How to Make a Hexagonal Raised Bed

Bloggers such as myself sometimes have the tendency to put up a post with the promise of “detailed instructions to follow” and then, lacking the oversight of an editor, somehow never get around to delivering the goods. Over the weekend I got a request for detailed instructions on how to build the hexagonal raised beds we posted about back in 2014. So here you go.

You will need six 6-foot pieces of 2×6 lumber. I would suggest pressure treated lumber. I chose the dimensions for these beds to make them as big as they could be and still be able to comfortably reach into the middle of the bed. These dimensions will also minimize waste (since we’ll be using 6′ lumber).

This project requires a compound miter saw, a tool on my list of recommended homestead accessories. Mine has gotten a lot of use over the years for everything from gardening projects to building furniture.

The angle at the corners of a hexagon are 60º. Therefore, you will need to set your saw to 30º (90º-60º=30º).

With the saw set, you just need to cut 12 sections, each 2’6″ long, with that 30º angle at each end. Secure the pieces together with screws at the corners.

Although I did not do this I would recommend reinforcing the bed by screwing a 2×4 in the center as above.

If you have a table saw (which I did not have when I built my beds) you could reinforce the corners with another 2×4 ripped at an angle. My beds did fine without this step. You could also make these beds taller if you need to by adding more courses of lumber. And if you’re the welding type, these beds would be very handsome (though expensive) if done in metal.

Pros and Cons
While I was pleased with aesthetics of my hexagonal beds they no longer grace our backyard. The area in which they resided became too shady to grow vegetables in and also became the strip mine that supplied the clay for our adobe oven. Our landscaper has proposed making this part of our yard a rain garden. More on that project later in the year.

One disadvantage of beds with this odd shape is that they are harder to critter-proof. I don’t consider this a deal killer, but it’s something to think about if you have the hoards of marauding mammals that nightly assault our backyard even in this very urban part of Los Angeles. You can see in the first picture that I ended up creating a sort of bamboo teepee to provide support for beans and tomatoes and on which to attach bird netting (which the marauding mammals easily breeched).

I’ve posted about the pros and cons of raised beds in the past. Unless you have a compelling reason to build raised beds I think it’s always better to grow in the ground. That said, these hexagonal beds look really nice and I would make them again if I lived somewhere with less mammalian interference.

Lessons from the 2018 Theodore Payne Garden Tour

The gardening equivalent of Beyoncé’s triumphant 2018 Coachella performance took place on the very same weekend. Theodore Payne’s annual garden tour reunited pollinator friendly plantings, low water use and great design in a sort of horticultural equivalent of the return of Destiny’s Child. Lush and traditional garden design even made a Jay-Z like cameo appearance at the stunning stunning Wilson/Leach garden in Altadena (seen above). Native plants gardens in Southern California don’t have to look like a desert!

An ad in the back of the tour brochure neatly summed up the vibe:

In: Architecture-Enhancing Designs Out: Boring Expanses of Lawn
In: Vibrant Climate-Compatible Blooms Out: Stuffy Rows of Annuals
In: Lush, Leafy Native Foliage Out: Heat-Amplifying Gravelscape
In: Materials that Go with the Flow Out: Stiff, Straight Patios/Drives
In: Taking Design Appeal to the Curb Out: Conformist Parkways
In: Enjoying your garden

The big takeaway for me from the garden tour this year was that sometimes you’ve got to call in a garden design professional unless you have a knack for design (and I don’t). Our ticket contest winner (who gave us the most beautiful basket of home grown fruits and preserves ever–thank you Donna!) came to the same conclusion.

We’ve hired a designer, which is why our backyard looks like a strip mine:

A crew took out an ugly concrete patio last week and has been digging down to lower the level of the new patio they will install. The old patio was above the level of the sill plate and was causing the back part of the house to rot. I’ll post more in-progress photos over the next few months. We’re also working on the inside of the house. When all is done we hope to have some events here and open up the house for idling and entertaining.

If you can’t afford a crew to do the work you can, at the very least, hire a designer to do a consultation and offer some suggestions. I really wish we had done this 20 years ago when we bought this place!

Last Chance to Win Theodore Payne Garden Tour Tickets, A Note on Our Backyard and a Mini-Rant

A reminder that you have until 5pm today to enter our Theodore Payne Native Plant Garden Tour ticket giveaway.

We have slowly introduced more and more native plants into our garden for a few reasons: to reduce water use, to sustain wildlife and to reduce maintenance. On that last point I’ll note that there is no such thing as a zero maintenance garden, but I will say that California natives are, generally, a lot less fussy than annuals.

This year we’ve also decided to hire a professional to come up with a design for our troublesome backyard. The first order of business is to jackhammer out an ugly concrete patio and deal with some possible foundation issues. I’m hoping, with our designer’s permission, to share the work in progress. I’ll just say at this point that it’s really helpful to have an outside set of eyes especially if you’ve been living with a space for so many years that you’ve lost perspective and openness to new ideas.

Lastly, I must toot my digital horn and note the excellent timing of my February 28th anti-Facebook rant. It’s time to #DeleteFacebook and #StartGardening with #NativePlants.

Win Two Tickets to the 15th Annual Theodore Payne Native Plant Garden Tour

If you’re a Southern California local we’re giving away two tickets to the 15th annual Theodore Payne Native Plant Garden Tour that will take place on April 14th and 15th. It’s a self-guided trip through 40 gardens in the region and includes 19 new locations (including our neighbor Lora’s house!). If you’re thinking of including native plants in your garden or pondering a garden re-design, the Theodore Payne Garden Tour is a great way to get ideas.

To enter our contest leave a comment on this post naming your favorite native plant. Please make sure to enter your email in the comment form (your email will not be published nor used for anything else other than contacting you to send the tickets). We’ll choose a lucky winner at random and the contest will close on Friday March 23rd at 5pm.

California native plants are beautiful and sustain our wildlife companions.  They also help you reduce your water consumption in a climate that is rapidly changing. In addition to the use of plants, the Theodore Payne Garden Tour has a lot of great examples of hardscaping and ways to make the best of small and challenging spaces.

Kelly and I plan on going and we hope to meet the winner of this contest on the tour!

A Fennel Drinking Straw

I don’t get the straw thing. Why do all drinks served in restaurants have to come with a plastic straw? Don’t we have enough plastic trash swirling around our oceans?

While the drinking straw dates back to ancient times, the modern straw renaissance arises alongside the 19th century popularity of juleps and cobblers. Nineteenth century gentleman needed a straw to keep the mint out of their beards and they took to using humble stalks of rye grass. As rye breaks down quickly, some enterprising genius figured out how to make straws out of paper. In the 20th century straws evolved into the bendy plastic horror we’re all so familiar with. Ecological guilt led to a glass and stainless steel drinking straw trend during a brief period in the late aughts.

Our front and back yard have what I like to think of as fennel gyres that, just like those ocean plastic votices, just can’t be stopped. Having hollow stems, it occurred to me that fennel stalks might just be the ideal replacement to the ubiquitous plastic straw and could just spark the latest hipster trend. I vowed to give it a try.

As one might expect, a fennel stalk imparts a licorice taste to your beverage. Some might find this objectionable, like drinking toothpaste, but others might sense a cocktail opportunity. Dr. Google informs me that I’m not the first with this fennel stalk cocktail idea. Emily Han, a guest on episode 67 of the Root Simple Podcast, outscooped me back in 2013.

But perhaps, via crowd-sourced knowledge, we might make a vegetative drinking straw breakthrough. What other plant stalks could we replace all those plastic straws with?