Penny Pincher

Cheap Woodworking Secrets

How to Get Cheap or Free Hardwood Lumber

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My idea of the best kind of wood is free wood. Go to any construction site, tell the foreman you are building a Square Foot Garden, and ask if they have any scrap lumber. Chances are they will be throwing out just what you need. They may even cut it for you if you ask nicely. Then your box is free.

Rotate Corners

When constructing your SFG box, cut all four pieces of your wood sides to the same length, and then rotate the corners to ensure you end up with a square box. If you want a different look than the rotated corners, measure the thickness of the lumber and subtract that from two of the sides and add it to the other two sides so you still end up with a square box. It is not critical that your garden box be exactly 48 inches either inside or outside, but it should be square so each square foot planting area is the same size. Attach your box with coarse-thread deck screws that are twice as long as the thickness of the lumber. Use three screws per corner. Pre-drill your holes in the first piece of the two pieces youre connecting; the threads will embed themselves into the second.

Square Foot Garden CornersExamples Square Foot Gardening
This is an example of rotated corners; the end of one hoard is attached to the side of the other.

Construction Details

Work on a hard surface—like a driveway, pavement, or sidewalk— and keep your frame flat so it won't end up crooked or twisted. When your frame is all screwed together, carry it to the garden area, lay it down, and see how it looks. If you want to preserve the wood, you could use linseed oil. It's also possible to paint or stain the bottom, outside, and top. Leave the inside unpainted so there's no possible contamination in the growing mix.

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If you're starting with used lumber and it already has paint on it, you must make sure that it's not old paint, especially if it's peeling or crumbling; some older paints contain lead, which is toxic. You don't want that in your garden. I also don't recommend using pretreated timbers or lumber because it also can leach chemicals.

For proper drainage, drill holes in the plywood bottom of your tabletop garden.

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Prefabricated Drill Holes

Other Box Materials

SFG boxes can also be constructed with brick, cement blocks, prefabricated stone, or large rocks. Stone for your SFG box can be manmade preformed sizes or natural slate, round, riverbed, or any other type of decorative stone that is easy to place and forms an interesting border.

Plywood Bottom

If you decide to create a bottom for your SFG, use plywood sheeting and drill 74-inch drainage holes, one per square foot plus an extra hole in each corner. You attach this bottom by putting it on top of the assembled box sides, screwing it down, then flipping it over so the box sides are sitting on top of the plywood bottom.

Plywood thickness depends on the size of the box. A 2X2 or 2X3 box—anything spanning less than 3 feet—needs 72-inch plywood. Your 4 X4-foot boxes need "7s- or even 74-inch plywood bottoms. Use the 74-inch plywood if you are going to move it often or if its a larger box. If the box is going to rest on sawhorses or cement blocks and span a large, unsupported distance, it requires thicker plywood. I use regular plywood although some like to spend extra for the longer lasting, but much more expensive, marine or waterproof plywood.

Special Structures

For out-of-season gardening, you can create spring, summer, fall, and/or winter boxes. These are just 4x4 foot standard garden boxes or smaller 2X4 size that can be modified for special uses; we'll explain that in Chapter 9. Depending on the time of year, boxes can be equipped with double decks, extensions, covers, or special modifications to allow a longer growing season. Usually these modifications are weather-related items like covers to shade tender seedlings in the summer or a frost protector either in spring or fall. All modifications are simple and easy to construct. You will think up yourself most of the possible modifications depending on your particular weather conditions and environmental situations.

Railing Boxes

If you have fiat railings, it is very easy to set a box right on top of it. For stability, it should be bolted to the wood railing. If you can t bolt your boxes down and you're higher than the first floor, I would place the boxes on the floor. Consider the strength and size of your railing You can build a Square Foot and the surrounding environment, and make sure your railing boxes Garden box that attaches aren't too big. to your deck railing.

Herb Railing Box

One-foot-square boxes are the perfect size for the steps leading to your front door.

Railing boxes make a very decorative and excellent garden, particularly if you add trailing type of plants that add some color and character. There are various holders sold at home improvement stores that snap onto your railings to accommodate standard-sized boxes. Hang the box over the outside edge, and it won t take up any of your valuable deck space, and, should it drip when youre watering, the water will bypass the deck below. However, if your box is on the inside of the railing, it would be much safer.

Pyramid Boxes

Be creative and make your SFG uniquely yours. Why not get fancy and stack one on top of another to create pyramids. Why would you do that? Because they're spectacular, and they will be the highlight and focal point of your entire garden. Construction is very simple with just a few braces for stability.

Step Up, Young Lady

The next fancy garden layout would be to make a standard 4-foot wide by any length box but every 2 or 4 feet step up by one level. There are many arrangements you could design, and they would be limited only by your imagination. Build them the same way as the

Square Foot Gardening Layout

Building Boxes and Structures

comer pyramid with an inside brace for every 4-foot section. Here are just a few ideas.

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