Garden Circles Buzz Blog

January 26, 2017

Landscaping Challenges?

Is your yard making you a frustrated gardener?  Maybe this will help.

I compiled a presentation based on a request from a friend to help educate some locals.  It came out so well that I think many people out there might appreciate it.  The entire presentation is in this PDF file, and parts of it are laid out below, as well.

Some of the things we cannot solve with a raised bed:

  • Lack of sun
  • Deer, and other large critters

Some of the things we can partially solve:

  • Rabbits
  • Yard-Chickens

Some challenges we have solved for people:


  • Poor Soil
  • Bad Drainage 
  • No Soil
  • Contaminated Soil
  • Gophers
  • Sloping ground

The slides below illustrate each of these issues.  

Soil is the biggest challenge around us.. The glacial till is largely sand and gravel with only a thin layer of topsoil.  There are areas within a few miles where the clay is so think it cracks in dry weather and barely lets water drain in wet weather.


 In a raised bed, the soil is not being walked on, it is deep, and it has good drainage.  The nutrients are not leaking out to the adjacent sandy soil, either.

Below is a dramatic illustration of using low areas to garden in.  After a particularly heavy rain, this low area turned into a pond.  Instead of dying a soggy death, the tomatoes and other veggies rather liked it. 

As you can see in the photos below, when they installed that garden, it was not a pond.  


Another common situation, especially in urban spaces is there is no soil at all.  Think parking lots, vacant city lots, patios, and old driveways.    


In those urban areas, or even rural areas, it is often very hard to know what may be in the soil.  I met one nice, young couple interested in raised beds because their new house in Milwaukee had lots of lead in the soil.  It was so much lead that the soil test came back with a note on it to keep children from playing in that soil.  Ick!  

The illustration below is what I would recommend for putting a raised bed on that kind of soil.  

  1. Make sure the roots of the plants cannot get into the bad soil with a weed barrier.
  2. Make sure the moisture from that soil can't carry anything up into your good soil by putting  a layer of crushed rock to break any wicking action.
  3. Cover up the soil around the bed with mulch of some sort.  

Got unwelcome digging friends?  Raised beds with wire mesh underneath can keep them out.  Use a 1/4" to 1/2" mesh size.  

I have talked to several people about making a terraced garden because the sunny part of their yard is a hillside.   These are a pretty good way of dealing with that.


On a related note, they can be used to level off a larger space for something else, too.  In this case, a greenhouse.  Note the insulation sheet inside the retaining rings.  That will help the greenhouse warm up the soil under the greenhouse faster int he spring and keep it from cooling as fast in the fall.

Bonus:  You can use raised beds to garden in a greenhouse easier, too.  Again, the soil warms up much faster in the spring because it is exposed to the warm air in the greenhouse.  All the other advantages of using the raised beds, like ergonomics and efficient use of soil also apply.

That's the complete list of ways raised beds can help you garden where you might have though you couldn't.  If you can think of more ways to use raised beds, we would love to hear about it.  Give us a shout out on facebook or in the comments on the blog, here.  

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September 25, 2016

Full sequence of photos from Hibbing, Minnesota

Full sequence of photos from Hibbing, Minnesota

One of our new customers this summer provided us with a great sequence of photos from before installation, the installation process, and the growth of Garden Circles.

The site

The Garden Circle on-site

3 minutes later: The Garden Circle set up on site

Straw in the bottom

Filling with soil

And planted!

Mid Bloom

Thatsa lotsa vegetation!


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September 22, 2016

Customer highlights

Customer highlights

It's been a great first season with customers all over starting or expanding their gardens with Garden Circles.  Here are several good pictures our proud customers have sent us.

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September 19, 2016

Leaf it full all winter

Leaf it full all winter

 It's almost raking time.  Excited?  You should be.  Leaves are a gift of nature.  The video below is a quick illustration of how you can use your leaves to help gardenscape your yard with Garden Circles.  

I would have done this video with real leaves, but it's a little early in the season and my arms got tired from trying to shake the trees in my yard. 

The concept is easy, though.  Set up Garden Circles where you want your garden to be.  Fill the Garden Circle heaping full of leaves.  Over the winder they will compress down as they compost.  Then in the spring, simply top them off with good, rich soil and start planting.  You don't have to dispose of your leaves, you only have to move them once, you need less soil, and you end up with a super moisture absorbent layer right under your garden.  That's a lot of good reasons to start your garden in the fall.


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August 26, 2016

Feel Good Story: TarTop Garden @TheShop

Feel Good Story: TarTop Garden @TheShop

Here at Garden Circles, we love how gardening can change lives.  In a story along those lines, we are happy to report on a donation we made early this summer to The Shop in Brainerd, Minnesota.  

This is Cindy Moore, Director at The Shop with the garden beds we donated. 

in Cindy's words: "TheShop is a youth defined space for transitional age youth (14-22). We find that those who visit daily live in the margins of our community. These teenagers and young adults often struggle within the educational system, have mental health issues, frequently use alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, live in poverty and may even be homeless in the city they grew up in. We are caring adult mentors offering opportunities such as our Bicycle Recycle, Computer Refurbishing, Service Projects or our soon to be set up TarTop Garden to help our at risk youth develop assets that support healthy life transitions and experience personal success."


This is what they did with those garden beds, some pallets and a couple of tires to turn a rough old asphalt parking lot into a growing experience for local teens.  

Cindy describes how the community really came together to make this happen:

"Urban gardening 101 called The TarTop Garden began with a vision. Forces began to align with the invention of Garden Circles (Thanks to Ryan Hunt). 25 minutes and we had 3 ready made raised beds installed on the tar in front of TheShop. Hugglekulture videos (Thanks again, Ryan), a mess of yard waste (Thanks to Amy), a few yards of dirt (Thanks to Thrivent), and a rain barrel (Thanks to Bethel Church) and we had the beginning of our project. Our VISTA (Volunteer In Service To America), Heidi Jeub taught urban gardening basics to youth and staff and set us up with pretty cool journals."

Over the summer, the gardens thrived and grew lush.

"Truth, we did not realize just how successfully a garden in the middle of our parking lot would take off and bring in some serious vegetables in such a short time. By using the power of sunshine and 40 buckets of water daily we have teaching moments for youth, for the neighborhood, and for the community."

"Today we have a jungle of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, patty pans, zucchini, squash, kohlrabi (because it’s alien looking), potatoes, beans, more tomatoes, kale, basil, cilantro, parsley, onions and even a pea or two hidden in the tangles. We have learned a thing or three and have fun sharing the produce with our neighbors. We invite you to park in front of TheShop on Washington and take a look at what can be done to produce fresh foods in “any” yard, office parking lot, daycare, church entryway, and in the backyards of every rental property. A great way to talk to your neighbors, collectively grow produce to share and teach ourselves about the foods we eat."


"Our mission is to nurture youth to overall wellness and develop assets that support healthy life transitions.  
Having the ability to teach youth the ease of growing vegetables allows at risk youth to experience the simplicity (sunshine and water) of creating fresh food for their tables.  It's not rocket science.  And it can be fun.  Imagine if we had an outdoor water system? And then imagine the extra fun of water fights!"

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