I had an online friend ask about our raised beds; specifically she asked why we used brick and what the purpose of the black cloth is that is shown in a previous picture.
The first year we moved here, I actually planted a garden in the ground. It was actually in the fenced area that we now turned into the chicken run. Our clay is so hard that in spite of mixing in good dirt, my vegetables were the perfect size for a Barbie's table. The next year we knew that the only way we were going to get anything to grow was raised beds.
The raised beds are actually retaining wall. Since we have so much work around here and hope to live here long term, JD did not want to use wood that was going to rot and have to be replaced in a few years. Conveniently, we had enough retaining wall material left from our walls in the back-yard that the first two planters did not cost us a dime.
Granted, this year we had to purchase enough to make three more, but I'm sold on the permanency of the stone. We have often had a running joke that JD likes to spend as much money as possible on every project, and I'm generally pointing out thrifty alternatives, but I think he was right with this project. These should last the long haul! Another benefit of retaining walls is that they have a little ledge that helps catch them from shifting like actual brick would.
As for the black cloth, it's soil cloth that was originally left over from some drive-way project when we moved in. Of course, we also ran out of the original roll of it this year, but it was only about $25 at Lowe's. The purpose of it is to keep weeds and grass from growing up through the bottom of the beds, but allow water to drain through it. Another reason we need it is to prevent dirt loss through the side gaps in the stones. JD just runs it length-wise before he fills in the dirt and then trims it along the top edge.
While the boys did the manly building, the girls and I planted several things. The most exciting were the big patio pots that my Mom bought. I'm sure they will double nicely as a trike and scooter bumper.
I can't remember what the plants are called at the moment, but aren't they beautiful? (And they were only $6 at Wal-Mart :)