Thursday, September 19, 2013

Garden Boxes

I suppose it's a bit late to say this since fall is right around the corner, but I really enjoy spring (fall too!). I enjoy seeing the leaves turn green, the flowers blooming, hearing the birds sing, and definitely the warmer weather. The only part about spring that I dislike, is the excess pollen which makes my eyes water and nose run and tickles my throat. But I accept the pollen because I know it makes the bees happy, which makes my plants happy, which when I bite into a juicy tomato from the garden, makes me very happy.

Shortly after completing the fence (For more info read- Why we wanted a fence, How we selected the fence, and How we put the fence together Parts One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven,  and Eight.), we began the construction of the garden boxes. After much calculation and discussion of what types of plants we wanted, which varieties were perennials and annuals, and how much sun each plant needed, we decided to line one side of the backyard with raised garden beds. Building the fence taught us that we had hard red clay about 8 inches in the ground so planting in raised beds would give the plant roots extra room. Building and planting in raised beds is a first for both of us as we have planted directly on the ground in previous years. There were definitely some lessons learned.

Materials cut and ready for assembly
Before we began building the beds, we measured, cut and laid the materials where we thought we would begin. The garden beds next to the fence would become permanent beds for the asparagus. Having never grown asparagus, our research told us that they have the potential to grow up to five feet in height, so we located them where they would not block the other others plants and to serve as an annual sound barrier.
Assembling the boxes
Because our lot is sloped, we decided to tier the raised bed along this side to mimic the tiers on the fence. One by one, each panel was put together and then the box was constructed in place. When the side garden bed was finished we had a 30 inch wide by 40 foot long space (about 100 square feet!) for asparagus.

We then began assembling the freestanding boxes. Perhaps it would have been smarter for us to build a "test box" before starting this project, but it quickly became a learn-as-you-go experience. After building the side garden bed, we pulled out the Kreg jig to create pocket holes in the ends of the 2x4. We learned that creating panels was the easiest method. In assembly line fashion, we measured and cut the 4x4 posts for the corners and stacked them together. Then we measured and cut the 2x4 end pieces 32" long with six pieces for each box and stacked those together. After all the cuts were made, we pulled out the Kreg jig and drilled two pocket holes in each end of the 2x4 for both the 32" long pieces and the 8 foot pieces (6 for each box) that would make up the sides.

Using the Kreg jig to make pocket holes in the 2x4
(I failed to photograph how we assembled the boxes, but hopefully this gives a general idea.)  Continuing our assembly line, we built one side panel drilling three 8 foot 2x4 into the 4x4 corners, one on each end. After building all of the side panels, we took one long side panel and attached it to the short panel forming an L. We did this for all of the remaining panels keeping in mind which direction the L was supposed to face.  Then we connected the two L panels to form a rectangular box.

Garden boxes assembled and stained
Using this method, we built eight 34 inch by 8 foot long beds totaling approximately 180 square feet of freestanding raised bed garden space. After assembly, but before filling the boxes, The Mister sealed the garden beds using about 4.5 gallons of cedar toned wood sealer.

Garden boxes assembled and stained. The fence is not yet stained and the unstained garden boxes can be seen along the back of the property. 
It didn't take us long to discover that after a while of sitting in the sun and having the pressure of the soil on them, the 8 foot pieces of 2x4 began to bow. This can be seen in some of the later pictures. Now that the boxes were filled, we felt it was a bit late to disassemble them and reinforce the long pieces. Call it another lesson learned. So when we began working on the garden bed at the back of the property, we used the Kreg jig to drill pocket holes into the sides going up and down to secure the 8 foot boards to one another. (Again I failed to take photos. I guess that's what happens when you have two people holding onto boards and saws and drills.)

All in all, we have about 500 square feet of planting space. The Mister already has plans to increase this amount. I just hope this means we have more room for tomatoes. :)

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