DIY Garden: Landscaping on a Budget

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So let’s start off by saying I probably shouldn’t get into concrete writing as a career (the above picture says Ryan ’16). Give me a break though, I was using a tree branch as my writing utensil.

Anyway, we finally built our garden! After lots of googling, pinteresting and asking for gardeners’ opinions, we finally settled on an affordable and functional garden.

I’ll break everything down: plans, cost/supplies and elbow grease.

Our garden is specific to our backyard layout–we wanted to save money on fencing by using our already existing chain link fence and also have it close to our hose. We settled on a 18 feet x 4 feet garden area. After doing a little bit of research I figured out that we needed 1 cubic yard of soil (use this handy calculator here to figure out how much soil you need). We also decided on using concrete blocks to build the raised garden bed. Turned out to be cheaper than treated wood, allowed us to secure our “fence” posts without digging big holes into the ground and I LOVE that I can use the spaces in them to plant some side plants–more on that later. The fence was built using wooden garden stakes, quick dry concrete and chicken wire. It’s a pretty simple build, but I say that as the one who didn’t have to put in much elbow grease…

So, supplies:

  • (34) concrete blocks (.92 p/block! $32)
  • 3 ft. x 50 ft. weed barrier landscape fabric ($8)
  • (3) 8ft 1×1 pieces of lumber, cut in half to make 4 foot stakes ($2 each, $6)
  • 50 lbs of quick dry concrete ($7)
  • (1) 4ft x 25ft chicken wire ($9)
  • 1 cubic yard of garden soil mix plus delivery ($85)
  • TOTAL: $147! Much less than I thought it would be!

We already had our seeds started (got ahead of ourselves by a few weeks… whoops). So the supplies for that and the weed killer, the staple gun plus staples weren’t included in the supplies list since we already had those items. Also, we’ll need to buy more supplies later when we figure out how we want to construct a permanent garden gate. To be continued on that part…

This is the part where I need to thank my husband for all of his hard work. I seriously underestimated how much manual labor it would take to complete and I seriously overestimated how much my pregnant body could do. For two weekends in a row Jon built this garden… as I watched. This was phase one of the garden build; I swear I didn’t feel good about how lazy I was being and how hard Jon was working. In my defense the sun was really coming down on me…

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So anyways, that was my role with garden building the first weekend. Jon, on the other hand, was a landscaping pro. He’s a very precise person and doesn’t do things with minimal effort. If he’s going to make a garden, you best believe that garden will be level. So he mapped out where the garden would go with stakes and string and proceeded to dig up the ground within that space. He dug the perimeter deeper to accommodate the concrete blocks so they were snug in the ground just a tad, leveling as he 10

Once the ground was dug up and level, he sprayed a weed killer and put down landscape fabric to hopefully decrease the amount of weeds we get in our garden. He then placed the concrete blocks down around the perimeter. Typing this is a heck of a lot easier than doing it; my guilty conscience is strong. Again… thank you Jon!

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The next weekend was phase 2: soil and fencing. We had the soil delivered Saturday and Jon shoveled it all in on Sunday. While he took a water break I started on planting our garden! FINALLY! I seriously started our seeds too early so they were desperately needing to get in the ground. Before planting I moved aside the soil and created an X with a knife in the landscaping fabric where the plant would be. This ensures that the roots have more space to grow and are not limited to the raised garden area. So far we’ve got tomatoes, bibb lettuce, spinach, green beans and zucchini squash! There’s some space for more so we’ll see what we go with 🙂

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I then filled the side concrete blocks that were not going to be used as post anchors with soil. On the short ends (3 on each end) I planted rosemary while on one long edge I planted lavender and poppies, alternating as I went. The reason why I only planted along 1 long edge instead of both was so that I could still access the garden bed instead of wading my way through plants. That’s about it–my gardening work was fairly easy compared to Jon’s. Again, thank you baaaaaaabe.


When I was done planting, Jon started on the fence. He poured concrete into every 3 or 4 blocks around a wooden garden stake to support the weight of the fence. They’re not kidding when they say “fast drying” concrete. Also, word to the wise, wear protective gloves when working with this concrete–it can burn. Luckily Jon didn’t get burned but he didn’t realize this was possible till half way through the project… whoops.

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Once the concrete was set and dry, he started on the chicken wire. We wanted to utilize the space within the remaining concrete blocks for small plants, so the chicken wire was contoured around the blocks instead of over them. He used a staple gun to the secure the chicken wire to the posts, making sure the wire was taut as he went. For now the chicken wire is extended to the fence and is being used as a temporary gate, but Jon has some plans to create a more permanent solution later.

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So now, the only thing we can do is wait to see if we actually have some veggies growing! To be honest, we may have already experienced a casualty–we had an intense spring storm come through today and it looks like we may have lost our beautiful zucchini squash that had its first bud forming. We’re amateurs though, so even if we don’t get an impressive yield from our garden I’m still really proud of how this turned out!

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So this is our garden, plans and all! Everyone’s garden will need to be different to suit their needs and space, and I think we were able to make the most with what we had (finances, time and yard space).

If you have any questions, comments or ADVICE please feel free to leave a message below!

Happy gardening 🙂

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