Whether you’re a seasoned green thumb, a seasonal hobbyist, or a newbie thinking about growing your own tomatoes, spring garden season is here. It’s time to get planting. You don’t even have to get your knees dirty! Garden boxes allow you to garden almost anywhere, on your own terms. With some simple materials and a little elbow grease, you can construct your own.
Garden boxes allow you to garden virtually anywhere – even an apartment balcony. They are portable, flexible and versatile. No matter what your individual needs, a garden box can be anything you want it to be. They’re easy to build, affordable – and an incredibly effective way to garden.
If you’re not the handy type, or just don’t like building things, there are easy to assemble garden box kits available on the market. You’ll be up and running within an hour. But if you’re ready to create your own custom garden box, here is a primer.
How to Pick the Proper Wood
When it comes to choosing wood for your garden box, you will have a lot of options. It all comes down to your own personal taste and style. Everything from exquisite hardwoods like Mangaris and Brazilian Ipe to gorgeous Cedar to workmanlike Douglas Fir are suitable for garden boxes. However, your best bet, and the most popular wood for garden boxes is California Redwood. Redwood is rot and insect resistant, so you can be confident that your structure will hold up to the elements, and your garden will thrive. It’s also affordable, easy to work with and undeniably gorgeous.
Redwood is generally available in both finished and rough as well as merchant grade lumber. rough sawn and merchant grade redwood comes at a lower price, and gives your garden box the look of a true DIY project. It’s also a bit thicker than finished Redwood, so it will last longer. Your local lumber distributer should have a wide variety of materials to choose from. Pay them a visit to get a feel for the type of wood that’s right for you.
Important: Do not use pressure treated lumber for your garden box. The chemicals in the wood can spoil your soil and damage your crops.
Tips for Building Your Garden Box
Building a garden box is a simple affair. While you could conceivably build a garden box with asymmetric angles, there’s really no reason to do so. A garden box should have 90 degree angles and be a rectangular or square shape, depending on your needs. Redwood and other materials are readily available in 12”x2” boards, and can be cut to your preferred length and height by your lumber distributor, or at home with a simple circular saw. The depth of your garden box will depend on the type of plants you plan to grow. Beets, broccoli, okra, potatoes, sweet corn, summer squash and dill prefer deeper soil, but 18” is a safe depth for just about anything you want to grow. Simple 4”x4” boards are perfect for the corners of your garden box. They will provide more than enough support and strength. The only hardware needed for a simple garden box is a handful of quality wood screws.
What you’ll need to get started: 12”x2” wood boards, 2”x6” wood boards, 4”x4” wood posts, wood screws, power drill, circular saw.
It’s Your DIY - Get Creative!
Once you have your materials and tools ready, it’s time to lay out your design. The beauty of the garden box is that you can design it to fit your needs, so get creative!
Go Big! (or small)
Depending on your available space, you can build a garden box to any size you require. If you have a lot of space, why not go big? Garden boxes have an advantage over in-ground gardens because they allow you to control the soil and water contents of your garden. Both beginners and gardening vets will enjoy the garden box’s ease of use and pest control benefits.
If you live in an apartment, a small garden box will allow you to exercise your green thumb in an otherwise urban setting. A simple 2’x2’ box might not yield a barn full of crops, but there’s nothing quite like freshly grown tomatoes and basil to impress your dinner guests.
Building your garden box on top of raised legs is simple and has several benefits. A raised garden bed helps keeps pesky critters from snacking on your crops. It helps you keep your soil pure, as it will not mix with ground soil. It improves soil drainage so that your crops don’t suffer from root rot in heavy rain events, and it allows you to water and tend to your garden without bending down or kneeling, which is good for your back and means you’ll never have to wear those knee pads again!
Plants have very basic needs: soil, water and sun. Soil and water are the easy part. The sun, however, bends to no man’s will. As a general rule, plants and vegetables grow best when exposed to 6-8 hours of sunlight per day. While the sun will reliably rise each day, the position of your home and your garden may not allow for full sunlight throughout the day. Unless you add wheels! Installing wheels on your garden bed is a simple procedure, and will turn it into a sun-seeking machine that delivers optimal yields.
The growth in popularity of the garden box is opening new doors for both seasoned and new gardeners, allowing more people to grow their own fresh, healthy foods regardless of where they live. Ready to join the revolution? Build it, and they will grow!
About the Author: Jordan Feil is the marketing coordinator and inventory manager at J&W Lumber, an outdoor building supplier in Southern California. Before the lumber industry, he ran his own online magazine and worked in sales and marketing for nearly a decade. For the past year, Jordan has worked tirelessly to bring quality, consistency, and a bit of humor to the J&W brand.
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