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Sunday, April 19, 2009

How to Make a Kiddie Pool Raised Bed Garden

You can get a Danish father-in-law to build you proper raised beds for your garden like what Darlene of Blazing Hot Wok did. Or you make a ghetto-tastic raised bed garden out of discarded kiddie pools. :)

How to Make a Kiddie Pool Raised Bed Garden 1

One of my neighbors threw out a stack of rigid plastic kiddie pools. If you're not lucky enough to stumble upon some free kiddie pools, you can find them for pretty cheap at most stores. These kiddie pools are about six inches deep and three feet in diameter -- big enough for a good-sized crop, small enough for me to reach across and garden.

You'll need to cut some drainage holes. I used a garden rake that had its prongs broken off. A utility knife would work as well. Make sure the metal part doesn't touch the handle or use pot holders to keep yourself from getting burned. Hold the tip over a gas burner for a few seconds so it gets hot enough to poke holes into the plastic. How many holes you poke depends on your climate. I only poked about a dozen holes because hot Southern California sunshine means I'm more concerned with retaining water than draining it.

*Sniffle.* Only one strawberry plant managed to survive my move. I also had some jalapeno and serrano peppers that had dried out in the fridge, so I buried them under soil and seedlings grew. Time to plant them properly!

How to Make a Kiddie Pool Raised Bed Garden 2

I only planted two kiddie pools. Haven't decided if I'm going to plant more. I'd been using one for mixing compost and soil for planting my other containers. For 1 kiddie pool, you'll want to buy 1 cubic bag of mulch, 1 cubic bag of compost or container soil, and 1 cubic bag of steer manure.

How to Make a Kiddie Pool Raised Bed Garden 3

I filled the bottom of each pool with compost from my Earth Machine compost bin. It doesn't matter if it's completely decomposed since it'll continue breaking down later. Notice the corn cob below? If you don't have a compost bin, layer the bottom with mulch for easier drainage. Save some of the mulch for the top.

How to Make a Kiddie Pool Raised Bed Garden 4

How to Make a Kiddie Pool Raised Bed Garden 5

Then add a layer of steer manure. Then top with compost soil. Then add mulch again to hold down the soil.

How to Make a Kiddie Pool Raised Bed Garden 6

Plant whatever you wish. I've got about eight habanero peppers, eight tomatoes, jalapeno seedlings, one strawberry, and countless assorted acorn squash, pumpkin, okra, cucumber, lemon cucumber, leek, and dill seeds. If you're concerned about aesthetics, you can plant some flowers to dangle over the edges. But if you were really concerned about aesthetics, you wouldn't be gardening with a kiddie pool anyway. ;)

How to Make a Kiddie Pool Raised Bed Garden 7

Of course, crazy me had to decide to do this on a 97-degree day! Nonetheless, the soil stayed pretty moist and my habaneros held up to the heat.

How to Make a Kiddie Pool Raised Bed Garden 8

I think I lost a tomato plant or two to the heat. I've got two kinds - early girl and big boy. It's a tomato battle of the sexes! Who will win? The last time I planted both in my old garden, big boy won. But that's because almost every other tomato was eaten by gigantic caterpillars the size of my finger!

How to Make a Kiddie Pool Raised Bed Garden 9

Anyway, if you don't want to commit to real gardening, or you don't have much space, you can make a kiddie pool garden too.

Other garden updates. Updates on the kiddie pool garden:
Green Tomatoes

1 year ago today, Chao/Doufu Ru (Vietnamese/Chinese Fermented Bean Curd).
2 years ago today, Egg Rolls Stuffed with Bananas and Mangoes with Nutella Dipping Sauce.


  1. What a clever idea! I've been begging my husband to build me some raised beds our yard for 2 years. I'm still waiting! This is a great alternative. I can plant my tomatoes and maybe it will finally shame him into action!

  2. This is such a practical and doable idea. We use kiddie pools such as the ones in your photos to assure house plants are adequately watered when we travel. Plants are massed in the pools which are then filled with water. We can travel without worry for at least 3 weeks.

  3. Hahaha, that's an awesome idea! I love it! I have a gopher problem in my yard, so this would be a wonderful solution for that. Thanks!

  4. Very cool, nice tutorial.

    When I was in college I minored in agriculture, mainly dealing with the animal side of things...but, in an international Ag class I took we used kiddie pools to grow rice! It was pretty neat; I plan on doing it with Parker when he's a little older.

  5. thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I have been really behind the 8-ball garden-wise this year and was feeling pretty badly about it. My soil is so poor I have to build a raised-bed system and have no time for all of that. This pool idea is the answer! Fantastic.

  6. I like that you didn't let those pools go to waste and just end up in a landfill! It is such a good idea.

    People always think they need a big space to garden, but smaller gardens can be totally productive and so much easier to manage!

  7. Susan,
    Haha. I guess that's one method. Embarrass your husband into making him do things for you. I wish I had proper raised beds too.


    That's a great idea too. I only have one houseplant though and it seems to do quite well even with all my neglect.

    My parents have moles in their yard and they dig up everything. Such a hassle.

    Oh yes, kiddie pools are great for replicating swampy conditions. You can use them for cheap ponds instead of buying expensive liners.

    My soil is hard clay too. Just the thought of having to dig makes my hands hurt. But I so wanted fresh tomatoes so this'll have to do.

    I've had gardens with just two small boxes so I don't need much. Of course, I wish I had a cool FIL who likes to build things for me. :)

  8. dumb question alerts:
    when you say you can plant whatever you wish, do you have to buy the actual seeds in packets, like at home depot. or would i just throw in a tomato that i didn't around to eating?

    next, do you have problems with animals getting into your kiddie pool garden? how do you keep them out?

    this sounds so simple but yet, if i were to attempt this, i can guarantee comical results.

  9. Lan,
    Well, I did just bury jalapenos that had dried out in the fridge and they sprouted so you can certainly try. I get better results from seed packets. Best bet though is small seedlings since they're already sprouted and quite cheap. I bought 8 habanero plants for $2, 8 tomato plants for $3.

    I don't have any problems with animals in my yard. Just a stray cat but no rodents or raccoons if that's what you mean.

    I can't imagine what would go wrong if you tried? Maybe you should start with small container gardening first?

  10. I'm planning to do this over the weekend when we move into our new place. I plan to plant in wedges with a trellis in the middle using modified square foot gardening techniques. I'm so excited. Thanks for idea of planting flowers around the edges. Not only will it help aesthetically, marigolds could keep the critters away.

  11. 9 baby dragons,
    Planting in wedges and flowers for aesthetics. Can't wait to see yours. You're going all out! You can plant a pizza garden with the wedges - tomatoes, oregano, etc.

  12. I have a turtle sand box in our backyard that was headed for the trash heap. I think I'll do this instead. Thanks!

  13. Jenny,
    I totally remember those turtle sandboxes! Beats tossing everything away.

  14. Ok. I love love love this. Thank you.

  15. Will the plastic be harmful for vegetable plants?

  16. Erica,
    You're welcome.

    Dunno. Depends on your level of comfort with plastics. I assume if you're buying plants that were in plastic containers from the store, then plants are already touching plastic.

  17. I am debating doing this myself. We have a kiddle pool that I think it just too small for the kids now so I was thinking of turning it into a little garden. I have some raised beds but need more space!

  18. I had this idea floating around in my head and so I googled it and I found your blog :) How many plants did you put into one pool? I want to put as many possible but know there is a gardening rule that they have to be so far apart.. Also, can you mix any type of veggies in one pool? I have never attempted a garden if you can tell lol

  19. Julie,
    If the kids have outgrown the pool, it' a great way to repurpose!

    gr mp,
    I had about half a dozen tomatoes and a few chili pepper plants in one? Spaced about a foot apart? And a whole bunch of radishes at one time.


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