Monday, May 19, 2008

Planter for a Friend

(It looked bigger in my livingroom)
I decided to try my hand at building an in-ground, raised bed plot in the French potager style. Since I have no yard, I asked the girls in my knitting group who wanted to be the potager guinea pig. One hand shot up- my friend Fritz.

This was a bigger job than I imagined. Back when I started my own seedlings, I started seedlings for her, too. My seedling station was awash-- awash!-- in green babies. But seedlings were the easy part. Designing and building the big, honking thing was the real challange. I don't have a workshop or a truck- each of which I would need if this were something I plan to do more often.

But we live in a loft (well, the hoity-toity builders called it a loft- in truth, it's a one-room condo), and have a decent amount of open floor space. Noise and sawdust (and schlepping up and down to the third floor where we live) aside, it worked out pretty well.

I chose cedar. It's expensive (about $170.00) but it will age beautifully and hold up with time. Galvanized carriage bolts on each corner make it IKEA-like in it's breakdown- and transport- ablility.

The design is based on several I've seen on-line. It's 5 x 5 feet, with an 18 x 18 inch center stack for a tomato or some other showy, singular edible.

Here are the mistakes I made, and here's what I learned--

First lesson learned- I should have made it 4 x 4 feet. It's just a bit too much of a stretch to reach the center stack- very important if the tomato grows to 7 feet tall.

Second lesson learned- always plan on digging into the ground at least 6 inches for leveling. Fritz's plot is on a shallow slope. We had to dig about 9 inches on one side, and about 2 on the other, just to level the darned thing and prevent fill dirt washout on the short side. The planter is virtually buried on the deeper side. Next time, I'd build it at least 8 inches taller, so it will actually be a raised bed. (I would be remiss without mentioning the very able help of my husband and Fritz's husband- they are digging fiends and good, patient men to boot.)

Third lesson learned- Always assume everything will take much longer than you think. No elaboration needed. Isn't that true for just about everything?

Fourth lesson learned- Well, this is an assumption on my part. I suspect that by the end of the season, the thing will have shifted and bobbed somewhat because we did not level the bottom of the pit with gravel. But the thing rests mainly on clay, so we might get by alright. The planter is lightweight, considering it's size. It may or may not shift- it's hard to say.

Fifth lesson learned- order less dirt than you (well, I) think you'll need. We ordered 3 cubic yards, but one would have done nicely. The planter would have needed somewhat less than two yards if it had been ON the ground, but because we had to dig in so much, it fluffed up the clay and decreased the interior fill requirements of the planter a great deal. This is intimately tied to Lesson #2. Next time, I'd probably dig the hole before I order the dirt.

Cold crops went in yesterday, hot crops will get planted in a week or two. We've had a chilly spring in these parts, but June 1 will be warm, for sure. I hope.


Rabbits' Guy said...

Well isn't that the cat's meow???

You will never be homeless - you could build your own!

Loved the lessons .. always lessons .. sounds like there WILL be a next time!

The Barber Bunch said...

I love the planter. It is what I want for my back yard! Too bad you don't live closer!