A few weekends ago I was at a friends house, in fact the friend who first inspired me to start an on-line blog. A keen gardened they were fed up with the slugs constantly "getting" their produce, and no amount of rings of slug pellets seemed to be helping. After a walk around the Wyvale garden centre in Bicester, and stopping at the kids activity play area there so that the little one could have a nice afternoon playing with all the toys and in the balls pits an such we'd decided that what was needed was a raised bed to grow vegetables in, high enough off the ground to keep out all the slugs and snails, at a nice working height to reduce the amount of grovelling on the floor to do gardening.
A quick trip to B&Q later and we had all the tools and materials to do the job. In the best tradition of just having an idea and going for it, we made no plans, just a few rough guesses in our heads whilst wandering round the shop. here is what we came up with...
We'd need a box, with a broad base, that was raised off the ground on legs, the box would clearly need sides, and some form of lining to keep the soil in. all the materials would have to travel home in a small hatchback, (A Peugeot 205). from previous experience, I knew that I could fit long lengths of wood into this car, running from the passenger foot well through to the boot, where it would literally just touch the glass of the rear window.
we looked in the plain timber section, and things were staring to look quite expensive, at first the outside of the box was going to be made with tongue and groove boards, (until we realised how much these would cost). almost giving up the idea there and then we made a quick trip to the outside part of the DIY shop to have a look at fencing supplies. we left the shop with a pack of fence boards, a long thick piece of wood and 2 much smaller pieces of wood. along with a small selection of tools.
1 thick piece of wood, (this can be any size you like, I believe that we used about 1.5" (38mm) x 2" (47mm) thickness, with a length of 2.4 meters).
3 thinner pieces pieces of wood, the thickness for these was much thinner, but basically ou should find it sold as roofing baton, and it should be about 1" (25mm) x 3/4" (19mm), again 2.4 meters long.
about £1.50 each (£4.50)
a pack of ten treated feather edge boards, (fencing boards). these are 10cm high, and 2.4 meters long, their profile has a taper in them.
1 disposable (plastic) decorators dust sheet. (12 foot x 12 foot)
a pack of 250 screws -you don't need 250, just it's a convenient size to buy!
total amount to build this is: about £30.
quite a lot less than the hundreds that the garden centre had wanted.
We also bough a pack of screws and a saw.
we had an idea of rough dimensions in the shop, these were finalised at home (all in the head) and then the saw came out.
the long thick piece of wood was cut into 4 60cm long lengths to become the legs.
the feather edge boards and the roofing baton were cut in half to 1 meter 20 cm sections.
now came the putting it together part.
take the four legs, and attach the baton to the inside edge of the legs, creating a 1.2m x 1.2m square, that should be able to stand on it's own.
this is how:
I affixed the first baton to the two legs of one side about 25cm from the top,
then repeated this, so I had two sides,
I used two screws through each piece of baton so that it would stand steady. you may wish to pre-drill the holes, I didn't and the wood did split a little bit.
I took these two sides and put them opposite each other with the baton facing inwards, I then laid a baton across the other baton and screwed it to the leg, and repeated on the other side.
The four legs are now attached with four pieces of baton, making a 1.2m x 1.2m square and all the baton is on the inside.
It's important that the baton ends meet the edge of the leg as that makes the frame 1.2m in width and length, this is also the length of the boards that were going to clad the outside.
Now I started to clad the outside of the frame in the feather edge boards.
to do this I started at the top, put the thin edge of the board towards the top and affix to the frame with a single screw near to the top, (again pre drilling holes will prevent splitting the wood).
when the board was attached on one side, I then moved on to attach it to the other side. This meant that I could line up both sides with the top the single screw acted as a pivot to hold the board whilst attaching the other side.
after attaching the first board, I gently lifted the bottom edge of this and slid the thin edge of the next board underneath, and screwed the board down, again with one screw in each end of the board near to the top of the board. After affixing the first two boards, I put the third board in place, in the same way.
Now all the boards were clad on one side, held in with one screw near to the top of the board, next I put a second screw closer up the to the bottom of the boards, this makes the frame stronger, if I had put two screws into each board I wouldn't have been able to lift up the board above to slot the lower board under.
this makes the rain run off a little better, and makes it all look a little nicer.
(repeat for the other three sides).
now you've got a substantial sized box with nice looking board clad sides,
you should have 2 x 1.2m lengths of baton remaining. put these into the box so that the sit on the lower level of the baton. this should split the box into thirds, and mean that you have two batons at each side screwed into the legs of the raised bed. and two batons in the middle, resting on batons that are screwed into the legs of the raised bed.
you should also notice that you have 8 x 1.2 meter lengths of feather edge board remaining.
lay these boards onto the four baton to form a base. You should evenly space the boards
the gaps between them will be important for drainage.
Congratulations you've built your raised bed.
if you're wondering how long it took. then probably about 2 - 3 hours to cut all the wood and put it together.
The following weekend we filled the raised bed.
before filling the raised bed we (I needed help for this!) took the decorators dust sheet, unfolded it into it's full 12 foot x 12 foot size, then folded it into quarters.
The cheap dust sheets have the thickness of a cheap sandwich bag, so folded into four it has the thickness of 4 cheap sandwich bags, which is more than enough to stop the soil falling through the holes in the slats that make up the base.
The dust sheet was laid into the raised bed frame and was stapled to the frame.
the frame was then loaded with dirt.
you should find that the raised bed, (assuming that you followed these instructions) is about 1.2m 1.2m and has a depth of about 25cm.
1 litre is a volume of space that is 10cm x 10cm x 10cm, why do I say this? because compost comes sold in litres, and you're going to need to figure out how many litres of soil you want in this.
In case you're wondering the total capacity would be 360 litres of soil.
a separate trip to B&Q found that compost seems to cost about 7.5 pence per litre, grow bags cost 3.5 pence per litre. grow bags are meant for growing veg in, so clearly we bought grow bags.
I chose to get seven grow bags, (this is 231 litres of soil -they come in 33 litre bags).
this fills the raised bed to a little over half way, providing a soil depth of around 12cm, this is an ample amount to grow vegetables like lettuce, onions, garlic etc, and provides free space of the top of the raised bed to which you can attach either plastic sheet -to keep the frost off in the winter, or mesh netting to keep the birds away in the spring.