This spring my friend Tara and I tackled this project together. Here’s a list of materials and costs:
- wood (two 16′ 2×10 boards, one 8′ 2×10 board-$31 total)
- 16 corner brackets ($.56 each, $9)
- wood stain (1 can from the “oops” pile-$5)
- screws ($5)
- miscellaneous parts ($3)
- weed mat (free)
- kite string (free)
- 1 bale peat moss ($8)
- 1 bag perlite ($13)
- 3 bags chicken compost ($11)
- 11 bags steer compost ($15)
- 6 gallon bucket of coffee grounds (free)
Total Cost: $100
Tools and equipment:
- electric drill
First, of course, we made a plan. We visited the site and decided where to put the boxes and how big they should be. Since we were building against a fence, we made them only two feet deep (as far as it’s comfortable to reach). One box was 7′, the other 9′. Then we made a shopping list, and it was off to Home Depot and Wal-Mart.
We made a bit of a mistake at HD-we allowed the store employee to pick our boards for us (they were heavy!). But they turned out to be bent and warped. This was a pain later on. Take the time to select really flat, straight wood. Look for splits and knots. It seemed that it was easier to get shorter boards that were straight–the 16 footers all seemed problematic.
Since we knew the exact lengths we needed, we had the HD employee to cut the wood right there. We had him cut the two 16′ boards into 9′ and 7′, and the 8′ board into 2′ sections (four of them).
We lay the boards on a flat surface (patio) and screwed the corner brackets on the insides. At first we drilled pilot holes, but soon decided it was not necessary. We used two brackets per corner, and secured one in each corner, squared it up, then screwed in the rest.
Upon the advice of the guy at HD, we bought stain and stained the boxes. We were lucky to get a cheap can of stain in the “oops” pile, but in the end we really liked the color. We propped it up so we could get the sides, bottom, and top.
One of us stained, while the other prepped the area. We had to pull some weeds, plants, and move a sprinkler head. Then we lay down the weed mat, and put our boxes in place.
Instead of combining the Mel’s Mix on a tarp, we just mixed it in the box. This was much easier than with vinyl boxes because the wood is sturdier and won’t pop apart. We started with a layer of compost (some chicken, some steer) then added peat moss and mixed it up. We found it necessary to use our hands because the peat tends to clump otherwise. Then we added perlite (a cheaper option than vermiculite), mixed again, and then more compost on the top, along with the coffee grounds.
Finally, we drilled screws into the tops at 12″ intervals to divide the gardens into squares. We used kite string–it is made of nylon but it’s strong and thin. I tied on the ends, but just wound around the screws in the middle. If you look close you can see how I did it:
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