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Longevity of boxes

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Longevity of boxes

Post  moswell on 2/9/2015, 5:50 pm

I'm planning my new SFG in the house I bought last July, and am wondering how exactly I should go about this.  My previous gardens were on rental properties, so I never worried about longevity of materials.  But now I'm in this for the long haul and I want to be sure that I make these last as long as possible without having to remake boxes (thus having to remove soil, etc).

I'm debating between these options:


  1. Renting a sod cutter and removing the grass below and around the beds.  The benefits of this would be that I could avoid roots growing under the beds for longer, and I could put pavers down around the boxes so I can still mow around them.  The downside is that I imagine eventually the grass will start to creep in anyway!
  2. Doing raised boxes.  The benefit of this would be no chance of weeds growing up through the bottom.  The downside of this is that after just one season attempting this before, the bottom plywood was rotting out, and I think it didn't drain properly.


In addition, what types of materials have you found last the longest?  I don't mind putting a little more money into the beds this time around since I want them to be permanent.

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Re: Longevity of boxes

Post  rdavidp on 2/9/2015, 7:36 pm

I bought a 4x4 raised bed kit from local hardware store that has tabs that you slide down slots on the corner pieces.  Price of the kit came out to be the same if I bought the wood and built it myself.  I bought them back and set them up in the spring of 2012.  They are made from cedar.  The beds are still going good after a few years of snow and rain.

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Re: Longevity of boxes

Post  floyd1440 on 2/9/2015, 7:53 pm

@moswell wrote:I'm planning my new SFG in the house I bought last July, and am wondering how exactly I should go about this.  My previous gardens were on rental properties, so I never worried about longevity of materials.  But now I'm in this for the long haul and I want to be sure that I make these last as long as possible without having to remake boxes (thus having to remove soil, etc).

I'm debating between these options:


  1. Renting a sod cutter and removing the grass below and around the beds.  The benefits of this would be that I could avoid roots growing under the beds for longer, and I could put pavers down around the boxes so I can still mow around them.  The downside is that I imagine eventually the grass will start to creep in anyway!
  2. Doing raised boxes.  The benefit of this would be no chance of weeds growing up through the bottom.  The downside of this is that after just one season attempting this before, the bottom plywood was rotting out, and I think it didn't drain properly.


In addition, what types of materials have you found last the longest?  I don't mind putting a little more money into the beds this time around since I want them to be permanent.

I tilled my area up, then built my boxes and mulched around them to keep the weeds from growing around them. Do you plan to put your garden on a grade?

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Re: Longevity of boxes

Post  moswell on 2/9/2015, 7:54 pm

No, it's all flat.

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Re: Longevity of boxes

Post  camprn on 2/9/2015, 8:30 pm

Are there any well established trees within 30 feet of where you want to put your garden?


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Re: Longevity of boxes

Post  moswell on 2/9/2015, 10:50 pm

Nope, my neighbor has his garden in one direction and it's all grass everywhere else. The only big thing I'm concerned about its some thistle I have about ten or fifteen feet away that I haven't been able to kill yet.

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Re: Longevity of boxes

Post  sanderson on 2/10/2015, 2:49 am

Moswell, Congrats on buying your own house!

I've been watching how folks on this Forum build their boxes.  If wood is used, they will eventually need to be replaced.  I'm guessing 4-8 years if they are build with 2" (1 1/2") thick wood and set on the ground.  There are so many different ways to make them.  Mine were made of 2' x 4's, set on the weed fabric on the ground, but roots from bushes, roses and trees started invading the boxes from underneath, even though I had weed fabric on the ground.  I raised them on treated wood legs (some are even table top height) this fall, but my husband bought 1/2" plywood so I image the bottoms will break through in 2 or 3 years even supported every 2' in length.  He bought 3/4" plywood for the last remaining bed that needs raising.  All of the boxes on the ground (on weed fabric) started rotting on the bottom and some boards even had termites.  I had to read about thistle to see what you might be facing.  The articles state that it can spread underground.  Do you have this kind?  Then raised beds may be a good idea.

Rather than using a sod cutter, maybe spread the area with lots of cardboard from shipping boxes, roll out weed fabric, set the wood frames on the weed fabric and put lots of wood chips in the isles.

Are you going to put the boxes in one general area with 3' or more isles between them?  Brainchasm, Yolos and SouthernGardener have attractive layouts.  

If you want permanent beds use cement blocks like Brainchasm in Nevada.  "Newbie in Las Vegas, Year 1"  I think he put down weed fabric in the whole garden area, build his cement boxes, and then placed rock in the isles.

Keep us updated on your new journey.

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Re: Longevity of boxes

Post  moswell on 2/10/2015, 8:12 am

@sanderson wrote:Moswell, Congrats on buying your own house!

Rather than using a sod cutter, maybe spread the area with lots of cardboard from shipping boxes, roll out weed fabric, set the wood frames on the weed fabric and put lots of wood chips in the isles.

Are you going to put the boxes in one general area with 3' or more isles between them?  Brainchasm, Yolos and SouthernGardener have attractive layouts.  

If you want permanent beds use cement blocks like Brainchasm in Nevada.  "Newbie in Las Vegas, Year 1"  I think he put down weed fabric in the whole garden area, build his cement boxes, and then placed rock in the isles.

Keep us updated on your new journey.

Thanks for the suggestions!  I'll take a look at the cement box thread and see what that looks like.  And rock might be cheaper if I can have it delivered cheaply.  I have to measure the entire area, but it's a great sunny spot behind my garage and I was thinking of having some size aisles in between the boxes, maybe even putting a little table and chair set (with umbrella) out there.  Maybe if I want to do that, a combo of rocks and pavers would be best. Hmmm.  I think the finishing off part will be a longer process, but I at least want solid boxes and something around the boxes this year.

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Re: Longevity of boxes

Post  AtlantaMarie on 2/10/2015, 8:38 am

Hi Moswell.  I'm Marie.

Having set up most of my garden space last year, I'd go for raised beds - it's much easier to cut the grass around them that way.

Is the area fenced in?  If so, make sure to put something under the fence-line to keep the grass from growing up between it and your box(es).

Someone (maybe Boffer?) used hardware cloth (metal fencing w/ small openings) instead of plywood on the bottom.  Then they put a sheet of the solid foam insulation stuff on top of that.  So they get drainage & it's lighter than plywood.  ???  That's what I want to do eventually.

Have fun!

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Re: Longevity of boxes

Post  slimbolen99 on 2/10/2015, 8:41 am

I've had four beds made of 2 x 6's with ground contact going on 5 years. Still going strong.

Cement blocks are nice, if you can handle the weight, and never move your beds.

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Re: Longevity of boxes

Post  herblover on 2/13/2015, 11:00 am

I have 2 4x4 raised boxes; this is my 4th (or maybe 5th) yr SFGing.  We did replace my original box last year but only due to a measurement error in cutting the plywood.  It eventually sagged and the MM began to leak out.  If you put plenty of drainage holes in that should not be an issue.  Mine sit up on 3 layers of bricks placed at each corner and in the center.  We did raised beds for 3 reasons; the place where the beds are is not level, it is the lowest and soggiest part of the yard and is in the utility easement and they would be theoretically movable if necessary.

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Re: Longevity of boxes

Post  Pollinator on 2/13/2015, 7:13 pm

@moswell wrote:Nope, my neighbor has his garden in one direction and it's all grass everywhere else. The only big thing I'm concerned about its some thistle I have about ten or fifteen feet away that I haven't been able to kill yet.

Thistles are GREAT plants to feed your pollinators. And you certainly want to keep them in good shape. These plants also have use as food and medicine.

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Re: Longevity of boxes

Post  camprn on 2/14/2015, 12:30 pm

Hey Pollinator! Good to see you!!!
happy hi

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Re: Longevity of boxes

Post  camprn on 2/14/2015, 12:33 pm

@Pollinator wrote:
@moswell wrote:Nope, my neighbor has his garden in one direction and it's all grass everywhere else. The only big thing I'm concerned about its some thistle I have about ten or fifteen feet away that I haven't been able to kill yet.

Thistles are GREAT plants to feed  your pollinators. And you certainly want to keep them in good shape. These plants also have use as food and medicine.
If you don't want more thistle plants but like the fact that it attracts pollinators to your nearby garden, I would suggest letting it stay and just removing the flower heads after they are done blooming. IF you do this the seed will not develop and spread around.

My unfinished pine wood bed forms have lasted 4-5 years.

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There are certain pursuits which, if not wholly poetic and true, do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The keeping of bees, for instance. ~ Henry David Thoreau

http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t1306-other-gardening-books

Outlander is outstanding!


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Re: Longevity of boxes

Post  moswell on 3/2/2015, 1:57 pm

Thanks everyone!  I think I'm seriously considering using deck blocks to raise the beds slightly off the ground with five blocks (one at each corner and one in the middle for support).  My biggest problem is that I don't own a truck, so getting 4x4 pieces of plywood home is tough.  But I guess I could do two 2x4 pieces.  My last experiment with a plywood bottom didn't go well - I wonder if I used too thin a piece of plywood and didn't drill big enough drainage holes...

But maybe I'll try that hardware cloth thing/foam insulation instead...

I might still do either paving stones or gravel underneath and around...

Either way, I want to buy the materials this weekend so I can get the boxes made and buy the MM materials later in the month.  I want some spring things planted by the beginning of April!

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Re: Longevity of boxes

Post  littlesapphire on 3/3/2015, 11:00 am

Moswell, congrats on the new home!  It's so exciting knowing you own the land and won't have to pack up and move unless you decide to Smile  As for SFG boxes, I bought a lot of pine cull wood at Home Depot, usually 50 cents for a 4' 2x6 piece.  Pretty cheap!  They've lasted me about five years now, and I live in a very swampy area.  I figure if they ever fall apart, it's no big deal because they were cheap and I know I can cheaply replace them.

As for not having a truck to carry big items home in, that is tough.  What my hubby and I have done in the past, when we owned a WV bug and needed to bring some big objects home, is to rent the truck at our local Home Depot.  It's $20 an hour I think, and we only live 15 minutes from the store, so this was a pretty cheap option for us.  Don't know if all Home Depots have this option, but it's worth looking into.

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Re: Longevity of boxes

Post  moswell on 3/29/2015, 3:02 pm



Well, here's my new set up.  I had the help of my dad this past weekend, but unfortunately I left him alone building the boxes while I went to rent a tiller.  Renting the tiller took longer than it should have, and when I got back he'd finished the boxes.  He was so stuck on "his way" of building them, that he ignored what I said to do and I ended up with boxes that aren't square (he didn't rotate the corners because he was fixated on the idea that I "should have" had two of the boards cut down to make a square).  And unfortunately, I didn't notice this until today when I went to put in the slats to make the squares. 

It is going to drive me nuts not having square boxes, but with the soil in there and the (very heavy) bottoms already attached, I don't think I have it in me to take them apart and redo everything.  Ack.  It is really driving me nuts already.

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Re: Longevity of boxes

Post  CapeCoddess on 3/29/2015, 3:30 pm

Oh, I understand, Moswell. I have some odd boxes, too, do to receiving free wood scraps that weren't equal in size.  This keeps me creative.  One is around 3.5 x 4.  The last half foot is used for trellised veggies that grow up from the back of the square anyway.  In another box (too large all around) I put down the grids to make equal squares that are larger than 1 sq ft, so I can actually plant more per square.  

Nice of Dad to help you out.  I understand that, too.  My mom helped me string a trellis once and it's now the floppiest trellis I have. Rolling Eyes   But hey, the veggies don't seem to care.

Enjoy 'em while we have 'em.
Btw, you're boxes look great!
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Re: Longevity of boxes

Post  moswell on 3/29/2015, 3:35 pm

Thanks, Cc. Smile He really did help immensely, there was a lot of physical labor involved in the project with moving pavers and bags of fans where it was great to have another set of hands. But it comes on top of several visits to the hardware store with men trying to tell me how to do something, that I should do it their way, etc etc. I just don't normally get that from my own dad (ornin other facets of my life), so it was frustrating!

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Re: Longevity of boxes

Post  PaGn on 3/29/2015, 4:42 pm

It's amazing how many times I have had to explain to people watching me build my SFG boxes and Mel's Mix why I was doing it "that way" rather than this better way they knew. Asking nursery people "exactly" what is in their compost piles gets you looks because "compost is compost". No it is not, I swear by Mel.

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Re: Longevity of boxes

Post  sanderson on 3/30/2015, 4:01 am

Moswell,  That was so nice of your Dad.  I think we all have stories like that, where they end up making something a little different than we really wanted.  Bless their hearts.

PS  It looks like your neighbor also has raised beds?  One is a Key hole?  Does the neighbor do SFG?


Last edited by sanderson on 3/30/2015, 11:50 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Longevity of boxes

Post  moswell on 3/30/2015, 8:15 am

@sanderson wrote:Moswell,  That was so nice of your Dad.  I think well all have stories like that, where they end up making something a little different than we really wanted.  Bless their hearts.

PS  It looks like your neighbor also has raised beds?  One is a Key hole?  Does the neighbor do SFG?

It was, and of course I told him how much I appreciated all the work!  My folks help this single woman out a lot. Smile  And yes, those are raised beds my neighbor has, but they're not SFG.  I moved into this house last summer and at the time his beds were in full swing - I have my work cut out for me to be as successful as he is, even without SFG!  He's an engineer too, I think his wife told me that he is into creating the perfect soil mixture. Wink

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Re: Longevity of boxes

Post  AtlantaMarie on 3/30/2015, 2:08 pm

LOL! 

I thought the term "bless their hearts" was just a Southern Thing!  (Usually said with a tight smile and bared teeth from us gentle-women...)

But even tho you didn't get EXACTLY what you want, you got to spend time w/ Dad.  Cherish it.  I miss mine terribly...  And since he had Alzheimer's, he was mentally gone already...

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Re: Longevity of boxes

Post  sanderson on 3/30/2015, 11:56 pm

@AtlantaMarie wrote:LOL! 

I thought the term "bless their hearts" was just a Southern Thing!  (Usually said with a tight smile and bared teeth from us gentle-women...)
Not being from the South, I use it with a good heart (and sometimes with a little tear) when someone really, really tried but just missed the mark.

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Wood vs SFG vinyl vs Lowes vinyl vs CMU

Post  NanSFG on 4/7/2015, 2:59 pm

I live in Hawaii were the sun will make the vinyl brittle and the termites will eat/destroy the wood.  Has anyone compared the different ways to create the frame for the SFG?  Lowes kit is the cheapest route, but I need to check the box for the thickness of the vinyl.
I'm almost done with my first 4' x 4' SFG that has an untreated wood frame 12" tall.  This one is on the ground.  I spent a lot of time making sure the ground under it was weed free, yet a nut grass grew 14" to get above the new mix.  Ugh!
So I am wondering what material I should consider for my 2nd frame.

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Re: Longevity of boxes

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