Monday, June 14, 2010

Building a Planter Box

The last few months have been too busy to blog, but we're going to try and carve out specific times to update the blog to let you know all that's been happening at (mostly outside of) Humphrey House.

We'll start with something actually made before winter: A raised bed planter box in the backyard. Since our porch is a half-story off the ground (about 5'feet) and we have a small yard, we felt like we needed something to help transition the yard to the porch.

I originally had brought home used railroad ties and had planned to use those to construct the raised bed. I figured they'd be nice thick materials and provide plenty of butt space. Plus, they were quite cheap and very thick. Perfect right?

Well, as I was unloading them, I realized a lot of "stuff" was coming off. This stuff is creosote, and is what railroad ties are treated with to resist decay. After reading up and learning creosote is probably carcinogenic to people and contaminates groundwater, I realized I probably don't want to bring that onto our property, much less have people sitting on it. So, I took the railroad ties back to the store and got regular 6x6 treated lumber (ACQ, not CCA).

Anyway, because the timbers are 8 foot lengths, I planned to make a 6' x 2' raised bed, using four courses of timber to give the planter a comfortable sitting height. To start, I dug trenches a couple inches down into the soil for foundation drainage, and filled this pea gravel and sand. This made leveling the raised bed much easier as well, since there originally was a slight slope from the left to the right sides.

I laid the first course using full 8-foot lengths, and then cutting two 1'-6" pieces for the short ends. The next course would be 7' on the long sides, and a full 2 feet on the ends to stagger the joints. However, I soon realized that I was going to need something to keep these all together once they were stacked.

Fortunately I had a few 2'foot lengths of rebar lying around (doesn't everyone?), so I bored 3/4" holes through the corners and "persuaded" the rebar through with the help of my trusty mallet. I did the same for the second course. The third course I only bored halfway through so it was a sort of "cap" that would add support and then the rebar wouldn't be visible.

Because I imagined a 400-pound gorrila coming over and wanted to over-engineer the planter bed, I poured extra sand through a funnel down the boreholes around the rebar so it would extra be solid. I also had some galvanized steel (safe for contact with treated lumber) right-angle ties that I used on the top course to further anchor the front side of the planter to the two sides and the back side, so the entire top course is tied together. And just to be safe, I lined the sides of the bottom two courses with plastic so the AC2 chemicals stay away from the soil we put in there.

All said and done, it came together wonderfully. We now have a nice planter bed next to the porch that will be a perfect spot for herbs, veggies and flowers and an occasional butt when we're enjoying the outdoors. Here's how it looked at completion:

And how it looks now with a garden of herbs and lettuce growing in it:


Anonymous said...

looks great! glad to see you back!

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