Building Raised Beds for Gardening

Fall is a lovely time of the year in Minnesota. This year is no exception – we have had some delightful weather so far.

Unfortunately, fall also marks the end of the garden growing season. Over the lasts couple months, I have enjoyed eating fresh home grown tomatoes, peppers, carrots, cucumbers, beans, spinach, arugula and various herbs.

Before the rain fell today, I cleaned out most of the vegetables I had been growing. In years past, I had tried growing my vegetables in my yard but with no success. The deer, turkeys, rabbits and squirrels really enjoyed eating at the “Erickson Salad Bar”. So, the past couple of years, my garden has been limited to containers on my deck. While a fence would be useful to keep the critters from eating my vegetables, our neighborhood HOA rejected my original request made several years ago to install garden fencing in my back yard.

Planning ahead to next year, I really want to increase my garden space. I sketched out an idea for a couple raised beds to build on the side of my yard. Luckily the leadership of our HOA has changed in recent years and I my plans were approved. Over Labor Day weekend, I was able to construct these raised beds.

The daylilies and brick edging in the area were removed.
The boxes were built with 2″ x 12″ x 8 feet pressure treated lumber (each of these weighed 60 lb!). Each box was 4 feet wide and lined with landscape fabric and the corners were reinforced with metal raised bed brackets.
The brick lawn edging was replaced and the boxes were filled with a mix of garden soil, compost and sand.
Framing for fencing built with 2″x2″ pressure treated boards.
Rabbit fencing was added to framing. Hopefully this will keep all of the critters out of my vegetables.
A door on each box allows access to the planting bed.
The garden beds receive lots of morning sunshine.
And get some nice shade in the afternoon.

Now I just have to wait eight months to be able to plant!


Copper Garden Art

Owning a house in the suburbs, we have a few utility boxes visible in the corners of our front yard. In one corner of our property, adjacent to the driveway, is the large electrical utility box. This box is mostly on our neighbor’s property, so I have not done anything to block the view of it.

However, in the other corner of our yard are the cable and telephone utility boxes. Since these are mostly on our property, a few years ago, I made some decorative screens to help them visually blend with the landscaping. Around the telephone box, I made a mini fence by attaching cedar pickets to several pieces of metal strapping that can be lifted up for easy access to the box.

Around the cable box, I placed a trellis that I made out of copper piping. To help camouflage the box, each spring I would plant morning glories to grow on the trellis.

This worked really well the first two years after I made it. However, when the cable company would need to access their utility box, they would uproot the morning glories. Unfortunately, this has happened each of the past three years, and this year it was only a few weeks after planting the morning glories. Instead of replacing the plants, I decided to try something different to make the trellis more appealing.

A while ago, I had made a piece of decorative art for the side wall of my garden shed. This wall sculpture was made out of pieces of copper pipe soldered together. Leaves were cut out of copper sheeting and soldered to heavy copper wire that was then twisted and soldered to the main copper framing.

Using this earlier project as inspiration, I decided to add some leaves and butterflies to the trellis surrounding the cable box. The leaves were cut out of left over pieces of heavy copper sheeting from my original project. The butterflies were cut out of a slightly lighter weight copper that I recently purchased.

To speed up the aging process, I sprayed these new pieces of copper with ammonium sulfate (Miracle Grow) and set them in bright sunlight for a day.

The butterflies turned a lovely shade of green. Unfortunately, the older copper used for the leaves did not patina very well. I guess I will need to wait and see what happens over time. These copper leaves and butterflies were attached with wire to the original trellis and placed back around the utility box (see photo at beginning of this post).

The Ants (and other bugs) Come Marching In

Ants, wasps and other bugs are a part of life no matter where you live. Every year, these pests like to invade my yard, and sometimes my house. I have taken to spreading Diatomaceous Earth around the perimeter of my house to help decrease their numbers entering my house. This helps, but they are pesky and I still have to deal with them each year.

This year I am dealing with a bug invasion of my own making. Having seen some photos of fused glass garden bugs, I decided to make some of my own. Using the same technique that I did last year to make a centipede for my garden (see June 7, 2019), I created some more.

In order to conserve expenses, I sorted through my scrap glass and found pieces that would work for each bug. The glass pieces were then fused following full fuse and contour fuse schedules.

The copper exoskeletons were made from scrap copper sheet, pipe pounded flat and wire soldered together.

The glass was then adhered to the copper exoskeleton using E6000 adhesive

I now have some fun bugs in my garden. And, these bugs won’t find their way into my house!

Building Walls


I know that the topic of building a wall can lead to many different comments, points of view and political commentary.  This post is not about building that type of wall. 

In our backyard, we have a small retaining wall that was built about 19 years ago. Unfortunately, over the years, the east side of the wall was starting to sag significantly.  



For the past couple of years, I had thought about how to go about fixing the wall.  Having built other retaining wall in my yard (no, I did not build this one!), I knew what needed to be done.  I was just concerned that I may not be able to handle all of the lifting.  Each block weighs 60 pounds, and there were 75 blocks that would need to removed and then replaced.  

Since my two sons at home were busy with finals, and I was unable to find anyone else to hire for my manual labor, I decided to tackle the project by myself. 

At first I set up a ramp system to roll a furniture dolly up and use the dolly to roll each block down the ramp.  This worked okay for the first couple of blocks.  However, I needed to dismantle the ramp and move it over for each block I needed to move.  So, instead I decided to see if I could just lift the blocks.  While they were heavy, that turned out to be much easier than constantly having to set up and move a ramp system.  

While taking down the blocks, I discovered two things that the contractor had done that were wrong.  These two “shortcuts” probably contributed to the wall tipping. 

First, the lowest layer of blocks was placed directly onto soil, no class V gravel nor rock base whatsoever.  So, as a went along, I dug out dirt and then added and tamped down a 2″ layer of gravel below the bottom blocks to provide support for the blocks.  

Second, the contractor did not place any landscape fabric behind the blocks.  The landscape fabric is there to help keep the dirt behind the wall intact and less likely to wash away.  Had they done this, it sure would have made restacking the wall a lot easier.  Unfortunately, without the landscape fabric, when I removed the blocks, the wall of dirt behind would crumble. This made the project so much harder.  I ended up having to work in small sections so that the support for the wall was not removed along the entire length.  



Starting by the small staircase and slowly worked my way down to the other end.  Yesterday, I spent 12 hours removing the cap stones and blocks and rebuilding the wall.  I did not put the capstone on yesterday.  At the end of the day, I chiseled off the old block adhesive, power washed to top layer of the wall and the underside of the capstones, and left them to dry overnight.

Today, I spent about another 90 minutes securing the capstones in place with block adhesive , repairing the dirt in front of the wall and repositioning the mulch. What a change.  The distance from the apple tree to the front of the retaining wall is 10″ less than when the wall was sagging.



While I was building the wall, one of my sons came out and spent some time thinking about how much weight I had lifted.  I removed 75 blocks  that were 60# in weight.  These same 75 blocks needed to be reset into the wall.  So the grand total of weight lifted was 9000 pounds.  Surprisingly my back does not hurt today, just a bit of an ache in my butt (yes, I know there is a not so nice way to state that same information that may also relate to how some people would feel about doing a project like this). 




Big Improvement! And one major yard project done for the spring. 

The weather this weekend was ideal Minnesota Spring weather.  It’s past the time of spring that my allergies are really bad, the humidity was very low, the temperatures were perfect, and there are no bugs out yet!!

All-in-all it was a great weekend spent outdoors.