Here’s how to join the urban gardening movement and build your very own critter-proof veggie garden…
Words: Stephen Smith
Pictures: Redman Media
- 3 x 4m x 20mm plastic electrical conduit cut to the following lengths:
– 3 x 2.4m
– 3 x 1.6m
- 12 x electrical conduit saddles
- 3m x 3m of 40% shade cloth (or frost guard, if you want a winter veggie garden in a cold part of the country)
- 5 bags of potting soil
- 5 bags of compost
- 4m x 600mm x 13mm chicken wire
- 2 small clamps or strong clothes pegs
- 12 x 4mm x 100mm cut screws
- 24 x 4mm x 30mm cut screws
- 3 x 4mm x 45mm nuts and bolts
- 30 x 100mm cable ties
Timber Cutting List
1 x 5.4m x 228mm x 50mm pine scaffolding plank cut to: 2 x 1.6m and 2 x 1.1m
Cordless drill/screwdriver, screwdriver bit, scissors, hacksaw, hammer, fencing staples, 4mm drill bit, pliers/wire cutters, tape measure.
The beauty of this little garden is that it is made of one 5.4m scaffolding plank cut to size. The cutting can be done by your hardware store. Our local Build It charged R15 for the cutting. This saves you getting your own saw out, and makes transport much easier). We also planned it so that there is no waste from the plastic conduit – 4m is cut into 1.6m and 2.4m lengths.
- Cost: About R1 200, including the growing medium and seedlings
- Difficulty: 1.5 out of 5. This is a job you can do solo
- Time: About 3-4 hours, including planting
Carry all your materials to the location of the veggie garden. It’s easier to build on site than carry it there later. Place it in a spot with full sun for best results – almost all herbs and vegetables need full sun to do their best.
Before you start you need to make an important decision: do you want to sand your wood and then seal it, or just leave it rough ’n rustic? Scaffolding planks are big and tough and do last a long time, but sealing it would make it last that much longer. If you want to sand and seal, do it now before assembly. If not, carry on. Make a box out of the 1.6m and 1.1m timber, using the 100mm cut screws. Screw through the 1.6m timber and into the ends of the 1.1m timber, so that the final external dimensions of your box will be 1.6m x 1.2m.
Fasten the chicken wire to the bottom of the box using fencing staples and a hammer. This will keep moles from launching subterranean raids on your carrots.
Flip over the box. At each end of one side of the box loosely screw in place two conduit saddles, one at the bottom of the plank and another at the top. Now attach another two conduit saddles in the middle of the side. Repeat on the other side of the box.
Insert one end of a piece of electrical conduit in the first pair of saddles and tighten them in place. Repeat with the other three pieces. Then bend over the ends of each piece and insert in the opposite pairs of saddles, and tighten them in place.
Hold a 1.6m piece of conduit in place at the top of your newly created arch. Drill holes through it and through the three arches. Bolt the conduit to the frame using the 4mm nuts and bolts.
The frame is now complete. The next step is to attach the shade cloth or frost guard. Cable tie a 1.6m piece of conduit to one 2m end of the shade cloth. Cover the frame, trim the shade cloth to length (it should hang about half way down the planks on both sides) and cable tie another 1.6m piece of conduit to this end. Now trim off the excess shade cloth along the side of the frame.
Drape the piece of fabric over the frame, so that the ends with the piece of conduit hang to the correct spot. Cable tie it in place over the top piece of the frame. Cut two semi-circles that are big enough to cover the two ends of the frame out of your leftover shade cloth, with enough overlap to tie them in place. Staple the bottom to the wooden frame with fencing staples and attach the sides to the frame with cable ties. You now have a garden with a roll-up roof. When you roll up the roof, fasten it in place using the plastic clamps. To make the roof more secure when it is down, you can use more clamps or pieces of string to tie the edges to the frame.
The most important part of your garden will be the medium, or soil. Potting soil is almost sterile, so don’t use it on its own. Rather mix it in equal proportions with compost. Alternatively, use healthy garden soil and add compost. Fill the planter with soil, up to a few centimetres from the top.
Neatly plant your seedlings, spacing them about 15cm apart. Water well. You will need to water your plants regularly. Try to plant a useful selection of herbs and vegetables that your family will actually eat – we planted some broccoli, kale, pak choi and bush beans. Think about practising succession planting, which means planting seedlings every two weeks during the planting season, so that your whole crop doesn’t arrive at once, leaving you with a glut of kale that you just can’t eat. Another option is to plant seedlings and sow seed at the same time, for the same reason. For sowing and watering instructions, see the seed packet.
If you’re in a cold part of the country, replace the bird cloth with frost cloth and grow veggies through winter.