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Building a Table Top SFG...some ideas

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Re: Building a Table Top SFG...some ideas

Post  CarolynPhillips on 8/3/2011, 1:01 pm

I like the mail box tool box. Thats a good one. And a shelf on the end is good too.
I agree about the shelving verses garden growing space. It won't be a perfect square foot but it will grow a lot of food in an 8 ft span.
I really appreciate all these wonderful ideas. The mail box is definitely a future project
and will do a shelf on the end for now. I have wood for that. bounce

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Re: Building a Table Top SFG...some ideas

Post  janezee on 11/13/2011, 11:15 pm

This is such an excellent thread, I thought I'd bump it. Is there a way to save a favorite on this site, rather than on my browser? Is this a sticky? Shouldn't it be?
j

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Re: Building a Table Top SFG...some ideas

Post  shannon1 on 3/18/2012, 3:21 am

This is a great thread. Not a handy person I used milk creats stacked 2 high and they work great.

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Re: Building a Table Top SFG...some ideas

Post  boffer on 5/20/2013, 11:35 pm


UPDATE

I sure love my tabletops! But I wanted to pass along a downside to them that I found. It's related to my climate in the PNW; I don't know how applicable it is in other climates.

Four years ago I noticed that some warm season crops like squash and cukes were not growing as well in my TT as they did in the ground. I thought it was odd, because cool crops grew well in my TTs. I had good MM in my TTs, and 5 way compost on the ground.

Then I wondered if the amount of direct sun was the issue because my TTs don't get as much sun as the ground garden does. The next two seasons, I grew the squashes in boxes right next to those on the ground. Same sun, but the box stuff still didn't grow as well as those in the ground. I just couldn't believe my MM was to blame!

Last year I built a greenhouse. I planted squash and cukes in a box in the greenhouse, and in a box outside, and in the ground. The plants in the greenhouse box and those in the ground grew well and were comparable. Those in the outside box still lagged way behind. AHA! Now I was able to eliminate sun and growing medium as the culprit.

This spring, I took regular temperature measurements of the growing medium in my TTs, the ground, and in the greenhouse. The TTs were consistently 5-8 degrees cooler than the ground or greenhouse boxes.

Conclusion: In my variably cool climate, TTs with welded wire bottoms don't warm up, and stay warm, as well as the ground, which slows the growth of some warm season crops. So, I recently started putting foam board on top of the welded wire to see if that helps the MM retain warmth better. I'll update again when I find out.

If we have a summer where we're lucky to get a stretch of +80° days, our nighttime lows may still drop to the low/mid 40s. Having the open bottom on a TT allows the MM to cool off too quickly at night. On the other hand, cool crops appreciate the cooler temps, and it helps prevent bolting.

If you're growing squashes and cukes in a TT in a hot climate, how are they doing for you?

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Re: Building a Table Top SFG...some ideas

Post  plantoid on 5/21/2013, 7:08 pm

Boffer ,
If you encased the TT's in a skirt of material of any sort , you will stop the air movement and thus slow the evaporative cooling effect of the wind on the underside of the beds in the shade which as you have found out makes the beds several degrees cooler . You will need to leave some path for air movement but it only needs to be an inch hole or so on each face mid way between growen and the base of the table .
With you adding the foam sheet to the underside you have done just that in a slightly different way .

Historic fact ...
Before the advent of air conditioning by modern aircon machines the big stores in the USA in the early 1900's used coconut fibre mats by the main entrances soaked in perfumed water for customers with leather soled shoes to walk over , , the soles soaked up a bit of water and then they walked around the stores , which when it evaporated dropped the store temps considerably in high summer .
Big electric suction fans on the roofs drew the air in from the ground floor customer access dors s and other piped vent floor areas in other levels .

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Re: Building a Table Top SFG...some ideas

Post  boffer on 5/21/2013, 7:33 pm

Good idea, plantoid. The skirts would be an easy retro-fit for the existing boxes until it's convenient to empty them and lay in foam board.

Wet shoe soles to cool off a building; how clever is that!

How about if we bring back the huge ceiling fans that are linked by drive chain to a stationary bicycle? It would create jobs , reduce energy use, contribute to the economy, and it's green to boot! alrighta

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Re: Building a Table Top SFG...some ideas

Post  bnoles on 5/21/2013, 7:36 pm

Those wet sole shoes would bring nothing but law suits in this day and age. Sounds like it was a good idea at the time and would be pleasant to the nostrils as well.

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Re: Building a Table Top SFG...some ideas

Post  merelydicta on 8/14/2013, 9:59 pm

@boffer wrote:I'm a big TT SFG fan.  Here's a thread listing some of the reasons you might want to try one.

http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/general-sfg-talk-f5/tabletops-take-sfg-to-a-higher-level-t41.htm  



This thread is about building a TT SFG.

In it's simplest form, a TT is a SFG bed sitting off the ground, at the height of your preference.  Kitchen counters are typically 36 inches high, and that is the height of most of my beds.  For beds 4x4 and smaller, the simplest solution is to attach a piece of 3/4 inch plywood, with a couple 1/4 inch drain holes in each square,  to the bottom of your box, and set it on something.  It could be something free or cheap like cinder blocks, an old cabinet, old roll around toolbox, sawhorses, a table, an upside down cart,  a trailer frame, a couple chairs, a picnic table or benches, a metal garbage can, a barrel, or the edge of a deck that's the right height; I'm sure you can think of others.  Perhaps you want to experiment one summer with one box to see if you like TT SFG.  These would all work, with little investment, in case you didn't like it.

Here's some ideas for a more permanent set-up.  Cinder blocks are stable and sturdy if you like the look.  If you place 2 of the block legs longwise in one direction, and the other 2 legs turned 90 degrees, you will eliminate most of the wiggle in the table.  Always place your blocks with the holes up; this is the position they are designed to carry weight in.





This is my neighbor's TT on saw horses.  They are roughly 3x8.  He spent a lot of time making quality saw horses, but now he is beginning to convert them to steel frames.





In the above picture, notice the the angle of the legs that create a large, stable footprint.  In the picture below, the top of the leg has been notched to carry the load of the horizontal board.  This is a technique that was perfected way back when carpenters wouldn't dream of buying a sawhorse.  It's stable, solid, and doesn't wiggle.  My neighbor did his the old school way-with hand tools.  Notice the hardware cloth used for the bottom.  More about that farther on.







If saw horses don't strike your fancy, maybe using 4x4 posts for legs will.  I have made TTs with 4x4 posts, but I don't have pictures of the finished product.  I did take some pictures to show how to do it.  Probably the simplest way is to use an angle hangar, available at your favorite hardware where all the other construction fasteners are located.  You'll need eight, two per leg.

This box is upside down, with the leg sticking up in the air.  I only had one angle hangar on hand for the picture, but each leg gets two.  The hangars use special nails: 8d-10d, 11/4-11/2 inches long.  You'll find them near where you found the hangars.  Important: every nail hole in the hangar must be used (I think there's 12 per hangar).  The weight of the SFG bed is under the max load of the hangar, but still, be safe, do it right.






The hangars will carry the weight OK, but they'll tend to wiggle.  Put on knee braces.  They look like this, 2 per leg.






But, if you're handy with tools, hand or power, and you would enjoy the satisfaction of making something the old school way, cut corner tenons on your leg tops.





See how the weight of the box sits on top of the post; this way nails and screws aren't carrying the weight.   Each corner should have knee braces on it.  Another plus, the 4x4 takes up less space inside the box.






These two methods of attaching posts are simple to do, and I feel comfortable recommending them because I know they will hold the weight.  rds1955 had mentioned to me the idea of using 4 inch pvc pipe for legs.  Compression strength-wise they would work, but I haven't worked out attachment and fastening details that would be feasible for most everybody.  I'd like to hear about your methods, if you've used other materials for legs.


My last suggestion for TT legs is a steel frame table.  Here's a sample:





Here it is with a box on it.  I have plywood on this box because I'm using it for an experiment this summer.  At the end of the season, I'll take the plywood off and just use the welded wire that I already put on the frame.  (I'll lose the zip ties then, too)







If you were to have one made, here's the cheapest way:  use angle iron, 1 1/2 x 1 1/2 x 1/8 for the whole thing.  Big ball park cost: 90 cents a foot for material, 1-2 hours of shoptime, depending on details.  You could spend more for round or square legs, or you could you use pvc pipe as sleeves to cover the angle iron.   Or you can keep your eyes open for stuff like one of these carts.  It was a steal for a buck each.  I figure one hour to strip it, flip it, remove the casters, and paint it.  I could leave the casters on it, but I don't have any concrete in my SFG area.







Here's some of my steel framed TTs.  I'm trying to get them consolidated this year so I can put up deer fencing.  Table sizes are all different, based strictly on what materials I had available when it was time to make a box.  TT's can be spaced closer together than beds on the ground.














TT SFG bottoms:  Plywood vs. hardware cloth


I've heard a number of folks say they've had plywood bottoms on their TTs for over 5 years, and I believe them.  But in my climate, it would never happen.  That's why I use hardware cloth for my bottoms.  All my boxes are made of pressure treated 2x's lined with 6 mil plastic.  

Folks with plywood bottoms also say their boxes warm up just as quickly as their boxes on the ground.  I would say my hardware cloth bottoms warm up a little slower.  Maybe 7-10 days.  For my gardening practices, it's irrelevant.

Don't try to save money using chicken wire.  It won't work.  Hardware cloth can be attached with screws with washers, nails bent over, wire fence staples, or ?.   I space mine every 5 inches or so.

For a 6 inch tall box I recommend  putting in 3 bottom supports on 12 inch centers, using 2x2s.  If the box is taller, you could use 2x4s on 16 inch centers.  I mount mine inside the box using 2x4 hangars.  The hangar comes with nail holes for 2x4s.  You'll have to drill a hole where marked for 2x2s.  With a little patience, all the fasteners can be hidden on the inside of the box.  Be sure to fasten to the bottom supports, too.






I waited till my neighbor was at church so I didn't have to tell him I needed some 'what not to do pictures".  Here he used old hand railing which is OK.  But, the spacing is way too wide, and it's secured with one screw.  Nails and screws aren't intended to carry weight like this.  If you put your supports inside the box, there's no visible sag.






Here's an old bed frame.  The springs offer enough support to use chicken wire..






For TT beds bigger than 4x4, you're on your own.  A 4x8 bed holds over half a yard, and when the soil is saturated-we're starting to talk about some serious weight.  Personally, for a 4x8 bed I would increase the size of the boards.  So unless you have free/cheap wood on hand, two 4x4s are probably cheaper and easier to build than a 4x8.

These are just some ideas to get you going.  If you have suggestions that have worked for you, please post them.
Thanks for the sharing boffer!

This is such a great resource to me!

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I bought supplies based on this plan, then forgot what I was doing. HELP!

Post  kelhami on 3/9/2014, 2:31 pm

Ok, so last year, Id planned to make four 4x4 boxes. They werent going to be table top, per say, but I wanted them slightly elevated on cinder blocks, so that, in case we move, the bottoms would still be in good condition (not rotted or whatnot). Not even sure if that makes sense. For some reason I cant remember exactly what I was planning/how I was gonna put this together. Can someone help me please?

16 2x4's (4' long, 2" thick): Outer frames of SFGs
12 1x4's (4' long, 1" thick) : Bottom supports of SFGs
1 roll of thick clear plastic  (I assume this and the next 3 are for the bottom, not sure what order to put them in. Also, did I buy the plastic to line the entire inside of the boxes or...?)
1 roll of welded fencing: see above
1 roll of weed blocker material: see above
1 bundle lathes/sticks: Grid over box
1 box wooden deck screws (to assembled the boxes?)
1 box poultry net staples (for the fencing on the bottom of the box?)
1 box small nails (to nail the laths to frame?)
several small bags of machine screws with washers (to screw the laths together?)

I think the main things confusing me is the bottom... if the plastic, fencing, weed blocker, and wood supports are all for the bottom, what order do they go in and how am I attaching it all? And since I didnt buy cinder blocks, maybe I wasnt going to do them??? I dunno. Very confused, but need to get this project finished today.

Im thinking:

TOP OF BOX

plastic (along inside of box also?)
weed blocker (this seems out of place, not sure why I have this, maybe something to do with blocking the drainage holes through the plastic so the dirt doesnt fall out?)
fencing
wood supports

BOTTOM OF BOX

Advice is appreciated.

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Re: Building a Table Top SFG...some ideas

Post  recoush on 3/30/2014, 9:31 am

Boffer,
Excellent article thank you, also thank you for telling me how to search for this 
as Table Tops 

Also excellent about the weight of the material (sagging) all excellent suggestions 
Cheers to you 
 

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Re: Building a Table Top SFG...some ideas

Post  Goosegirl on 3/30/2014, 9:43 am

Excellent How-To pics Boffer!

GG

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Re: Building a Table Top SFG...some ideas

Post  boffer on 3/30/2014, 9:53 pm

You're welcome, recoush. Thank you, GG.

I have the materials to make more TTs, but I don't need any more.

I've been waiting nearly two years for an organization in town to get a community garden up and running so I can donate and setup a couple TTs. I know that they're working on it, but it's been a slooooow process. Maybe this year; maybe next!  Rolling Eyes 

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Re: Building a Table Top SFG...some ideas

Post  ralitaco on 2/14/2015, 1:17 pm




How do you attach the plywood to the bottom? do you screw it in under the 2x's or do you attach a ledge on the inside.
I am trying to decide what to do with the one I built

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Re: Building a Table Top SFG...some ideas

Post  sanderson on 2/14/2015, 3:01 pm

Screw it to the bottom with support at least every 2'.  Simple support sitting on 4" x 6".  
Table top style #1:
Table top style 1 underneath supports:
Short table top / raised bed style #2, my favorite style:
Closeup corner construction of style #2:
Inside the box, there is a flat 2 x 4 screwed to the sides at the midpoint (2' mark), flush with the bottom edge.  The plywood is then screwed down to it when the box is upside down.  Probably not the longest lasting design but should hold for 3-4 years. The beds are 10 1/2" deep so the 2 x 4 does take up much space to be of any concern.

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Re: Building a Table Top SFG...some ideas

Post  moswell on 3/2/2015, 2:13 pm

Boffer - did you find that the foam insulation worked in helping to heat the box?

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Re: Building a Table Top SFG...some ideas

Post  Goosegirl on 3/3/2015, 2:14 pm

Ralitaco - just had to tell you I LOVE your avatar!!!

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Re: Building a Table Top SFG...some ideas

Post  boffer on 3/3/2015, 4:16 pm

@moswell wrote:Boffer - did you find that the foam insulation worked in helping to heat the box?

Ummm...I haven't checked.  Embarassed

However, I've reduced water usage due to evaporation on the bottom side, and the foam has eliminated a  problem I was having with ferns growing on the bottom side of the boxes along with a nice upside down moss carpet.




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Re: Building a Table Top SFG...some ideas

Post  sanderson on 3/3/2015, 5:13 pm

Ferns for flower arrangements!  bounce  And, here I have to grow them in a shady corner. . .

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Re: Building a Table Top SFG...some ideas

Post  jimmy cee on 3/3/2015, 8:10 pm

I sure love all of these ideas, and pictures are fantastic.

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Re: Building a Table Top SFG...some ideas

Post  sanderson on 3/3/2015, 8:17 pm

+1

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Re: Building a Table Top SFG...some ideas

Post  ralitaco on 4/8/2015, 10:39 pm

@Goosegirl wrote:Ralitaco - just had to tell you I LOVE your avatar!!!

Thank you. I was on a Star Trek / Borg kick at the time...



Although I have been binging on Dr Who recently so I may need to make a new avatar.


Boffer,
I am trying to understand why you have ferns growing out the bottom of your garden. I am presuming since you only used wire and cloth that the ferns were able to root through the weed cloth. But it also looks like a lot of soil is present on the underside...what am I missing there?

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Re: Building a Table Top SFG...some ideas

Post  boffer on 4/9/2015, 12:26 am

What looks like soil is actually dead moss.  I have an abundance of wild ferns on my property, and moss grows anywhere damp and shady.

I grew up in the mid-west, and we learned in Boy Scouts to find our bearings by looking for moss which grows on the north side of trees.   When I moved to the PNW, I did a lot of walking around in circles because moss grows all the way around a tree! Razz

This is a bit out of focus, but it might give you a better idea.

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Re: Building a Table Top SFG...some ideas

Post  ralitaco on 4/11/2015, 11:52 pm

@boffer wrote:


Boffer et al, 
I am planning on building 2 more 4x4 TableTops and am thinking about trying the Hardware cloth, Foam & Weed cloth for the bottom. I will be building it out of wood and was wondering what method you find works best to secure the Hardware cloth to the wood. (staples, screws w/ washers) Also how far apart do you space them? 
In the above picture I see it wraps up on the outside of the box...any structural reason for this as opposed to having it on the inside? I am guessing not, but just thought I'd ask.


@boffer wrote:For a 6 inch tall box I recommend  putting in 3 bottom supports on 12 inch centers, using 2x2s.  If the box is taller, you could use 2x4s on 16 inch centers.  I mount mine inside the box using 2x4 hangars.  The hangar comes with nail holes for 2x4s.  You'll have to drill a hole where marked for 2x2s.  With a little patience, all the fasteners can be hidden on the inside of the box.  Be sure to fasten to the bottom supports, too.





Using the above setup, obviously the hardware cloth goes above the 2x2, but do you keep it at that height for the entire length of the box thereby allowing the eventual sag to be somewhat hidden by the sides? (Did that question make sense?)

Which foam board do you use? Is it the Blue stuff? Does it prevent any of the sagging? Do you cover it with plastic? How long has it lasted?

Also, Thanks for the explanation of the Moss/Fern issue Boffer, I understand now.

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Re: Building a Table Top SFG...some ideas

Post  ralitaco on 4/12/2015, 1:16 am

I got the answer to most of my questions in another thread.

Longevity of Table Top Boxes thread


How is that foam board working out?

I have a new question now...
Does anyone have a 4x4 TT with plywood that is only support along the outer edges?
I was looking at some that Pappy Slip made and couldn't tell how the bottom was made or supported.
@Pappy Slip wrote:



Pappy

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Re: Building a Table Top SFG...some ideas

Post  sanderson on 4/12/2015, 5:04 am

Ralitaco, All of mine have a support every 2 feet. On some, the 2x4s underneath are hidden and secured to a "skirt', others have a flat 2 x 4 screwed to the inside wall and the plywood screwed to it from underneath, and one box rests on three 4x6 treated wood "logs." But, all, except one, TTs are only 2 feet wide and 3-8 feet long. The widest is 2 1/2 feet x 4 feet.

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