Grow Vegetables in Your Backyard





Introduction: Grow Vegetables in Your Backyard

About: I'm a senior at Harvey Mudd in Claremont California. This past summer I worked at Make Magazine. I love working out and eating well, and I enjoy concocting healthy recipes for not-so-healthy dishes (though u...

This post will show you how to make your own plantar boxes and fill them with good organic soil, all on the cheap! 

I've always wanted to grow my own food, and this summer Im actually starting! The first day after I got home from school my dad and I went to Home Depot and got some pressure treated lumber to build a couple plantar boxes for our backyard. We decided on boxes that were 6 feet long, 2 feet deep, and 1 foot high, all made out of 2x12 lumber.

This size made buying the wood nice too because we could just get two 12 foot lengths to make all four 6 foot pieces, and then one 8 foot piece to make the four 2 foot side pieces. We also got one 8 foot 2x4 to use as bracing material for the corners. All of the wood cost about 90 dollars. 

Once we had the wood, we started construction!

Apparently using pressure treated lumber is NOT A GOOD IDEA for plantar boxes and gardening. The chemicals used in the pressure treating process leach into the soil, and then the plants, and then your body when you eat your veggies! Use redwood or cedar wood instead, and these woods are also naturally rot-resistant so thats a plus. 

Thank you so much to all the users who posted comments voicing their concerns! One user also pointed out that people freak out about things like this, but at the same time might not think twice about drinking a diet Coke, even though it contains carcinogenic chemicals and other nasty stuff... Like everything else in life, it is up to you to weigh the risks. But, just to be safe, if you have the option, I would suggest using redwood or cedar :)

Thanks again everyone!

Step 1: Build the Plantar Boxes

Like I said, we cut the two 12 foot boards in half to get four 6 foot pieces. We cut the 8 foot piece into quarters to get four 2 foot pieces. We then cut the 2x4 into eight 8 inch chunks for the corner braces. All cuts were made with our radial arm saw. 

Assembly was very simple compared to a lot of our woodworking projects. We used a countersinking pilot drill bit to make 2 screw holes per joint, and then used either 8's or 10's wood screws. We had both boxes assembled in under an hour. 

Next we moved the boxes into the backyard to figure out placement. Remember, most vegetables need a ton of sun (at least 6 hours a day) so keep this in mind when deciding where to put them! These boxes do not have bottoms, so once they are filled with dirt, they aren't really able to move anywhere... 

Once we were happy with the placement, it was time to do some dirt research. 

Step 2: Buy Soil in Bulk

Since our family will actually be eating the things we are growing (as apposed to planting flowers), we thought it was important to have really good, healthy, organic soil, without any bad stuff in it like fertilizer or other things. We found a great soil at this wholesale yard supplier that we could buy in bulk. If we picked it up ourselves, it was only 25 dollars for a whole yard! A yard of dirt is a lot of dirt. It's 27 cubic feet, so imagine 27 painter's buckets filled to the brim with dirt. Its a lot of dirt, so this was a great deal.

The volume of each plantar box is 6x2x1 = 12 cubic feet, so we needed 24 cubic feet minimum. So, we decided to get a full yard so we would have some leftover. 

The only problem was we had to get it and transport it ourselves. We dont own a pickup truck, so I had to cover the back section of our minivan with a tarp so we could pile dirt in and drive with it. I used zip ties to attach the grommets on the tarp to seat belts and headrests in the van, and it actually worked pretty well! We managed to shovel in about a yard of dirt, drive home with it, and shovel it all out without getting any dirt in the carpets or seats! 

Using a wheelbarrow, we transported the dirt from the driveway to the backyard and dumped it into our plantar boxes. 

Step 3: Plant Veggies!

My dad loves tomatoes, my brother loves spices, and I love zucchini, so we decided on growing the following veggies, fruits, and herbs:
  • Tomatoes
  • Strawberries
  • Peppers
  • Beans
  • Zucchini
  • Squash
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Thyme 
We also planted some marigold flowers around because apparently those keep the bugs away. 

Step 4: Install Drip Lines, or Water by Hand Everyday

For starters anyway, we are just watering our veggies by hand every day. Since the boxes are on the lawn, they also get some water from the lawn sprinklers. In the future it would probably be a good idea to instal drip lines in the boxes though so they get watered regularly (without us having to do any work). 

Step 5: Wait for Growth!

It has been about a week since we planted our veggies and we can already see some development! Just remember to keep watering! 



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    You can line the planter with plastic sheeting that prevent weeds from growing up through the soil prevent leaching from the wood

    Did you look at UV treated recycled plastic decking boards and posts? they will not rot and being UV treated they should last as long as or longer than redwood or treated lumber.

    With 2' deep planters, you may need to feed the soil external nutrients, because the plant roots won't be able to go down far enough. 3' is better if you can do it.

    cool, like them but you can use pressure treated timber if you line the inside with plastic sheet, thats what i do anyway.

    I have done this at a previous house and it works very well.
    The place I am in now has a very overgrown garden and raised beds would be a good way of growing some veg while I try and clear the jungle. I am lucky in having a sawmill about three miles away so getting the timber is not a problem.

    Here in New Zealand cedar and redwood are hard to come by and when you can get it they want your arm and leg for it!!!So I put a plastic lining stapled to the wood a few drain holes in the bottom and your good to go, the plastic stops any leaching from the wood,

    1 reply

    Are there other woods in NZ you could buy? Redwood is pretty much exclusive to North America. Maybe New Zealand cedar (Libocedrus bidwillii). My only knowledge of NZ cedar is from Wikipedia, but cedar in general tends to weather very well, and is easy to work with. Decent cedar in the States tends to be more expensive, but not terribly pricey.

    Sam, read this

    I would also seal the ends or it will rot

    Oh God, the zucchini... SWEET JESUS NO, THE ZUCCHINI!!!

    We planted a garden for the first time this year too. Ours consisted of zucchini, three types of peppers, strawberries, cucumbers, and tomatoes. The zucchini absolutely went nuts (good thing we like it). Basically, it completely took over. We definitely will be planting them MUCH farther apart next year. This year we will probably only end up getting the zucchini and tomatoes out of the garden. Everything else is growing in the shadow of the zucchinis.

    Good project. I used composite lumber to avoid the leaching and still keep the long term durability. The downside is that the composite lumber is more expensive.

    Can make this even easier: many lumber-yards and Home-Depot-type stores will cut boards to your measurements FREE (our big home store, Jerry's, does this).

    If you're doing a lot of gardening, adding a composter to your yard will help. Save all your non-meat kitchen scraps (veggie trimmings, coffee grounds, eggshells, etc.), as well as lawn trimmings, raked leaves, and trimmings from your veggie garden. The best composters open at the top (to add new stuff) and the bottom (to pull out fully-composted material so you can add it to your raised beds). When you harvest your veggies this fall, and if you aren't growing winter veggies, add a layer of compost and till it into the raised-bed soil... Do this again next spring before you plant your next crop.
    Good luck with your garden!

    I wouldn't worry too much about the treated lumber Sam.

    If these know-it-all's knew half of the muck that is added to the food they eat on a daily basis they'd be glad of a few chemical leechings.

    It's like mass hysteria whenever they see lumber 'Arrgh! is it treated?' 'OMG! you should NEVER treat lumber when growing food'

    It becomes tedious after a while.

    Good job. and i hope your harvest is fruitful.

    nice little planters... one thing to consider when planting veggies is the soil needs for all your veggies .. tomatoes and beets and onions like a more acidic soil than say lettuce or spinach... mottoes do very well with lots of nitrogen at first growth and potatoes for instance don't like very rich soil... plan out what veggies you will plant in each box at the beginning of spring and remember to rotate crops year to year...

    So glad, that so many of you commented on the chemical treatment of the lumber....

    Sam, since your now working for Instructables.... I'd remove or upgrade this post of yours.

    Great job community on catching the lumber !

    Oy vey, pressure treated lumber? This is quite dangerous. The chemicals used to treat the lumber will leach out into the soil and the plants will uptake them. When you eat them you get these chemicals as well.

    I am really surprised with all the literature and videos out on Vimeo, YouTube and ALL the gardening shows that you did not catch this. Anyone reading this, please use untreated lumber.

    PLEASE do not use pressure treated lumber for edible plant raised bed planting frames! The chemicals used in pressure treated lumber are there to KILL things that attack wood. As others have posted, cedar and redwood are both commonly available woods that are naturally rot resistant, and may actually cost less than pressured treated lumber. (I received my BS in Forest Production at UIUC '69.)

    If you use Redwood or Cedar, woods with natural resistance to decay, you'll have healthy vegetables without preservative chemicals in your salad. Start a compost bin, feed the soil and put natural nutrients back into the soil.

    Nice functional and simple project. Did you stain or treat the wood yourself? I've never seen treated lumber that color, usually it's got a greenish tint and is very wet.

    What about just plain old untreated pine? Most probably wouldn't need their planters to last 20 years. If one could get a few years out of it would probably be worth it.

    I've heard that the pressure treated isn't the way to go. I'm planning on using concrete blocks for next year's garden