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Grow your own nutritious foods in garden planters

More and more, people are taking up gardening to supplement their groceries with healthful, homegrown produce, but yard space sometimes is a problem. However, a raised-bed planter can be tucked into just about any corner of your yard. And thanks to easy-to-use segmental retaining wall systems, most do-it-yourselfers can build one with minimum skill and tools.

"We've seen quite a few folks come in with spring fever who are anxious to start their own 'victory garden,'" says Dave Johnson, manager of Patio Town, an Oakdale, Minn., landscape supplies retailer. "But for many of them, their yard space is limited, so we suggest a raised-bed planter that can stand alone in the yard or be built alongside your house or garage."

A raised-bed garden has other advantages besides size, Johnson notes.

"Because they're elevated, there's less stooping and they're a lot easier to tend to. With a nice capped top, you have a place to sit or place your gardening tools while you work," says Johnson.

Segmental retaining walls are built using high-strength concrete blocks without mortar or frost footings. Friction from the weight of the blocks stacked on top of one another, along with interlocking mechanisms, keep the units together.

They're also more environmentally friendly than landscape timbers and other materials that may contain hazardous preservatives, and far less costly than poured-in-place concrete walls.

Easy to install
No special equipment is required for building a planter with segmental retaining wall systems, Johnson explains. "A few basic tools such as a shovel, level, mallet and masonry chisel are needed. Without a need for costly footings, the wall itself sits on a bed of crushed gravel and sand. Depending on your design, you may want to rent a concrete saw or you can just use a masonry blade in a standard circular saw."

Johnson recommends a pinned wall system like Versa-Lok for better stability. "Versa-Lok is a premium engineered wall system that is held together by synthetic pins inserted from the top of each course of block into the course below. Top pinning systems make unit alignment easy," Johnson explains. "The blocks are solid for added strength."

These retaining wall systems come in a variety of natural colors and textures, Johnson continues.

"I like the tumbled retaining wall products that have a more natural look that blends in easily with the landscape and existing structures. They have a random face pattern that offer a stunning appearance, and their solid, top-pinning design is easy to build with, so do-it-yourselfers and contractors both like them."

Tiered wall option
Many yards suffer from a problem of having plenty of room but little of it usable. Tiered walls - two or more walls stacked and set back from underlying walls - offer a terrific opportunity to convert some of that unusable space into elevated gardens. Tiered walls also are useful in visually breaking up a single tall wall to make it more aesthetically pleasing.

For example, rather than building one 8-foot-tall retaining wall, a more pleasing solution might be to build two staggered 4-foot-tall walls, one on top of the other, and create gardens in the level spaces between the walls. Stairs and landings also may be integrated into tiered walls to allow easier access to garden spaces between the walls.

However, tiered walls are more difficult to design than conventional single-level retaining walls, so you may want to consult with a qualified engineer or building inspector before beginning your project.

A growing investment
Not only are landscape improvements a great way to get more enjoyment out of your yard, they're also a wise financial investment in your home.

"When people ask me how they can get strong buying interest in their property, I always tell them to fix up their landscaping," Walt McDonald, president of the National Association of Realtors, said in Smart Money magazine.

And don't forget the return you'll get on your investment every time you harvest the bounty from your victory garden.

For more ideas on how to enhance your landscape with raised-bed planters, visit the Versa-Lok Online Image Library at www.versa-lok.com/idea-book/residential.

Sponsored content provided by Versa-Lok.