If you’re looking for an easy way to construct a raised garden bed without tools, the Bloom Instabrace is a great option. These stainless steel corner pieces were created to hold boards together without any need for additional parts or tools. They come in several different designs, running $36 and up for a set of 4. However, this isn’t a kit that comes with everything included. You’re still going to need some wooden boards and enough dirt to fill up your raised bed area. Once you’ve got the bed assembled, you’re also going to want to fill it up with plants, unless you prefer staring at an empty plot of soil.
Additional Supplies – Boards
You could need as many as 12 boards, depending on their size. The cost of four 2x6x8 untreated wooden boards ran just under $20 at my local Lowes. Of course, the instructions are written on the Insta brace package. But it turns out I wrote down the dimensions wrong and ultimately needed another set of boards. So if you only want to buy one set of boards per bed, go with 2x12s!
I used untreated lumber for the garden bed, because I didn’t want to take any chances that the chemicals used in this process could leach into my food. However, if you’re only using the boards to form a bed for inedible plants, you might want to consider using treated lumber. Treated lumber should last longer exposed to the elements and soil.
Additional Supplies – Garden Soil
No surprise here that smaller beds are going to need less dirt than larger ones! If you’re concerned about cost and don’t have somewhere that you can dig up free topsoil that doesn’t contain any harmful elements, you probably want to stick to smaller sized beds. Otherwise, you’re going to need actual tons of dirt. Once you start to add up the costs for that, the total can easily induce sticker shock. The cost of the topsoil that I got from a local retailer was just under $40 and the four bags of top soil mix that I bought from Lowes ran around $20.
Top soil combined with a bit of compost or manure for additional nutrition should be fine here. After all, potting soil is expensive and only necessary for plants that are fully confined in planters. I even recycled some potting soil from empty containers to line the bed and cut down costs. However, if you do this, you’ll need to make sure the soil in question is entirely disease and bug free. If it’s not you risk spreading the problems to your new plants!
Any reused soil will also be low in nutrients so you don’t want to fill the entire bed with it. This dirt additionally contains weed seeds. So don’t mix it into any new layers that you might be using on top. This will help keep the weeds on the down low. (However, it won’t eliminate them entirely.)
Additional Supplies – Plants
A lot of the plants that currently reside in my garden bed were grown from seeds. Most seeds packets normally cost $2 to $3 apiece. This year, I started my seedlings in a set of biodegradable plant starters that I got for about $2 (available at both Lowes and Walmart). Growing your own plants is a very affordable way to fill up a large space. However, the main problem with that method is that it takes a great deal of time for the plants to really hit their stride.
On the other hand, small edible plants are a good choice if you don’t go overboard with your purchases. The prices I’ve seen this year ranged from about $2 to $4.15 a plant. Some of the larger herbs, berries, and fruit bushes averaged around $8 each. On the other hand, flowers vary greatly in price. The small annuals are often extremely cheap, but the large perennials can easily run over $10 each. You might even luck out and hit a sale or two, especially if you’re Facebook friends with the local garden centers in your area!
Bloom Instrabrace Spec’s
- Make a raised bed 12? to 14? deep, just right for veggies, herbs, and flowers!
- Use any 2? wood. No tools required!
- Customize to the exact length and width of your space.
- Available in bee, sun, dragonfly and earthworm designs.
- 100% steel for outdoor use.
- Limited lifetime warranty against defects in materials or workmanship.
Assembling Your Bloom Instabrace
The bed itself took me about 20 minutes to put together, once I had all the supplies. It took another 20 minutes to unload the top soil from the truck (thanks Dad!) and another 10 to 20 minutes for me to spread it all out. I also mixed in a few bags of potting soil.
Here is the step-by-step process:
1. If you are concerned about potential environmental toxins (and perhaps you should be!), you can have the soil tested for them before setting up shop. This is a smart precaution, particularly in urban areas, roadside spots, areas near older homes, and in places with an unknown or questionable history. You can read more on that subject here, if you’re interested. However, that’s generally not a problem for gardeners who have especially deep raised beds. Just keep in mind that some larger plants, such as tomatoes, can have roots that go as deep as 2 feet down, and plan accordingly.
2. Clean up the area where the bed will be located, if necessary. Rake and remove leaves. Kill harmful plants like poison ivy, sumac, and oak before setting up the bed.
3. Level the ground for the garden, if needed. This optional step makes assembly much easier. (Especially if your yard is as uneven as mine turned out to be!)
4. Measure the space where you intend on putting your bed if you are not sure of its dimensions. Make your board selections accordingly.
5. Drive a vehicle suitable for transporting the boards to your chosen store. Buy the appropriate amount and size of boards for your yard and take them home.
6. Put together the bed by lining up the wood pieces then sliding them into the grooves on the Bloom Instabrace corner pieces.
7. Fill bed with dirt. Add plants. Place cages or trellises in appropriate spots.
8. Keep plants well watered and bed weeded. Harvest edibles as necessary. Enjoy!
More About Bloom Instabrace
Although we were sent complimentary products to test out, a quick online search reveals that the overall cost of the Bloom Instabrace corners, plus shipping and handling, can run anywhere from $48 to over $75 USD, depending on your chosen retailer. If you can find Instabrace in stores, it will probably be much cheaper. However, once you add in the cost of the boards, this product could end up being closer in price to some of the more expensive garden beds. This is especially true if you are dealing with large dimensions.
On the other hand, the Insta brace corners make it easy to assemble a bed. They don’t require any additional tools or technical expertise to put together, which is a plus for people that want a garden bed without the hassle of dealing with a complicated set of instructions. I’m a very petite person and still managed to assemble the entire thing on my own, which is a first. (Moving the dirt was another story.)
The rounded corners are made from stainless steel so you should be able to get plenty of use out of them, even if the boards eventually end up needing to be replaced. The designs are also quite pretty, if you can see them above the grass in your yard! (Ha) In fact, our family has liked our Insta brace beds so much that we plan on ordering another set in the near future.