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What material are people using for their boxes?

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What material are people using for their boxes?

Post  Sonya on 4/15/2010, 9:35 pm

Hello,

I am new here (and at gardening) and very excited to try the SFG method this spring.

I know the choice of material one can use to make those boxes, I would just be interested to see what most people used and read about their experiences with it. My concern is that regular pine would rot fairly quickly having the soil right up against it. Should i cover the inside of the board with plastic to prevent that? What about cinder blocks? Has anybody used them?

Are you all sticking to the 6" height? I was wondering if it wouldn't make sense to increase the height to maybe 2', still put "Mel's Mix" only in the top 6" (regular topsoil or whatever below, doesn't matter) but this way one wouldn't have to bend so much... Has anybody tried that?

Thank you very much for your input,
Sonya

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Re: What material are people using for their boxes?

Post  camprn on 4/15/2010, 9:52 pm

I'm using simple 2"x 8" planed but untreated pine for my 4'x4' boxes, held together w/ 3.5" deck screws; they should last me several years. My mix goes to about 6 inch depth.

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Re: What material are people using for their boxes?

Post  Patty from Yorktown on 4/15/2010, 10:03 pm

I have used a variety of lumber for boxes. I am happiest with the 2x6 or 2x8 boxes, however I also have recycled wooden fence in 1x6 and 1x4 (used 2 layers), recycled 2x2's (that is a pretty box with 3 layers.) Some of my boxes are treated lumber, some are not and some are painted. I really enjoy the painted boxes as they are bright colors. My oldest painted boxes are starting to die off at the 6 year range. That is how I decided I was a true square foot gardener...I had to replace some boxes due to old age. No reason you should avoid cinder block. I was a carpenter for a number of years and I know wood, not stone. Hope this helps.

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Re: What material are people using for their boxes?

Post  Retired Member 1 on 4/15/2010, 10:28 pm

Mine are all made from found or scrap material, but most are untreated 2x8s. A few are 1 by which I reinforced with stakes every 2'. I'll eventually be bricking around them, so really don't care about whether they rot away in a few years or not.

Someone (Boffer?) used cinderblocks and apparently they work very well. The height would be perfect and you'd have all those 6x6" holes to fill up all around.

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I built taller than specified and used Trex composite planks

Post  organicgardeningzen.com on 4/15/2010, 10:30 pm

When I built my beds last spring, I was skeptical of only 6" height. I was also worried that leftover grass roots (I pulled up the sod, but not perfectly) would easily make their way through only 6". So I built with 11 1/2" height, and it's working just fine for me. I built my beds with some leftover Trex decking planks from a friends deck project. I worried about using a non-biodegradable material when I was wrestling with what to build with, but felt a little better after I learned that Trex is made from 95% recycled materials:

Trex composite products are made of a unique combination of wood and plastic fibers. The exclusive Trex composite formula brings together the best qualities of wood and plastic to create a superior alternative to wood. Trex gets its plastic and wood fibers from reclaimed or recycled resources. Including sawdust and used pallets from woodworking operations, and recycled plastic grocery bags from all over the country.

  • Plastic shields the wood from moisture and insect damage, preventing rotting and splintering.
  • Wood protects the plastic from UV damage while providing a natural, attractive look and feel.

It will not rot or deteriorate due to harsh weather or insects. Trex is splinter-free. It contains no toxic chemicals or preservatives. Trex resists damage from moisture and sunlight, making it the natural choice for outdoor applications."

Aside from one glitch in construction (the 11 1/2" wide planks weren't as stiff as wood and so we had to drive stakes at 2 foot intervals to attach the planks to to keep the box from bowing under pressure from the dirt), I am very happy with how the Trex looks and performs.

Oh, and my beds are 3 ft wide by 12 feet long.

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recycling older boards

Post  SirTravers on 4/15/2010, 10:44 pm

I'm using some redwood boards that I recycled from an older raised bed I was building. No sense buying new wood if I don't have to.

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Re: What material are people using for their boxes?

Post  martha on 4/16/2010, 10:54 pm

I made boxes with pine last year, because there was a lot of scrap pine available. I didn't know what to expect from them. This year they are weather worn, but still extremely serviceable and I do not expect to have to replace any this year. Which is good, because I want to ADD this year, not replace!

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Re: What material are people using for their boxes?

Post  trukrebew on 4/16/2010, 11:18 pm

I've built mine out of old tongue-and-groove floor boards from a neighbor. They'd already been out in her open yard for over a year before I got them and are likely aged 30+ years old. The sides of each box is 1 1/2 boards high, just about 8". I'll put 2" of topsoil and then 6" of Mel's Mix. I don't know how long they will last, but I'm happy to scour craigslist and freecycle for other cast-offs if I need to replace any.

Even though I think they are oak and should be pretty strong, and feel somewhat petrified (sorta), I'm now concerned about the longest sides bowing out once I add the dirt. I have one 8-foot box and two 6-foot boxes. For those that staked their long sides, did you stake on the outside or screw a stake to the inside?

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Re: What material are people using for their boxes?

Post  argardener on 4/16/2010, 11:30 pm

I have one 4' x 8' box made of reclaimed 1" x 8" pine, this is its 2nd year. FYI...if using wood, make sure to brace them well on the corners to prevent them from bowing. I also had a 4' x 4' bed made of 4"x8"x16" cinder blocks ($1.09 ea at Lowes) that I used for tomatoes last year and they did great. I have expanded this year with more cinder block. I like the look of wood better, but find the blocks more affordable/durable at this time.

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Re: What material are people using for their boxes?

Post  trukrebew on 4/16/2010, 11:48 pm

@argardener: How do you brace the corners? I just nailed my boards flush 90 degrees.

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Re: What material are people using for their boxes?

Post  Kabaju42 on 4/17/2010, 12:28 am

Last year I took apart some bare wood shelves that were in my house when I bought it. I don't know how old they are, but I'm sure it's in the decades range. They're about 10" x 1" and I've made two 4x4 boxes and a 5' octagon out of them this year. They'll probably need to be replace in a couple years, but for the price they can't be beat!

For the bracing, I just did butt-end joints on the 4x4 boxes with about 4 screws on each corner, and they've been just fine. Oddly enough on the octagon I did some bracing that I thought would be better, but they've started bowing. So I think that the butt-end joint (flush @90 degrees) is fine

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Re: What material are people using for their boxes?

Post  Wyldflower on 4/17/2010, 1:03 am

I'm using 1"x6" Trex composite for my boxes - I picked some up really cheap from someone on Craigslist. At this point I have a 3x6 box, a 4x7 box and a 1x2 box - And I have two more 12' boards to use - that'll make another 3x6 box and another 1x2. I'm butt-joining the corners. With the composite, I don't have to worry about splitting. I'm fastening the corners with 2-1/2" construction screws. I would like to make nice, neat-looking corners and I'm trying to find pieces like THESE but not costing a fortune. I've been looking at the box store, but the guy there didn't seem to understand what I'm looking for. The next time, I'll bring a picture with me.

I've also got a 4x4 cinderblock bed, which I'm using for my potato patch.

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Re: What material are people using for their boxes?

Post  boffer on 4/17/2010, 2:03 am

@Wyldflower wrote:I'm trying to find pieces like THESE

Wowsers, you're going to have more invested in pretty corners than you are in Mel's mix and box material! thinking

Cheaper alternatives:

If it's strength you're looking for, get Simpson angle ties. They go on the inside of the corner and don't show. Something like this.

If it's cosmetic, get 2 inch angle flashing in brown, to cover the outside corners. Something like this only in brown without the lip-common stuff. Big box stores carry both.

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Re: What material are people using for their boxes?

Post  Wyldflower on 4/17/2010, 11:46 am

I may just use both of your ideas, Bof.... the angle ties for strength AND the flashing for pretty. The strength is really the more important aspect, so I'll take a look at those Simpson ties - are they among the decking hardware section? (But I do want pretty, too!)

Thanks!

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Re: What material are people using for their boxes?

Post  boffer on 4/17/2010, 12:29 pm

Usually in the lumber department is a big section of 'Simpson ties". They're what holds houses together these days! Thin, light, strong, galvanized, relatively cheap.

The flashing is usually in the roofing department. Typically 10 foot lengths. You'll need tin snips to cut them.

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Re: What material are people using for their boxes?

Post  Wyldflower on 4/17/2010, 12:31 pm

Smile thanks, Boffer.... Yep... I have tinsnips (My friends call me "toolchick")

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Re: What material are people using for their boxes?

Post  boffer on 4/17/2010, 12:39 pm

Good for you on the tools! Early on in our marriage, I had to start buying my wife her own sawzall, 18v drill, etc. because once she figured out how to use mine, there was no getting them back from her! She really liked being able to fix/make things with more than just duct tape, baling wire, and a hammer.

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Re: What material are people using for their boxes?

Post  quiltbea on 4/18/2010, 12:12 pm

In spring 2009 when I begain SFG, I couldn't find untreated cedar in my area but found a lumber mill and got 2 x 12s in spruce. I hope they last some years in my cold climate, but it will have to do.

I'm just thrilled to be able to begin with raised beds.

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Re: What material are people using for their boxes?

Post  chocolatepop on 4/18/2010, 1:05 pm

@boffer wrote:Good for you on the tools! Early on in our marriage, I had to start buying my wife her own sawzall, 18v drill, etc. because once she figured out how to use mine, there was no getting them back from her! She really liked being able to fix/make things with more than just duct tape, baling wire, and a hammer.

For our second anniversary, my husband got me a Craftsmans cordless drill(june)... for that birthday (august) my parents got me a matching cordless circular saw... that Christmas my ILs got me a chop saw... yes about 50% of the tools we have are mine

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Re: What material are people using for their boxes?

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