Well, well, look what magically appeared in my yard this weekend…
By “magically appeared” I mean “were brought into existence by the blood, sweat, and tears of yours truly” obv.
Here’s why this is exciting: It means that one day this will be an actual farm with an actual vegetable garden. Something I’ve been dreaming about for years. In fact four years ago I built some massively sturdy beds at the Memorial House for $150 apiece. $150 you guys. (You can read more about the construction of those behemoths here.)
You want to talk about a sturdy piece of landscaping? MysteryMan’s grandpa almost ran over one of these things with the tractor and the tractor bounced off of it. BUT the garden I’m planning at the Liberty house is going to have 20 raised beds. That’s $2500 just for garden boxes. Just no.
I knew there had to be a cheaper way to do this and I was determined to figure it out because, hello, I have a dozen mouths to feed on this property all of the sudden. It was when I was at the lumber yard looking at fencing for yet another project, when the skies parted and the angels started to sing because there–right in front of my face–were 6′ long 1×6 cedar fence boards for $2.25 apiece.
Not nearly as indestructible as the 2×6’s I built my first beds out of, but for less than three bucks I figured it was worth knocking a couple of boxes together to see how they held up. And by “a couple” I mean six. (For $25 each. Have I mentioned that part yet?)
This is what six boxes worth of lumber (plus a few 2x4s for my in-progress chicken coop) look like stacked in the back of my vehicle. Along with a spare tire (don’t ask.)
- 6 -6″ cedar fence pickets (5/8″ thick, 6′ long)
- 1+ cedar 2×4 (6 19″ sections per bed)
- 1-5/8″ deck screws
- Bigass miter saw
They measure just under 3’x6′, are about 11″ deep, and are light enough that I could pick them up and haul them around the property on my own, which is not an insignificant feature when you live in the middle of nowhere by yourself.
So, here’s how assembly went down…
These fence boards were dog-eared at one end, so I stacked them 3 at-a-time on the miter saw and cut the last inch of the boards off.
For each bed, I’d leave 4 of the boards just like that, and the other two boards I cut in half.
I made this job easier on myself by setting the stops on my miter stand at the right length so that I could just throw the boards up on the saw and cut them without measuring.
(If you have room for a proper miter saw stand, it’s worth it for this alone.)
I used the same trick to cut the 2×4’s for the posts down to 19″ (five to a board) and at the end of thirty minutes had six piles of lumber ready to be assembled into boxes.
Then came the pre-drilling portion of our program. I hate pre-drilling but with a 5/8″ thick board I didn’t want to risk any splitting, so the Makita and I spent some quality time together…
I heart this drill.
Next up, assembly. Much easier if you have a concrete pad or some other flat surface to put everything together on.
Once the long sides were done I flipped them up on end and attached the short sides…
Just like that.
If you’re looking for a beginner woodworking or outdoor project, I would highly recommend this one. It’s cheap and there’s almost no way to mess it up. There is a way to get a centimeter long splinter in your finger though so, you know, run your hands lovingly over rough-cut cedar at your own risk.
On Sunday I assembled four of the six boxes. I haven’t installed any at Liberty yet because I’m still finalizing plans for the garden and chicken coop, but two of the boxes were for some friends, and we did get those in the ground…
They were actually much sturdier than I expected once they were set in the ground. To finish them off we’ll install some weed barrier fabric (or cardboard) in the bottom of the boxes, fill them with topsoil, and farm away.
I’m also planning to install a weed barrier around the boxes and fill the “walking paths” with some pea gravel. A ridiculously large pile of which was conveniently deposited in my driveway this weekend.
That’s going to be a not insignificant amount of time spent with a shovel and wheelbarrow this spring.
2015 Update: Three years later I’m still building and installing the beds for my garden. This is how it’s shaping up: