they take some effort to transport. Our van just could not handle more than 30 blocks at a time — we really didn’t want to see how low we could make it sink onto the tires and still move forward. So we decided to call off the block seplace for now until we get what we have in some semblance of order. More to come!

From our partners

is this the lightbulb of our dreams? craving philips hue

We’re written about light bulb innovations before, but the new Philips Hue goes beyond anything we’ve imagined thus far. If it does everything that this video says it does, this LED light offers a full-spectrum of color shades that you can apply to your house with a touch of your finger. The entry cost is $200 for three bulbs, and with that you get an app that you download to your iPad, iPhone or Android. Once connected, you can control your mood lighting with a tap on your phone. Features include the ability to set wake-up lights that gradually come on in the morning, remote turn-on to have lights on even when you’re not there, and allowing you to grab a color from a photo and apply to the bulb. There’s a tone for reading, a tone for concentrating and a warm glow that recreates candlelight. We’re not entirely sold but would love to give it a try. For more info, check out Hue’s site.

From our partners

astronaut kids bedding we love: houston, we have bedtime!

Does your kid gaze up projected stars on the ceiling, dreaming of galactic travel to far away universes? Or perhaps you wish you deploy some anti-gravity techniques when it comes to cleaning up toy messes? We fell for these Astronaut bed sheets that we discovered via BoredPanda. The photo-printed linens feature an actual astronaut’s suit that was on display in the Museum Space Expo in Noordwijk, Holldand. Available at Snurk for 60 Euros. Of course, you might need to install mirrors on the ceiling to enjoy the full effect. One small step for mom, one giant leap for bedtime!

From our partners

what every stylish round table needs: bright oval place mats from chilewich’s spring collection

We love our round dining room table. It’s warm and friendly and lends itself to easy conversation. One thing dilemma it causes us though: what kind of placemat to use. Square ones just don’t work — they leave too much space and look sloppy. Circles are better, but not perfect. In the past, we’ve customized placemats ourselves cutting out odd shapes that fit exactly. Now we have found the perfect solution: Chilewich’s oval placements, bright egg-shaped backdrops for your dishes. And, they’re new spring colors are especially vibrant. It’s nice to see one of our favorite brands pushing away from their safety zone of neutrals. Don’t these turquoise ones look gorgeous against the bright orange Eames chair? Perfect for the modern chic dining room –with every day ease and cleanup! For more info and to see other colors, visit

More Chilewich on Shelterrific:

Steal This Idea: Genius Chargers
Shelter-Spotting: What We Loved at The Gift Fair

From our partners

vintage chairs ready for the dip-effect

Could someone buy these chairs please? They’re on sale now at Three Potato Four, a set of four for $165. They are the perfect style and size to create the faux “dip” look we love so much. Why don’t you buy them and fix them up yourself? We would, but we just don’t have the room!

Click here for some color inspiration on how you can transform them into something mod and wonderful.

From our partners