Sunday, April 15, 2012

Our Super Cheap and Simple Raised Garden Bed

It's been 10 days since I've posted and man have we been busy! My Mom was here with us for a week plus and I tend to not blog when we have guests - especially when we stay really super busy and are exhausted at night time. She helped us knock out many outdoor projects in addition to doing the dishes for us every night (that was soooooo nice!) and of course we all played with the kids. 

In the past 10 days, we also started our very major fence project and finished our big garden project. So the question is: Where do I start?!?!?! Hmmmm...I think I'll start with our garden. Here it is in all its finished glory.

Remember when I showed you all the plants we bought at Home Depot half price. We'll I bought them knowing I wouldn't get to them for a week at least until my Mom arrived but between both of us (my Mom and I) getting food poisoning and being out of commission for 24 hours and all the other things we worked on, we didn't get to it. So after I took her to the airport yesterday and got lost on my way back which set me back at least 30 minutes because I totally was not paying attention), I was determined to get that garden dug up (it had been two weeks already!). 

We decided to do a simple raised garden bed that would be 8 feet by 4 feet. We went with the 8 feet because that is a standard board length and one board cut in half would give us our 4 foot width. This would only take 3 boards in total.

First I laid out one of my 8 foot long cedar boards (I got the BEST deal ever on these boards - more on that below!) and used a shovel to break ground along the outline. Our box is placed two feet from the house to give us enough room to reach the weeds from that side and it goes along the length of the back of the house. The dead patch of grass is from where the turtle dirt box (because it has dirt in it and not sand) use to be. Between that spot and where the turtle lies below, there was about a third less grass that needed to be dug up. Once I broke ground with the shovel, I used our new spade to skim the grass off. Although we don't have a lot of garden tools, thankfully I wasn't resigned to using Ruby's play shovel to do this.

Pretty quickly I came across these seriously nasty little buggers. Grubs. Just a couple days ago I mentioned (to my Mom I think...maybe Aaron...not sure anymore) if the reason why we have birds in our yard a lot is because we have some type of bug or grub in it. Now I know.  Bummer.  I figured this meant I would have to treat it before I could plant it. After doing some quick research and a trip to Home Depot last night for soil and grub killer, I decided to let them go for now. I learned that the grubs are at the end of their "grubby" stage and eat less as they're about to turn into a beetle now that spring has arrived. When the beetle lays eggs in the ground in a few months will be the best time to get rid of them since when they hatch they like to eat a lot.

We checked our measurements here and there with our tape measure and kept digging. I saved all the sod but not sure I'll be using it since we have a grub problem. Also, it isn't great grass and some of it has clover in it so I'm not sure we should save it for other spots in our yard that need help.

After what I'd guess was about a couple hours work (I got a little help from Aaron otherwise I proudly did this one myself) while watching both kids (Ruby partaking in the digging activities and Archer playing on his blanket on the lawn), I had the grass dug out for a 8 foot by 4 foot raised garden bed.

The boards I got for the garden bed are 5/4s thick (which is technically 1 inch thick), 6 inches wide and 8 feet long. And like I mentioned above, I got the best deal on these at Lowe's. There were some boards that were beat up so I thought I'd try getting them marked down. The guy that helped me did some talking on the radio and said I could have them all half off! Say what?!? That would make these $8.10 boards $4.05 each. This must be too good to be true and I was afraid to say anything lest he change his mind and realize how silly it was. The boards weren't that bad after all and I thought he'd just quickly pick through (there were only 10 total) and tell me which ones he'd mark down. So after doing some phone consulting with Aaron, I took 7 of them even though I only needed 3 and left the worst ones there. Schawing! Okay maybe I wouldn't say that aloud to anyone other than Aaron but I definitely say it in my head!

That means that our raised garden box (minus the soil and stuff I bought) only cost $12. That is a far cry from the $35 that Home Depot charges for a box that is half the size albeit it does look a little fancier. But since it's a garden, I'm not going for super fancy. So my tip is it doesn't really matter if the board is perfect for this project. Look for some less than stellar boards and ask them to mark them down - this has worked for me at both Lowe's and Home Depot.

After I returned from Home Depot late last night, we went to work on the box. Once we made our one cut and kregged holes on the short boards. We laid the pieces our on our porch since it was the only space that had lighting (our garage is not big enough and even if it was I'm sure it wouldn't be clean enough).

Here's a close up of the kregged holes. We really wanted to keep this box simple so this is how we attached the boards and we didn't do any other re-enforcing or worry to much about whether the box was square.

We definitely waited too long to buy this special kreg c-clamp which you shouldn't live without if you're a kreg user (but it will set you back $20 plus). You have to have at least two kreg holes to use it since it fits inside one to hold in place while you kreg the other hole. 

Aaron drove one screw in and we decided to call it quits there because it was so loud and it was around 10pm. Even though our kids are use to these types of noises at night (the driver is sooooo loud but it works beautifully and even has a little flash light on it so you can see in darker spaces), we're pretty close to our neighbors, geographically speaking, and didn't want to wake any other kids up.

Putting it together the next morning did go really quickly since we had everything laid out. We used 3 screws in each corner.

The box didn't fit exactly into the space we had dug up so we had to dig a little more and also dig down in some places so that it would sit fairly level and flat on the ground surface.

We did pull out our level to check but we weren't too wrapped up with making it perfect other than making sure we didn't slop it towards the house and foundation so that we don't purposely have water heading in the direction of our basement. We also went though the space with our shovel to break up the earth so that it could be mixed with the soil that we bought to add. We used our little cultivator hand tool to break up the clumps.

I had almost psyched myself into thinking that I needed to buy a full-size garden rake and hoe for this project but we made due perfectly well and I'm glad I saved the $30 on that for now. With that said, if this had been a larger garden I'd probably be singing to a much different tune.

I picked up top soil since it's the cheapest and provides a foundation for the garden but didn't end up using any since we had plenty already. The boards are set slightly into the ground and once we had it all tilled up, we really only needed to fill about 3 inches of depth.

We added four bags of Scott's Humus and Manure Mix which was slightly under the recommended six bags for 24 sq ft) and worked it into the original soil with a shovel and the hand cultivator tool.

We then added three bags of Vigoro's Organic Garden Soil but forgot to get a picture. I bet you miss another shot of dirt, huh? What, you don't?

We then very loosely laid out our plants and read the little labels to figure out how far apart to plant everything. 

And ta da! In just over 24 hours we we're done! We'll still need to add some trellis for the snap peas to grow up and water it every day (it's conveniently located a few feet from our water spout) but otherwise it is done! We kept Ruby busy by having her help us drop the plants into the holes and sticking the labels into the box. I will definitely need to make a little garden map though because I have a feeling those little labels may be doing some random moving from time to time. 

We ended up not having enough space for all the veggies and the box was looking sort of small to us in the end. That is pretty funny to us since literally up until the moment we started putting in the garden soil, we thought it was way too big and that we would have to insert a divider so that we'd only fill and use half of the box this year. Ha ha!

Once we cleaned up a bit we got everything watered which seems to be a favorite task as we were fighting over who would get to do it. Aaron won and Ruby helped. Such a cute little helper. We'll have to remember how good it felt to water everything after all our hard work as we continue to water the garden all summer.

Here's a view from the top taken from our dollhouse bathroom window (moniker given to the bathroom by my Mom). We didn't follow any directions to a tee (we used less soil than instructed on the bags, planted our plants a little closer than recommended and made a super basic box) but we're looking at this as a learning experience (this spot will even hopefully become a patio someday so nothing about this project is permanent). We want to grow our own vegetables and know that until we try it, we won't know if we'll fail or not (failing in the sense that it doesn't get enough sun because it's obstructed by trees or I waited to long to plant, etc...). 

Overall the garden bed (not including the vegetables) cost about $50.

Cedar boards (for the three that I used) - $12
Humus and Manure bags (4 bags) - $10
Organic Garden Soil (3 bags) - $18
Garden Spade (can't remember exact cost) - $10

I saved money but not buying as many bags as the bag says (I wonder how much of it is necessary and how much they're just trying to get you to buy more so they make more money) and by not buying a garden rake or hoe.

In addition to our garden, I also got our Roma tomato plants into pots with some extra organic tomato fertilizer.

I also planted our Rosemary and English lavendar plants up in our front lawn landscaping in front of our porch - we were out of space and this seemed like a nice spot for them.

I did include some garden soil and soon we plan to give this area a fresh layer of mulch which is waiting for us in our garage. Isn't our water drainage system lovely?

I've still got a few more things to plant so I think I may stop by Wal-Mart during my lunch tomorrow to pick up some of their cheap plastic pots (and an electric carving knife to cut the 3 inch thick foam for our window seat - last update on the window seat/double desk project here and the final update on this coming soon!)

So what kind of productiveness have you been up to? Got any advice on grubs? Or on raised garden beds?

15 comments:

  1. I love your garden! I'm terrible at gardening though so no tips :(

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    1. Awww thanks! Yes as much as I love it, it has been a long time since I've gardened so I a little nervous on the outcome!

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  2. looks good. my hubby has two of those. and last year we had tomatoes out of our ears. hope yours does well.

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    1. thanks Sarah! I hope they work since there is no perfect spot in our yard in terms of sunlight.

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  3. Looks awesome! I put my garden layout into a google document spreadsheet. It's super easy. Now I can't lose it since it's on the internet and I can share it with other people pretty easily.

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    1. That is a good idea! Plus you can look at it year after year to see how you want to change it.

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  4. One thing to keep in mind is that if it gets hot were you live, you want to mulch around the plants, so to keep the ground moist. You'll love your homegrown veggies!

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    1. Thanks for the tip Daniela! I only wish it were hot enough to worry about that right now...we're having rainy, 50 degree weather now. Boo. I do think we'll need to put some kind of fencing around it since something already chewed three broccoli plants off at the stem.

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  5. Love your design. I don't have space to put a garden in my yard so I was forced to put it on my patio. I got all crazy and built a self watering, 4x4, raised kitchen garden "potager" check it out if you have time! http://serendipity-kfj.blogspot.com/2012/04/inspiration-and-filling-my-potager.html

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  6. love this idea!!!

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  7. Oh my gosh! Daddy and Ruby together look so cute!! :) Love the garden! Mom and Frank just did the same thing in their backyard this weekend! :)

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  8. That looks fantastic Great job!

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  9. We built some boxes just like this about 5 years ago. They worked great while they lasted. But by the end of the 5th year, they had rotted out and had to be replaced. If you want a more permanent box, consider using landscaping blocks.

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