How raised beds made of chip Roman roof tiles changed my garden.
I’m sure many of you have the same negative privilege as me. To have poor soil in your garden and your garden to have a slop instead of being level. Two bad things together.
One of the solutions you can implement to improve soil quality and create flat areas, in a cost effective way, is the use of raised beds.
Basically, a raised bed is a cultural technique that allows us to enrich the soil in a particular area and make the soil flat if it is sloping. We don’t need to enrich all the soil, nor do we need to flatten the whole area.
There are many options for building raised beds
To create the walls of raised beds you have many options. Typical examples are:
Stable and permanent construction. You can determine the height of the raised bed. For aesthetic reasons, you will need to clad them with a decorative material, e.g. Karystos’ stones. It costs money to buy bricks and mortar.
The same applies also with bricks. Stable and permanent construction. You can determine the height of the raised bed. For aesthetic reasons, you will need to clad them with another material, e.g. decorative stone. It costs money to buy cement blocks and mortar.
Raised beds made with concrete
You will need to dig and create molds in which to pour the cement. For greater strength, the cement should be reinforced. That is, it should contain iron bars. You will need to buy cement, sand, garble and iron bars. Here too, for aesthetic reasons, you will need to consider the option of cladding with another material or plastering. Stable and permanent construction.
Tip: You can add to the cement the small stones you collect from your garden. That way you will have both cleaned up the soil of your garden from stones and done something useful with the stones.
Stones – Dry stones
You can make raised beds using stones. This method will be the closest thing to dry stones. If the stones are large and convenient, then you won’t need to add any mortar. Time-consuming process. Permanent construction. Provides good aeration of the soil. Good method if you have a lot of large stones available that you have removed from the garden.
Woods (e.g., wood scantling, tree trunks)
Building raised beds with wood is an easy and quick solution. You can use wood scantling, or even tree trunks. In case you use wood scantling, you will need to buy them, which makes the solution relatively expensive. The big disadvantage of the method is that the wood rots as the years pass. At best, your wooden raised beds will last for 10 years. Then you have to build them all over again.
Roman roof tiles
Old Roman roof tiles are an interesting alternative for building raised beds.
Roman roof tiles are made of fired clay last as long as bricks, cement blocks, stones and concrete.
They are relatively easy to install as all you have to do is dig up the soil and place them.
Although it has the advantages of a permanent solution, you can easily remove them whenever you no longer need that raised bed.
Aesthetically they are beautiful as their curves and colors blend naturally with the garden’s soil.
You are recycling an old material that you would otherwise not know what to do with. That is also good for the environment.
Building raised beds using roof tiles
Because I had roof tiles and didn’t want to spend money to buy bricks or cement blocks, I opted for the roof tile method to build the raised bed.
Preparing the ground. Dig a Π shaped foundation for the raised bed
Preparation: Note that it is not very important to be very detailed and precise in digging
I dug the soil in a P shape to a depth that would allow about half of the roof tile to go in.
In length I used 15 tiles. In the width 6 tiles.
The tools I used were: A hoe, a spade, a pickaxe, a shovel.
To form the front wall of the raised bed, I installed the 15 front roof tiles as if I were putting them on a roof. Easy and quick process.
If you do a proper job, laying the roof tiles to form the front wall is quick and easy
I added the sides as well. 6 roof tiles on each side.
Please remember that the plants inside your raised bed have to be accessible from all sides. You shouldn’t step inside and compact the soil with your weight. A good rule of thumb is to keep the depth of the raised bed, between 1.0 and 1.5 meters.
Add roof tiles to form both sides. It is easy.
I filled the gaps between the tiles on all sides with the soil I had taken out during digging. This soil will provide support for the walls of the raised bed.
Enriching the raised bed’s soil with compost, wood chips and manure
The next step is to enrich the soil inside the raised bed with nutrient-rich organic matter. Our goal is to get a fertile soil, suitable for gardening and with the ability to hold the water it needs.
To this end I added to the soil, my own compost, wood chips and manure. I mixed all the ingredients well and spread the soil so that it was level.
Here is the final result. The difference in the color of the soil in the raised bed, due to the addition of organic matter is more than noticeable.
The raised bed made with roof tiles is ready. How different the color of the soil is after adding organic matter!
I had build the front raised bed last year. When I took the picture it was covered with wood chips from the neighbor’s dried lemon tree.
Good luck if you choose a similar raised bed construction method. Good luck if you follow any other method.
Update: Results one month later
I planted lettuce and onions in the raised bed made with roof tiles.
Almost a month later, the yield is really impressive. All the plants grew extremely fast.
You can read the article Overproduction in the raised bed with tiles and wood chips.