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Let There Be Veggies!

It ended up fancy.  Fantastic craftsmanship and expert lines.  Durable – will survive the elements for years.  Solar powered; sustainable.

Ok, maybe that’s a bit too much credit.

Our family built a vegetable planter this spring.  Craftsmanship & lines = rough cutting cedar into a rectangle.  Solar powered kind of comes with this territory.

Baby Veggie Plants, Tucked into Bed & Ready to Grow!

Our dream team consisted of me as laborer, my wife as superintendent/assistant laborer/building inspector, and boys as co-dirt chiefs.  Move over bad news bears!

We had a blast.  A relatively straightforward family project – I highly recommend it.  I have some tips that can make your planter a little better and even simpler than ours.

It took us pieces of 2 weekends.  I suggest early spring, so your veggies have time to grow.

First, locate a sunny & relatively flat part of your yard.  Second, figure out out your design.  Third, assemble your tools & supplies.  Fourth, build & plant.  Fifth, eat veggies.

And don’t forget to water between steps 4 & 5.

Design

The typical size of a planter ranges from 4′ x 8′ to 5′ x 10′.  A good option is to go smaller, then build a second if you enjoy it the first year.

Tools

  • Circular saw (sliding miter saw if you have the opportunity)

    Miter Saw, My Favorite Tool
  • 2 Clamps
  • Shovel
  • Cutter Mattock / Pick Axe
  • Drill & Screwdriver
  • Mallet

 

Supplies (4’x8′ size)

  • Six 2″ x 6″ x 8′ cedar boards (for box)
     Actual Dimension: 1.5″ x 5.5″ x 8′
    We used 2x10s, but just happened to have access to them.  They’re more expensive, and I sort of like the look of two or three boards making up the planter wall.
  • Two 2″ x 4″ x 6′ cedar boards (for stakes)
    Actual Dimension: 1.5″ x 3.5″ x 6′
  • 2.5″ exterior wood screws
  • 1.25 CY of mulch/topsoil mix
  • Landscape fabric
  • Starter plants (or seeds)
  • Mulch

How To

  1. At the Lumber Yard

    Assemble the supplies and tools before main working day
        Makes the project feel much smoother

  2. Cut two of the 2×6’s in half for the short ends
  3. Cut the 2×4’s in thirds, and cut a pointed end on one side
        Now you have six 2′ pointed stakes
  4. Clamp 2 boards together to make each wall
  5. Drill, screw together onto a stake at each end and in middle of long walls.
        Pointy ends extending past the wall (so you can anchor box in ground)
  6. Cut away grass with pick axe / shovel and level out ground
  7. Install box in ground, pound stakes in with mallet
  8. Add landscape fabric
        Step 8 was forgotten (after purchasing fabric!) in the Southern Fried Planter.  Damnit.  
  9. Add compost/topsoil mix.
    Step on it to compact after every few inches.  Also, stinky.
  10.  Plant your plants
    More fun / involved would be grow your seeds into small plants in pots & planting soil inside.  Next year.
  11. Add mulch
    Keeps down weeds, and keeps soil more moist in hot months

All can be done in a Saturday. I have to admit though, that I split into shorter stints over 2 weekends. Also, my dirt chiefs were better in short bursts. After and hr or 2, the boys were falling apart and losing interest. After a break, some swinging, and snacks – they’d re-engage.  I didn’t mind a break or two myself.

We also installed a 2 ft wire fence around the planter because our dog is spitting image of Marley from “Marley & Me.”   She’s 11 and is still a lunatic.  She was already starting to dig in the topsoil before we finished.  I had to re-supply a bit.  That delayed planting until the second weekend.

Also a good option I’ve seen is a seat ledge along the top of each wall.  Here is a picture.  This can be done with 1x6s (or probably 1x4s), with ends cut at 45 degrees.

Lowe’s has a more detailed install guide that is roughly the same as this.  They have clear graphics that can help.  They use different sized wood, but either works.
But they use pine wood, which will rot over time.  It’s cheaper, and they wrap a side with plastic, but I still wouldn’t recommend it.  Also stay away from pressure-treated pine since you’re growing edible plants.  Cedar doesn’t have the rotting & bug problems.  And has a great look as it ages.

Today

Healthy Plants…Who’da Guessed? Come on Veggies!

We’re closing in on something to eat.  ALL of our plants are still alive and growing!  I was handicapping us at 1/3 survival rate.

We went with (left to right) tomatoes, jalapeños, bell peppers, herbs, and cucumbers.  Next year, I’ll sneak a watermelon in there.  Maybe some blueberries too.

It’s been just great to check on our veggies with the kids.  They’ve helped us water them.  And they are so excited to start picking them.  And they’ve learned a ton about where our food actually comes from.  A wonderful project for a weekend (or 2) that turns into fun & food for years!

2 thoughts on “Let There Be Veggies!

  1. It’s fun growing bell peppers and watching them turn from green to red. Watermelons we had a tough time with as they take A LOT of water. Plus I believe it was too hot in the area I lived in. So they would crack while they were small. Also, you learn to deflower the vines a bit, or every watermelon wanting to sprout will fight for nutrients/water no resulting in a good yield.

    The garden looks great. It nice when you can get the kids involved. I always find it so rewarding when growing one’s own harvest.

    1. Oh I’m sure our gardening experiment will have all the issues/mistakes you mentioned. But as you said, anything that actually makes it to our table will be very rewarding. And hopefully tasty!

      Also, I wish I was mature enough to read deflowering without giggling.

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