Earlier in this long season of inclement weather I now am calling “Fawinting,” an amalgamation of all that is bad weatherwise with Fall, Winter, and Spring, I popped out the fence posts around the patio and replaced them with cedar 4×4’s and cedar cross bracing, all leveled together. My plan was to get rid of the woefully inadequate confinement fence and its function as a 12-inch high “safety” rail, and replace it with a railing of adequate height…topped by a large planter. Since I cannot, among many other things, have a vegetable garden, I planned to make the planter system large enough to accommodate vegetables and herbs.
The result is four large planting baskets (tubs?) measuring roughly eight feet long by 13 inches high by twelve inches wide. Each one is filled with a mixture of organic potting mix and compost totalling about seven cubic feet (seven standard bags), and should be able to handle the more aggressive rooting systems of tomatoes as well as deep enough for an over-wintered carrot. Of course, overnight temperatures are still in the forties, so we decided no vegetables this year and went straight for ‘pretty.’ That’s why all the flowers and no veggies.
I made the base and ends of the planters out of red cedar 2 x 12 custom rough cut for me by my new friends at Issaquah Cedar and Lumber, a whole bunch of nice guys who like talking about cool stuff at a workplace that smells awesome and is likely VERY moth-free. The side rails are 5/4 cedar deck lumber and a 1×2 cedar moulding. The structural portion of it is held together by that most magical of inventions, the Teflon coated deck screw, which comes in a wide variety of sizes and has infinite applications. Get some. I notched out the ends to accept the moulding and those are held in place by a couple countersunk finish nails.
The lining of the basket is made from 26 gauge galvanized sheet metal, a number of
sheets of which I happened to have lying around my workplace. One of my co-workers cut it to size and hemmed one edge at 11 inches so the part that goes “up” isn’t cut-y, gash-y, or bleed-y. The galvanized panels slip into place behind the rails (with a little hand-trimming with a sheet metal shear on my part) and are held in place with easy-to -drive hex head sheet metal screws. I could have spent a lot of time mitering the boxes together for seamless transition–the patio isn’t square–but in the words of my former neighbor who helped me build my old Shoji house: “We’re not making a grand piano here.” Good advice, that. The whole setup cost less than $300 for lumber and screws and it’s wildly overbuilt–but I manufactured 32 square feet of gardening space out of the air. Cool.
My construction skills are about ‘advanced intermediate,’ and this was pretty easy (I built them after I got home from work and before dinner over three evenings–it took almost as long to fill them with dirt). If you want to make something like this, you could easily sub in the cheaper and more common Douglas Fir 2×12 available at the big box store (but then you wouldn’t get to hang out with the cool guys at the specialty lumber yard) and notching out your board isn’t necessary, either. If you don’t have sheet metal just lying around, or don’t own a brake, I guarantee you that somewhere in your town is a sheet metal shop where the guy on the brake is dying to make something that isn’t ductwork. Take him a drawing and dimensions and he’ll fab it up for you. Go back and show him a picture when you’re done, and he’ll talk about it forever.