We Did It. We Made the Ultimate Raised Bed
What if you could build a raised bed with all the accoutrements a city gardener could ever want?
The heirloom tomatoes I pick from my raised bed are the stars of my Instagram. After all, I grow my veggies right in the middle of Los Angeles, not on a farm. So imagine my dismay when I found my tomatoes torpedoed, my cucumbers consumed, and tell-tale tunnels running through the soil. I instantly knew the culprits: rats. Very clever rats, which I soon learned would only be deterred by a hardcore barrier.
If only I’d known about Victory Garden LA and its raised beds with “Critter Covers” made of redwood and hardware cloth. They’re the brainchild of television commercial director Raúl B. Fernández, who started building them in his driveway during the pandemic. His success is a true Hollywood story: COVID boredom led to a DIY raised bed for his wife, which led to friends wanting one, which led to Fernández posting images of the beds on social media. Demand soared, and soon he was employing his out-of-work crew of production designers, grips, actors, and camera people.
“When I started this business, doing deliveries was a slice of life,” Fernández says. “It’s like we went from an industry town to a vegetable town.”
Inspired by his handsome work, I started to wonder: What would a truly tricked-out bed worthy of an urban environment include? The result is this custom build. Does it keep out invaders? Check. Does it have a pollinator watering station? Check. Does it, in fact, tick all the boxes when it comes to what any city dweller would need in a raised bed? We can only say, Check, check, check!
See the finished project, with all the bells and whistles, below.
1. A “Critter Cover” keeps out rodents.
2. A handy holder keeps your cell phone safely stored—perfect for Instagram glamour shots of vegetables in repose.
3. A place for seedlings so they can soak up the sun until planting time. (Or in this case, a space for some happy-go-lucky Johnny-jump-ups).
4. Like to whistle while you work? A Bang & Olufsen Beosound speaker on a handy S-hook takes care of the tunes.
5. Thai basil waves hello from the sidelines. Use it to lure pollinators to your raised beds.
6. A watering station gives thirsty bees a drink. Once established, bees will return to the same spot over and over.
7. Wheels make the bed easily maneuverable when the seasons change and the sun moves.
8. A pre-installed drip irrigation system keeps vegetables crisp and saves water. Fernández has organic, composted soil delivered to his Boyle Heights workshop every week.
9. Garden tools from Barebones hang at the ready from a repurposed, oil-rubbed, bronze drawer handle.
THE BAR IS OPEN
This 36-by-18-inch raised bed is a perfect size to create the specialized mini-garden of your dreams. Here, three ideas for how to plant it.
SALSA BAR: Get a little spice in your life by growing Roma tomatoes, scallions, cilantro (unless you have that gene that makes cilantro taste like soap, in which case try parsley or Thai basil), and jalapeños.
SALAD BAR: Any homegrown salad puts one made with store-bought vegetables to shame. Stock up on romaine lettuce, arugula (an excellent choice since it’s “cut and come again”), and seedless cucumbers, plus chives, dill, and basil for the dressing.
COCKTAIL BAR: Fresh herbs add depth and flavor to homemade drinks. Try growing Thai basil for its hearty flavor, as well as thyme, rosemary (perfect for infusing gin), lemon balm, and, of course, mint for refreshing mojitos.