Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Building a Raised Garden - No Dirt Yet...

I thought it would be a good idea to start growing our own food. My big concern is that I know myself too well. I know that I won't do well if I have to get down on my hands and knees all the time, and I know that I don't do weeds. With those hurdles in mind, I started to investigate what kind of garden I should have.

As luck would have it, my co-worker Jane is a master gardener, she's even done a few segements on HGTV. You can check out one of her segments here. She suggested that I start things out with a book called The Square Foot Gardener. You can buy it cheap on

The basic principle is to ask yourself how many of a plant you're actually going to eat? Would I really eat 50 carrots in a week? If not, then don't plant 50 carrot seeds at a time... maybe plat 5 carrot seeds, then a week or two later, plant another 5 carrot seeds.

Now back to me being lazy. I was flipping through the book and ran across a garden designed for people in wheelchairs. Seeing as how I have no pride, I thought: "That would be great for me - I won't have to get down on my hands an knees." So that became the plan. The author, Mel, also suggested if you can make it on top of a cement slab, you wouldn't have to cut the grass around the boxes, and you'll also get fewer weeds.

We have a cement slab on the property right behind our house, but the previous owner of the land had used it as a fire pit and there was a big pile of ashes, debris, and bricks on it. Good thing for me I had a couple of friends that live in Seattle that thought it would be a blast to come out and work in the country. Their payment for a day's worth of labor was I had to make them some of my home made bread... DEAL!

This is Dan shoveling some ashes into the bucket. I know should be able to do this with just the tractor, but I just got it and I'm not that good at scooping things yet.

That's Rachel. She's working out her childhood issues. Her parents wouldn't let her play with power tools, so she had to use every tool in the book on this project.

After about 3 buckets full of ash, we had a clean slab o' cement, and were ready to start building the sawhorses. I found some free plans online. Click here to see how to build "The 14 minute Sawhorse..."

Rachel on the chop saw. We just followed the instructions, and it couldn't have been easier.
I figure each one cost about $5-$6. 2x4's at Home Depot are only $1.79 each, and I did have to buy some nails. Very cheap compared to the ready made ones.

First step is make a 2x4 "I-Beam" that is 32" long by nailing together 3 pieces of 2x4.

Then you attach the 30" legs. The I-Beam automatically finds the proper angle for you.

Then we took a goat break for a few minutes... Rachel has a crush on Herb the Goat...

Then it was time to get back to work... Herb got back to eating and pooping - what he does best.

So we made a total of five sawhorses, and it was time to make the planter boxes. I decided to make one box that 8'x4' and one that was a 4 foot square. That was the easiest part of the day.

We used some pressure treated 2x6's and external grade plywood for the job and plenty of galvanized nails.
Next we had to drill holes for drainage. Again, Rachel was all over the hammer drill with exclamations like "This is soooo fun!" And, "I can't believe I'm using a drill..."

Please take note of the fashion forward safety glasses... Rachel thinks they make her look stupid, but I disagree. You know what they say, Safety First!

So here's how the main boxes turned out. The left one is going to be for veggies, and the right one for fresh herbs. We also made two boxes to sit on the ground for tomatoes, corn, and climbing plants.

Time to pay up on my end of the deal. Rachel requested a loaf of Kalamata Olive Bread.

The entire project ran about $200. That pressure treated plywood is expensive... About $40 a sheet - so that really jacked up the price. I also bought way too many 2x4's, but I'm sure I'll be able to put them to work soon. And I bought an entire box of 3" nails for the nail gun - those go quick too. So a few hundred bucks, but not all of it was for the planters. But it should easily pay for itself with just a few crop harvests.

I'll keep you posted on the planting. I've got to buy some clean dirt and seeds. I need to do a bit more research on what crops to plant first in March... So stay tuned.


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