Monday, May 24, 2010

I think about the summertime

Yes, I did just reference a New Kids on the Block song, well sort of.

By the time summer rolls around here in the Midwest we are definitely ready for a change in fresh-produce-scenery.  After a long winter of apples and a few other fresh expensive fruits and veggies, summer is a breath of fresh air with a plethora of locally grown, delicious commodities.

This year we decided to participate in the growing (not just the eating!).  We've been planning our garden since the snow was still fresh on the we were very ready for the weather to cooperate so we could begin sowing.

First thing we did was take our daily (well, not really -- but sometimes it feels like it) trip to Menards and bought 12 pressure-treated landscaping timbers (about $4.00 per board).  We also bought 24  - 8" bolts with washers and nuts to fit on the bottom (about $1.90 per set).

Next step was to cut the boards with the miter saw.  We cut four of our pressure-treated landscaping timbers in half (or into two 4 foot pieces).

When it came time to assemble the boxes together we put it together like a puzzle first.  We layed the 8 foot boards down on each side of the box and interlocked them with the 4 foot boards on the ends.  Next we layed the remaining boards on top, interlocking each corner (kind of like Legos).

Above you can see what I mean by "interlocking" -- the first picture of a corner and the second picture is the other side of the same corner.

At this point it was time to drill holes for the bolts to go in.  Kevin took his trusty drill and a new speed-bore drill bit (3/4" bit is around $4.00) and drilled the hole through the top and bottom boards in the corners.  We put three bolts, nuts and washers in each corner to make sure they weren't going to come apart.  We did have about 2 inches of each bolt sticking out the bottom to help keep the planters in place by pushing them into the ground.

To get the nuts and washers on the end of each bolt we definitely had to rely on some teamwork. While we had a board holding up the corner we were working on I was puting all the washers and nuts on and Kevin was going around tightening the life out of each one.  It the most tedious part of each planter, but well worth it.

The final step before the dirt was to lay down some weed barrier under-layment.  (The bolts also came in hand for this part too.)  The underlayment we got was about $15.00 and we had plenty left over.  We layed it underneath our garden beds and pushed the bolts into each corner of the underlayment before pushing it into the ground.  That way the weed barrier would stay put. (note:  We didn't use the underlayment where we planted carrots and potatoes).

Before we go on, let's do a cost break down of our planters:

Landscaping Timbers:  12 x $4.00 = $48.00
3/4" x 8" Course Threaded Bolts: 24 x $1.40 = 33.60
3/4" Washers: 24 x $0.31 = 7.44
3/4" Course Threaded Nuts: 24 x .21 = 5.04

TOTAL:  $94.08 (about $47.04 per bed)

With our planters set it was time to load up the dirt.  Had we been really smart about this we would have been composting last year and during the winter, but we sadly did not.  So, we bought dirt from the hardware store.  We used a mixture of top soil, organic and compost dirt (depending on what you're growing you may want a different mix of soil).

We raked it out so it was ready for our veggie seeds to go in and we were ready for some serious sowing.

Most of our plants we direct sowed in our gardens.  However the tomatoes and onions were grown in a green-house planter indoors starting in March.  They were now big enough to go right into the garden.  With tomatoes it's important to get a garden cage or support for them.  (My green-thumb grandma used to use wooden steaks and she would tie the tomato stalk to the steak with an unused, cut nylon stocking).

We also planted rhubarb, corn, potatoes, carrots, beans and peas.  Oh, my!

We did walk buy our neighbor's house the other day and saw they had twine tied from one end of their garden to the other to help sow their seeds -- we will definitely be doing that next year!

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