Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Garden Build

Ready for a lengthy post? Planning and building a 450 square foot vegetable garden is part of what's been keeping me occupied this spring and summer. You may remember my garden of broken dreams from the past...
The worst part of this garden was that it was difficult to access, and the deer would still jump through the circus tented netting and eat the plants. It's also a difficult shape for a vegetable garden. Now this garden is back to a perennial garden (thanks to my great neighbor and all of the transplants I got from her!) and I've moved on to bigger and better gardens. Meet my new space:
My new vegetable garden has 308 square feet of planting space in one continuous bed. Here's the plan and lumber cut list:

When I was planning this garden, here's what I considered:
1. I wanted to use soaker hoses to water the plants and also didn't want to waste space between beds so the garden is one giant bed rather than eight separate 8'x4' beds.
2. Another reason why I made one continuous bed was for ease of installing deer fencing. If the beds had been separate, I would've had to build the fence around the beds, which means more fence posts, more mulch, and more fencing. The way the garden is now allows for one-100' roll of fencing to go around the entire perimeter with some extra left over for the door.
3. Maximizing lumber was essential. The dimensions of the garden allow for that. Even though I have to step into some of the beds to reach plants, it was worth it to me to keep the project economical. I used 1"x6"x12' boards and ended up needing 17 with little scrap left over. Each color on the plan above is a separate 12' board.
4. I wanted to be able to enjoy my garden. That's where the cut into the bed comes in at the top, straight back from the door. I left enough space for two chairs and a table.

After my plan was set and Bobby said he thought it was a good plan too, we started building! This is the site:

Back corner of the yard that gets full sun during the day. First step: cut that sod!

We rented a sod cutter for four hours from Home Depot. It was pretty affordable (I think it was somewhere between $40-$60) and was a like-new machine that did a great job. Getting rid of the sod was a headache .. Many landfills won't take sod, so we drove to two different places that were recommended to us before we found a third place that would take it. While Bobby cut sod, I cut lumber.
My most favorite tool in the world is the compound miter saw. I also used it to cut all the lumber for the adirondack chairs you see in the finished photos. Such a useful tool. A little while later, we had the boards going around the garden and got the corner posts set.
For the posts, I used pine 2x2s set in concrete. I know they won't last, but they'll serve their purpose until we get a privacy fence up around the yard in the next couple years. I butted together the outside boards using mending plates similar to these ones on both sides of the join. I think in the future I'm going to connect some metal braces across the beds to help relieve some of the weight of the soil on the sides, but for now these are working just fine. Next, I laid out the pattern on the inside to make sure everything would fit alright, then we stood like dorks in front of it for a picture.
Then I started drilling and screwing the inside boards together. This was probably the most time consuming part because I made them all level, then pounded in stakes (cedar 1x2s) and screwed two exterior screws into each board. I worked on one side from the door back, then the other, then connected them with the long board in the back by the seating area. I did this because I knew I was going to have to cut the back 7' board shorter to compensate for the inaccuracies in my building.
The next step was setting two more fence posts along the lengths of the garden, then filling it with a whole lotta soil.
Six yards of soil to be exact. With two workers, one wheelbarrow and a couple shovels, we filled the beds surprisingly quickly.
Next job was to put up the deer netting. I used this netting I bought on Amazon here and it's kept out the deer so far! If you have bunny issues though, this netting will not stop them from chewing through. I also put some short metal fencing around the bottom perimeter of the garden to keep the little guys out.
Make 'em work
Next stop: screen door. I really don't have any photos of this and I seriously winged it. I used 1x3x8' boards and measured the space in the door frame to get my dimensions. I made pocket holes using a Kreg Jig, which made it easy to connect the boards together and have it look nice, then put a latch on the outside and handle on the inside.

After the door came the planting...
Then the mulch... (note that this whole project is over the course of about four months)
I used landscaping weed fabric and pegs to hold it down on the paths. For the mulch, I purchased eight bags of cedar mulch at Lowe's because even though it costs more than having it delivered by truck, I needed less than a yard for the paths and the minimum to have it delivered was three yards. The bags were super easy anyway, because I could transport them in my car, then easily haul, dump and spread where I needed it. 

And .. That's it! Added a couple chairs and a table and it's complete! 
This has been a really great garden. I was concerned when I first started building that I wouldn't dedicate much time to it since I hadn't with my gardens in the past, but I've found that it's so nice to easily access the beds and to have a nice place to relax, read and even eat in the garden. I've been regularly spending time out there and it's really therapeutic after being in the office all day. I'm so happy I built it!