DIY: Create an Above-Ground Veggie Garden for Under $25

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With the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been experiencing lately, you may be itching to put your green-thumb to work and get some yard work done. Bulbs are sprouting and daffodils are already blooming in flower gardens across the Eastern Shore. Before we know it, we’ll be planting seeds and harvesting home-grown vegetables, fruits, and herbs. Get a head start getting your veggie garden ready early!

An above-ground box garden makes planting, caring for, and growing things easy. Box gardens are perfect for those who have little space or time to care for a full-scale garden. There is no need to till or dig, and little weeding when it comes to box gardens. If cared for well, a little box garden can harvest up to 5 times more produce than a conventional garden. Bonus? You can choose exactly what you want to grow, how and where you grow it, and everything can be pesticide free.
 
If you know how to operate a power drill, you’ll be able to build this box. It’s an extremely simple design, easy to complete, and shouldn’t cost more than $25 total. While creating your backyard garden, remember that it doesn’t have to be perfect – it’s being filled with dirt and manure, after all.
 
When determining where to build your garden, remember ‘location, location, location’. It’s vital that you place the garden in an area that receives 6 – 8 hours of sunlight. North-south settings provide for maximum sun exposure in our area.  The area must be clear of trees, large shrubs, and stagnant water. Make it easy on yourself by placing your garden close to your house. The garden below was places directly in front of a kitchen window so the gardeners could see exactly what was growing, go out and pick it, and then incorporate the harvestings into meals.
 
Remember, it still gets dark relatively early and it's been raining a lot. The photos of the box below were taken on a day when it was gloomy outside and seemed to get dark even quicker than normal. It's sugguested that you wait until a nice, sunny, warm day to create your garden and plant your seeds. 
 
Supplies:
  • 2 – 10’ x 2” x 4” pieces of wood (pressure-treated wood holds up best in our salty sea air) ($5 each)
  • 8 – 4” long galvanized screws (galvanized screws resist rusting in a high-moisture area like ours) ($.98/2 screws)
  • 4 bags of 40 lb. top soil ($1.75 each)
  • 1 bag of 40 lb. manure ($3 per bag)
  • Compost
  • Power drill
  • Saw
 
Instructions:
Cut_Wood 1. Using a saw, cut both 2” x 4” boards into pieces. You should have two 6’ boards and two 4’ boards. A circular saw works best for this. Other options include a hand saw or asking a sales clerk at any home improvement store if they could cut them for you at the store (usually they’ll do this for free). You may choose other dimensions, too, based on the space allotted for your garden.
Insert_Screws 2. Using a drill bit slightly smaller than your screws, drill a pilot hole into the corner of the two pieces of wood. Connect a 4’ board to a 6’ board. Be that the wood is lined up straight. Using the drill, screw two (spaced roughly 3” apart from one another) screws into the pilot holes. Repeat this step on all four corners.
3. Move the wooden box into position in your yard. Remember to keep in mind that the garden should be placed in a sunny spot. Flatten the land, remove any grass or plants from the area before setting up your garden. You may put thick gardening plastic with several drainage holes down first if you prefer. Luckily, many of our yards are sandy and flat and are perfect for just adding an above-ground garden.
4. Once in place, fill the bed with a planting mix of top soil, one bag of manure, and any random compost you may have at your home. If you make your garden now, the soil will have plenty of time to settle and your compost will break down further before you’re ready to plant seeds or young plants.
5. Mix the top soil, manure, and compost together. Make it smooth and moisten with a gentle spray from a hose or a shower from a watering can.
6. You’re ready for planting! Seeds are typically cheaper in price when you purchase them before prime garden-preparation time. Right now, you can pick up seed packs at dollar-stores for 4 / $1. It's a great deal. Come prime gardening time, seed packets will be about $1 – $2.75 each. When the weather warms up enough for most plants to begin growing, use your fingers to make shallow holes in the soil and place one or two seeds in each hole. Cover the seeds with soil; be sure not to pack the soil. 
 
7. Once the plants mature you’ll be able to harvest! In late spring / early summer, you should have a few vegetables, lots of herbs, and flowers depending upon what you planted. 
8. Once harvesting season is over, remove the crop, and dig out any roots or debris. You can turn your garden into a medium sized compost pile in the off-season. Come next planting season, just mix up your compost, add some more soil, and start planting again.
 
A few more suggestions:
  • Place a thin, mesh gardening net over the garden (you might need to create stakes to support the mesh without squishing your plants) to keep pesky bugs, deer, and neighborhood animals from snacking on your plants.
  • Add a watering apparatus. A simple design? Take a plastic 2-liter soda bottle, use a thin pin to poke many holes into the bottle, fill with water on a daily basis, and place in the center of your garden. A constant small flow of water will be delivered to your soil and your plants will be happy. Based on the size of your garden, add more bottles if needed.
  • Run string horizontally and vertically across the garden box to create a grid; 12” squares seem to work best. Secure with a staple run, push pin, or screw. Designate each square to a different kind of seed. Mark each square with a garden marker so you know what you planted there. Come time for sprouts, each plant will be easily identifiable. 
 
Pretty easy, right? Before you know it, your garden will be flourishing and you’ll be creating another above-ground box garden. For under $25, it's justified! Enjoy your fresh veggies, produce, herbs, and flowers all season long.
 
If you create a garden, we’d love to see! Send photos to info@shorebread.com.
 
*Note: It has come to our attention that pressure-treated wood may not be the best choice for building a vegetable garden. Some prefer to  use non-pressure treated wood based on the fact that pressure-treated wood is treated with chemicals. Some are concerned about these chemicals leeching into soil and plants. It is your preference as to which wood you choose to use. Also, remember to be safe while sawing, drilling, and assembling your garden. Wear protective eyewear and gloves.