The first time I ever tasted something that didn’t end up in my mouth via the grocery store, I was seven. My mom and I lived in a small condo in an area of Orange County that was still in the early stages of development. The sounds of beastly backhoes and bulldozers were the background to the soundtrack of my life for years as I watched suburbs grow around our condo complex.
Just outside our front door was a small patch of greenery, mostly generic looking bushes and plants like ribbon grass and rosemary that required little attention. The one exception was three strawberry plants my mother had planted when we moved in. The first time I tasted one of those strawberries, I realized what grocery store produce was missing. This was what a strawberry was supposed to taste like… juicy and sweet with a hint of tartness. The grocery store strawberries I’d been eating up until that moment, were missing the deep red hue, dripping sweetness and intense flavor that burst from my mom’s strawberries. That strawberry introduced me to the world of growing your own food.
The house I live in now has a gigantic backyard that my husband and I have been slowly fixing up. The newest addition is our first raised bed wood planter box. We’ve been wanting to make use of all the space for the past few years and when I read Delilah’s post about her goals for 2014 and saw the amazing raised bed planter boxes she created from scrap wood, I got inspired. I knew this was finally the spring that I would make it happen in my own yard.
I was surprised at how easy and inexpensive the boxes were to build. Since we didn’t have any scrap wood, we had to buy lumber but the whole thing minus the dirt (I had no idea how expensive dirt and soil is!) cost under $100. If you can get your hands on some scrap wood or free soil or dirt, do it! Start hunting on Craig’s List asap.
This morning as I watered the sprouts that will soon be radishes, peas, arugula, mizuna and beets in our planter box, I couldn’t help but think of the sweetness of that first strawberry that my mom grew next to the porch at our condo. I know my beets won’t have the sweetness or juiciness of a strawberry, but with a little butter and sea salt, I think they’ll do just fine.
what to get:
Drill (plus drill bit slightly smaller than your screws and phillips head bit)
Staple gun + staples
16 3.5 to 4 inch long screws
16 metal washers that fit your screw size
2 pieces of wood (1.5 inches x 12 feet x 1 foot)
2 pieces of wood (1.5 inches x 4 feet x 1 foot)
4 pieces of wood for the corners ours are 3×3 and 1 foot tall
Chicken wire – it depends on the width of the wire you get but enough to go across the bottom of the finished box, so pieces about 12.5 feet long and 3.5 feet wide
‘Weedblock’ fabric – This helps keep unwanted weeds from getting into your planter box. It depends on the width of the fabric you get but enough to go across the bottom of the finished box and halfway up the sides, so pieces about 14-15 feet long and 4+ feet wide
Lots and lots of soil/dirt – For our box we figured we’d need 27 cubic feet but actually had to go back and get more. We used about 32 cubic feet total. Half of the bags were potting soil and half of them were potting mix. Ask someone at your local gardening store about what kind of soil you need, they’ll take into consideration what you’re planting.
*Adjustments + notes: You can adjust the size of your wood to make a smaller box. I don’t suggest making one too much larger than ours. Remember you have to be able to reach across it to plant, prune and harvest. If you have a lot of things to plant or don’t have someone to assist you, I suggest making several smaller boxes. This is a two person job! The wood is super heavy. Check out Delilah’s amazing planter boxes that she built with recycled wood here.
what to do:
1. Set two of the corner pieces down flat on the ground and set one of the 4 foot pieces on top. Drill four holes through the 4 foot piece and the corner piece. Our holes are about 1 inch from the corners. Repeat for the other two corner pieces and 4 foot piece.
2. Set the washer over the hole you drilled and drill the screw in. We used a ratchet to make sure the screw was in as far as possible. Repeat for the other three sides of the 4 foot sides. Now your sides are done!
3. Now using your helper (or two helpers if you have them) lay down one of the 12 foot sides on the ground and set the 4 foot sides on top of it at each end. *See photo below. Set the other 12 foot piece of wood on top of the 4 foot sides. now repeat stepss 1 and 2 (ie: drill the holes, set the washers on top and screw in the screws).
4. Flip the box frame over so that the bolted in end is down on the ground and the open up is facing up. Set the other 12 foot piece of wood on top and repeat step 3 for this side. Now… your frame is done!
*This is our finished box. Notice the chicken wire around the outside. This is not essential. Our chickens roam free in our backyard and love to snack on our flowers and veggies. We added this to keep them out (so far it has worked). When it’s time to prune, harvest or replant, we can pull off one of the sides of chicken and restaple when we’re done. This is a temporary solution until we build a chicken run.