It’s hard to see in this picture, through the strawberry plants and woodchips, but I’ve started a permaculture in the immediate vicinity of the house (just to your right in this picture). The area is paved with large rocks, taking advantage of the heat from, and reflected by, the building, and conserving moisture. Fortunately, when I built the original wooden bed on this site I measured it for an even number of blocks and therefore didn’t have to move any paving stones when wood became CBUs.
The blocks are dry stacked, no mortar. I dig about a foot down and lay a trench of screened gravel to set the first row. Digging below the frost line here would have me going down six feet, and I can’t do that without a blasting permit. Some of my earlier beds are two winters old now and are still standing. If a block pushes out I just dig a new space for it and push it back in (use a rubber mallet or your booted foot – not your hand).
Fresh off the project, I have some lessons learned for dry-stacking blocks on a sunny afternoon: 1) wear gloves and a canvas apron, 2) your eye is good, but the level is your friend, 3) keep the surface of the blocks clean as you build – that stray grain of sand is the pea in your mattress, 4) sit and admire your work every once in a while, listen to the wood frogs, and 5) when you’re all done and the tools are put away have an Advil, or Arnica or vodka, or possibly all three.
I’m planning to surface bond this bed as an experiment. It will be planted with Jade and Provider green bush beans, with nasturtium in the cells around the edge. Now on to the A., A. and V.