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Building Planterbox, Need Advice  RSS feed

 
Eric Briggs
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Hello!

I am planning to construct a raised planter box and I am looking for the most effective/economical way of doing so.  The planter will be used for edibles and I expect to use some variation of the square foot gardening method.

Here's what I am thinking so far:

Construction: raised bed (about a foot), rectangular (4' by 8', with stakes to define each corner.  The stakes also support crossbars with bird netting to reduce predation.  Not being a particularly wealthy dude, I am leaning towards walls and floors of chicken wire to deter gophers and lined on the sides with that omnipresent black plastic to retain soil.

Contents: I saw a video somewhere (thought I bookmarked it, but didn't) where a woman filled a planter box with layers of logs, then straw, and maybe sand, sawdust, and cardboard, and perhaps ashes.  It seemed to be quite fertile.  I have access to logs and straw as well as sandy soil and lots of clay soil.  I can of course purchase potting mixes and whatnot from gardening suppliers, but I would prefer to do things on the free where possible.

Any advice on how to cut costs while still making a durable structure that performs well and does not look overly ghetto?
 
                                  
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Old tractor tires make for great garden beds, not sure if that qualifies as overly ghetto though...

I like to cut the side walls of the tires, then place some cardboard on the bottom which acts as a weed barrier and well, gives me a place to get rid of my extra cardboard. Then I fill about half way with rotten wood I get from old stumps, I just bash them with a sledge hammer to crumble it all up. Then add a layer of green or partially rotted compost material and finally top soil.

I've also use a variation of this technique to grow potatoes too...  When I grow potatoes I don't use any stump dust, I fill the tire half way with top soil, lay down the potato 'seed' and add a light layer of partially rotted straw then cover with an inch or 2 of top soil. Once the potatoes are about 3" above the soil level I'll cover them up with more top soil and straw, rinse and repeat till the tire is full.

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And here's the tires all full of potatoes....
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Ernest Schneider
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In building raised beds i used chicken on the bottom of the beds, but the chicken wire rotted and allowed gophers after the second year, better to use small hole expanded metal or hardware cloth if you plan on keeping the beds more than two years.
 
George Lee
Posts: 539
Location: Athens, GA/Sunset, SC
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Here's a few I built with a light stain. It's not terribly hard. I've done carpentry for several years so it wasn't too tough. I can't say that for everyone. Some seem so inept when it comes to things like this even. haha.

I'd suggest redwood, or cedar and a pneumatic gun with the thin nails. 4 sides and a bottom can be shot from the sides in place. Legs can be shot in place on vertical.

Two varieties of tomatoes.
More shit here: http://livingwind.tumblr.com
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George Lee
Posts: 539
Location: Athens, GA/Sunset, SC
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Heirloom Anaheim peppers in the newest box. In a box like this it's deep enough to grow just about anything I've found. I've used these for several years now. For instance, the bottom photo, carrots and a potato plant. Potato cage adjacent to...
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Eric Briggs
Posts: 7
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Wow!  Those are some seriously nice photos.

Here's the thing: I'm building this as a surprise for a friend's family.  They are out of town for a little over a month, and their budget is really tight, so I wanted to make them something where they could grow a lot of their own food.  As such, I want lots of area for fairly few dollars.


I'll look into the hardware cloth.  If it is cost effective, I may do it.  But if the chicken wire rots after two years, maybe I should just try to build a nice layer of stones to prevent gopher intrusion.

Nice wood being fairly expensive, what can I use for siding as an alternative to chicken wire?
 
George Lee
Posts: 539
Location: Athens, GA/Sunset, SC
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Thanks, Canon digital. (I'm a photographer part-time) 

A few tips --

If ya know a construction worker friend, ask for untreated scraps. My dad and I do custom home building so I'm privy to all manner of wood,scrap,stone,metallics.

I'd use 'hog fencing' for the potato cages. Small narrow rectangular spacing. I've used chicken wire and it wasn't as sturdy and blew around during heavy storms.

Yeah so, try your local craigslist.org and see if someone is giving away untreated lumber. Some have a good bulk that they're willing to part with.

I'd also suggest checking your local lumber yard. A myriad of various woods and scraps to boot from the mill. A way to save it from fire, or landfill.

Most of all just have fun with it, and exercise your creativity... That tends to make people smile.

An alternative? I've collected flagstone from jobsites. Here's a onion/radish companion bed.
I've even done cedar shingles on a bed. Vine tomatoes. Check it out.
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James Stark
Posts: 79
Location: Manitoba Canada
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I found tons of 2x6 and 2x8, and even some 2x12 scraps at an RTM builder close by. They scrap anything less than 5 feet in length!!! So I just built raised beds that are 4 feet long. I like to double up the 2x6 to get a 12 inch (well 11 inch) high bed. They are strong enough that they'll hold together for a while, but I put a scrap peice of 4x4 post in each inside corner, and nail the boards to that for streingth.
As for chicken wire, landscape cloth, and all the other stuff, I don't bother. I dig nice and deep, make sure I get all the weeds out, then put a layer of stones in the hole. Then I put a good helping of loose soil on the stones and water it into the spaces (It will eventually settle if you don't and leave you wondering if the neighbors have been stealing your soil a shovel full at a time). If the stones are big enough (I go for 5 to 8 inch) the gophers wont get past them. Plus the roots of any deep rooting plant (deeper than about 13 inches, which is pretty rare for veg) will just grow in the soil between the stones.
 
Ken Peavey
steward
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Location: FL
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4' wide is a fine size.  much wider makes it difficult to reach the center without stepping in the bed.  As far as length, thats up to you.

I've used different types of lumber.  Pine rots out pretty fast in this climate.  Maple holds up longer.  Sweetgum is somewhat resistant to weathering, I got 5 years out of it vs 2 for pine.  I've never treated the wood.

For eye appeal, how about short logs about 6" across.  The bark will offer better weather resistance as will the thickness.  You can sink them so the tops are level or alternate high-low.  Level tops are nifty when you need to sit while working.  The price is right but you may have to do some hunting.  Add in some narrow sticks, say, 1" thick and longer than the logs.  Sink them into the soil deeply to give the gophers a hard time.

I've used other materials, but it can look ghetto.  Wine bottles add color and variety but there is the weed wacker to consider.  Ceramic floor tile can add vivid or subdued color but may not be large enough for your needs.  Brick is handy in that it can be dry stacked as high as you like and moved around as desired.  Patio blocks are concrete, heavy, and come in assorted colors/flavors.  Landscape blocks look great but can be expensive.  The advantage of all these materials is durability.

 
Eric Briggs
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Okay, these are all very good ideas.  I am going to do this thing, and I will let you know how it turns out!

Thanks for all your thoughts and advice.
 
John Wheeler
Posts: 41
Location: Slippery Rock, PA
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One thing I'd like to add, I have one 4x8 bed I fenced in with plastic coated hardware cloth over a decade ago, and it still looks like new. I don't know how it would hold up underground, however.

(I know, this suggestion is most assuredly too late to make a difference, but I want to know, how did it turn out?)
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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read up on hugelkulture..check out the permies forum here..google hugelkulture ..etc.

you can like the outside with any material or leave them unlined..anhy kinds of organics are good in the bed. Onlhy thing to think about is PH..if you are going to put in blueberries or anything that requires special ph soil.
 
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