Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The accidental urban girl's Tuesday guide to thrifty and natural living

I'm going to start a new Tuesday topic on urban, thrifty, natural living.  Check in each Tuesday for another installment. 

Some ideas this week on home-made planter boxes.  To double our planting space Phil and I decided to build two raised planters on the deck.  We also decided to try and trellis several things to maximize our space and grow as much as possible in our 15 x 30 foot back patio.
It should be noted that neither of us have a tremendous amount of wood working experience.  But we figured we could slog our way though it.  We started by measuring our space and drawing up some sketches.  We then visited our local used building supply store to see what kind of materials were available.  We purchased  the wood, screws and nails for the white planter for somewhere around $30.   The tools we used consisted of a skill saw, drill, measuring tape, hammer and some good old common sense. We borrowed the skill saw from some neighbors.  We could have rented it from a local hardware store or the reuse center if that wasn't available.  We own our drill but that too could have been rented if we'd needed to.  The large planter box is about 8 feet by 2.5 feet and 18 inches deep.  It does have a bottom.  We ended up making a frame out of two by fours and nailing white picket fence rails around to hold the dirt.  It is also lined with plastic to keep the dirt in place.  We made sure to punch lots of holes in the bottom of the plastic for drainage.  The trellis type thing going up to the deck is just that: a trellis.  The nylon rope was less expensive then building or buying a wooden one. We are also working with a sometimes very windy place.  Our hope is that the rope will be more flexable then wood.  The embellishment on the front of the box was just something we had kicking around.

The materials for the smaller cedar planter were free.   A couple days after we finished the white planter  some neighbors took down their perfectly useable cedar fence and redwood deck.  They were going to trash the wood until we offered to take it off their hands.  It is about 2.5 feet by 3.5 feet and a similar construction to the larger one with a 2 x 4 base (just built a little better).  Hey we're quick studies.

If you don't want to buy wood look for a local yahoo freecycle group.  (I recommend entering your town and state instead of your zip code.) Frecycle is a national organization with local chapters.  It uses yahoo groups to distribute information.  It's purpose is to reuse things that might otherwise go to the landfil.  You can offer things you no longer use or want and also ask for things others offer.  It is all free!  If freecycle doesn't yield wood keep your eyes open.  Ask builders at building sites if they have wood they won't use or have pulled out of the building project.  Do be careful with what you choose though.  Remember you'll be planting food in these boxes and some woods have been treated with things you don't want to eat.  An example of what not to use would be old railroad ties.  They are treated with creosote and you don't want that leaching into your planter soil.

The dirt was the most expensive part of this endeavor.   We ordered it by the cubic yard and went in on it with neighbors to share the cost of delivery.  I recommend ordering from a landscape materials supplier if you'll need any kind of large quantity.  Ask questions about the dirt you are buying.  You want to know what is in it and where it came from.  Ask if you'll have to amend it or if you can use it just as it is.  For $35 we got one cubic yard (that's 1500lb). One cubic yard filled both our planters by the way.   Bagged that quantity would have cost us between $100 and $200 depending on the kind of dirt we chose.

The plants we'll be planting were all started from seed in March.  Much less expensive than buying starts.  Our seedlings are ready for planting now if only the weather would cooperate.

Good luck building and planting.  Here's to growing our own food!

1 comment:

  1. Yay to growing your own food! Maybe we could live down the path from each other to divide up the responsibilities of sustainable farming. huh? I just have a few pots of stuff here, but a big garden would be great. Looking forward to seeing your progress.