Garden Expansion: Part 1

I’m not a carpenter by any means.  In truth, unless it comes in a box from IKEA, the odds of something being constructed correctly by me are pretty slim.  But, the tortoises are growing and so are their appetites.  My little red pots simply aren’t enough anymore.  So living the apartment life with no yard, I decided to construct some raised garden beds for my patio.  I am very fortunate to have a large patio, so I have space to make bigger beds.  To prepare for my project, I did a little online research to see how other folks built their raised garden beds.  There were so many great garden beds out there so I borrowed ideas from a few different sources (see below for links) and drew up a diagram of my own basic design.

Choosing the type of wood to use was probably the biggest decision I had to make with this project.  Cedar would have been my first choice.  It is strong, looks beautiful, and is least likely to succumb to mold, rotting, and pests.  However, I’m on a budget and cedar is at least 2 – 3 times more expensive than my other options.  I looked into other woods such as pine, oak, and poplar as well.  In the end though, I decided to go cheap since this was my first DIY garden bed.  I didn’t want to spend a lot of money and then find I didn’t like the design or make a mistake during construction (odds were high for the latter scenario).  So for the sides, I purchased common boards made of spruce.  To be perfectly honest, I have absolutely no idea what type of wood the post & plywood are made of, but they were fairly cheap too.

I also did some price comparisons.  Be sure to shop around for the best prices.  Because I spent a little extra time doing this, I ended up saving a significant amount of money.  For example, at Store A I was given a quote of $43.92 for the 4”x4”x8’ post I used to make the legs of the bed.  I was told that 4”x4”x8’ posts that are untreated are uncommon and that it would have to be special ordered.  However, when I went to Store B, I found an untreated 4”x4”x8’ post for $8.77.  Yes, it was that big of a price difference and apparently they’re not as uncommon as I was told.  There was a big price difference in the common board also.  At Store B (where the post was cheaper), common boards measuring 1” x 6” x 8’ were $15.12 each.  At Store A common boards measuring 1” x 6” x 16’ were only $10.99, giving me twice as much wood for about $4.00 less per board.  There was even a $10.00 price difference in the plywood from the two stores.  It’s definitely worth your time to do some price checking.

As I’ve said in previous posts, one of my main reasons for starting this garden was to eliminate, or at least drastically decrease, the possibility of chemicals in my food.  For this reason, I chose to use untreated wood for the garden box.  After a little research, I found that treating the wood with boiled linseed oil is suggested as a natural alternative to using treated wood or stains as a protective coating.  Linseed oil won’t protect the wood as well, but it will help and it does bring out some of the natural color of the wood.  If you do use boiled linseed oil, please follow all directions carefully.  Linseed oil is HIGHLY FLAMMABLE and can cause combustion if not handled and stored properly.  So while I have the advantage of having a natural protective coating on the wood, I have the disadvantage of higher risk of rotting wood.  This was another reason why I didn’t want to spend too much on the materials.  It’s likely that in a few years, I will have to replace the rotted wood.

In addition to the wood, I also purchased 100 wood screws (#8 x 2”), 1 can of boiled linseed oil, 4 heavy duty 3” wheels, and a new jigsaw (my new toy!).  I also had a couple items that I used from home.  I used an old sock (cut in half) to apply the linseed oil, 16 #12 x 2” woods screws for the wheels, an electric drill, and my trusty Phillips head screwdriver that my dad passed down to me.  Once I had all of my materials I was ready to build!  Check out how I constructed the garden box and see pictures in part 2!

Thank you to these folks for giving me some ideas and tips for my garden beds:

Garden Plans Free

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