I read that raised garden beds are the way to go in Colorado, with our less than perfect soil. But what material to use was the question. Wood seemed the obvious choice, but expensive and high maintenance. That’s when Tom, my Fiance, suggested aluminum can walls. Building them out of aluminum cans and cement seemed like something I could do myself. This whole aluminum can wall, raised garden beds project, gave me a way to dispose of the mountain of beer and soda cans Tom, had accumulated over the years before I moved in.
The project was cheap to do, costing only $9.00 for a bag of cement. Tom taught me to make cement, then, he showed me how to lay the cans and “glue” them together with the cement. I was off and running. It took me one afternoon to build my first can wall garden bed, “The Rhubarb Bed”. After a couple of days drying time, Tom, being the cement expert, showed me how to stucco the the whole thing to make it look nice and weather proof it.
I loved the way the first raised bed turned out. And I like the fluid lines and gentle curves that I could create using aluminum cans. I had to learn to make the cement kind of stiff, like the consistency of peanut butter, so it does not just run off onto the ground. Tom says it’s like laying bricks, not that I have ever laid bricks before. I think it’s more like making a gingerbread house, with cookies and icing. The only real trick, is to alternate the cans, as you go, tab in, tab out, tab in, tab out, etc. The can tabs eliminate the need for any stucco wire, and give the stucco layer something to grab onto. No need to wait for the cement to dry before beginning the next layer, just keep laying the cans around. By the time the first layer is done, the cement is set up enough to support the next layer.
I built my raised bed walls 4 to 5 cans high, that is roughly 9 to 10 inches. I did not bother to level the ground before starting, so I laid the cans higher in places to level the wall. The finish layers of stucco helped to even everything out, and make it look nice. Applying the stucco layers is like icing a cake, not that hard. We could have used some kind of stucco colorant in the final layer, but I did not want to worry about trying to match the colors of each stucco batch. Maybe I will paint them someday, but for now they look fine. Everyone who sees them is surprised when I tell them my raised garden beds are made from aluminum cans.
(Step 1, Aluminum can raised garden bed)!
In the background you can see another can wall we built round the base of Tom’s observatory – Night Sky Observatory. This wall is taller and holds a lot of soil, so we made it 2 cans thick. It is ready for the finish stucco layers.
Here you can see the next wall started around the fish pond.
Here is the finished “Rhubarb Bed” newly planted with rhubarb and chives.
-- coloradogirl---SW Colorado, 7,000' elevation, zone 4,