Building the Vegetable Garden
A big part of the appeal of our own home was the promise of soil in which to grow things. So far we’ve managed in pots (this raised garden was great for the office) but Simon was keen to plant his fruit trees and there’s just something about your own patch to potter in.
There was plenty to get on with inside the house, but with the sun shining we figured it wise to get things going now so we can enjoy the literal fruits of our labour over the summer. I was inspired by Drea’s garden beds but wanted to hide the support posts on the inside of the galvanised sheets. I realised why they had the posts on the outside – once you start filling it with dirt things begin to bulge. We originally had only 9 screws in each sheet but upped it to 15 to prevent the sides blowing out. We went form over function because they’re such a huge feature in the yard.
Here’s a few shots of the yard with the original low beds – the previous owners had been big on gardening so there is a base to build upon and a very handy tap. Then we get into the fun part – adding our massive planters and filling them with dirt.
Supplies (for 1 bed)
- 4 sheets of galvanised iron – we used 2 x 2100mm and 2 x 2700mm lengths as they fit the space and didn’t require cutting
- 2 packs of Poly Zip screws
- hardwood timber for corner posts
- untreated pine for internal supports
- timber for top edge trim
- builders plastic for lining
- poly pipe and brackets
- crop netting
- cable ties
- nail gun (or a hammer)
- drill with hex screw bit
- circular or drop saw (or hand saw)
- tape measure + sharpie
Rather than re-invent the wheel, just follow Drea’s instructions (adjusting measurements to suit your site). We did pretty much the same thing but turned the sides inside out and lined it with plastic to help protect the internal posts. An explanation of the poly pipe covers is at the bottom of this post.
Preparing the base
As we were building on top of existing beds, we pulled up the sleeper edging and put them inside, along with a bunch of rocks and concrete from a fishpond we demolished. The sides are 750mm deep which left us with about 500mm to fill – and I wasn’t going to buy or move that much dirt.
The first layer needed to be cheap, easy to move and voluminous. We decided on straw but it will eventually break down and drop the level of soil. I realised AFTER I’d shovelled on 5 tonnes of dirt that I could have used styrofoam – it takes a thousand times longer to break down, is light and probably available free from the local Transfer Station where folk drop it off to be recycled. Anyway, the straw was down and it was onto the next layer.
I needed to keep the dirt from filtering down through the straw, and read that newspaper or cardboard was a good option. I didn’t have access to enough newspaper but I did find a whitegoods store with plenty of dismantled boxes available. They let me raid the recycling bin and I soon had my impenetrable barrier.
The dirt was the worst part. Over 2 weekends and an extra day, I had 2 deliveries of garden soil dropped in our driveway, plus a bonus trip in the ute for an extra tonne. I shovelled it into the wheelbarrow, wheeled it out the back and up a purpose-built ramp to tip it into the beds. I must have done this a hundred times.
Once the dirt was in, it was pretty much ready for planting. We added a range of seedlings which I’ll detail another time and left them to settle in over a couple of weeks.
One morning we work up to a forecast of hail, and got a bit worried about our little plants, all exposed to the elements and vulnerable. We needed to add some protection without blocking the sun, and so rigged up these covers using poly pipe and crop netting. The weave on the net is small enough to stop hail and flowers from the overhead tree, but large enough to let through the rain and sunlight.
Simon screwed the brackets into the top edge and we just bent the pipe into place. We cut the crop sheet to size and lay it over the pipe, then secured the two together using cable ties. The edges can be rolled up to get to the plants, and are otherwise held down by some small hooks in the timber that the net slips over.
It wasn’t a cheap exercise, with the build cost totalling around $1000. About half of that was spent on the timber and iron sheets, so a large saving can be made by using recycled materials if you have access to supplies. The soil/compost mix was around $350 and essential to the success of the garden.
It might take a few years but we’re hoping to save at least that much on groceries and gain a whole lot in taste!