Last year I bought some grow lights as I love growing fresh vegetables especially in the winter. Not only are they healthier and good for you but they are cheaper than what you can buy them for in the supermarketss. Not only that they taste better.
Being my first year I was a newbie at this and made many mistakes. Using many small pots was not a good idea but never the less I pushed on and persevered. I enjoyed the vegetables that I got but this year I decided to up the ante a bit.
Step 1: Materials
From Lowes (or Home Depot)
7 2"x4"x8' pine studs. $20
1 Box 2" screws $6:50
1 Box 1" screws $6:00
3 Bags Potting Mix $31:00
Total cost around $63.
1 55 gallon plastic barrel. $0:00 Obtained from work
( picture did not turn out here so sorry for the image off the web)
You don't have to use potting mix but as we did not have enough compost made we substituted with store potting mix
Step 2: Cutting the Barrel
This step in my opinion was the hardest to figure out. Once I thought about it, it was very simple to do. On the end of the barrel where the 2 plugs / caps are, measure the widest part of the top of the barrel. Mark the edge with a magic marker. My barrel was 23" wide.To mark the other end so that the cuts line up take a piece of twine and a bit of duct tape and a weight (anything that can be tied to the end). With the duct tape, tape one end of the string on the line you measured out on the top of the barrel. Making sure that the string is on the magic marker line on the edge of the drum, attach a weight and let it hang straight down.This will give you your cutting line down the side of the barrel. Where the string reaches bottom of the drum mark the edge with magic marker. Do the same on the other side and then connect the two lines across the bottom of the barrel .By doing this you will have straight lines to cut.
Using a jig saw cut your drum in half. With sand paper sand down the edges of the plastic drum as there will be rough edges left by the jig saw.
Step 3: Starting the Frame!
Using the 2" x 4"s I cut 6 pieces 23 inches long. I then cut 4 pieces 36" long. Making a frame I used a joining system made by Kreg Tools. It makes for an extremely strong joint but to maximize everything I glue all my joints for that extra measure.. After making my two ends I I turned the half of the cut drum so that it was laying open side down on the concrete. Placing a 8 foot length of 2"x4" on top of the upturned drum I then placed the two frames at either end of the drum. This allowed me to then place the middle part of the frame and to screw it into place. This is an important step as we need to make sure that we have enough room under the drum when it is in place for the cross braces.
Step 4: Cross Brace
Measure the length of you drum. In my case it was 35 inches so I added 7 inches to my 2 cut lengths making them 42 inches long. Center them in the middle of the cross member and screw them down. By doing it this way the drum when full of soil / potting mix will actually rest on the cross members. With the soil mix in and being watered and growing plants I can imagine this getting quite heavy.
Step 5: Installing Back Piece and Drum
I then fit the drum to make sure that everything was good fit, After I was satisfied I cut 2 lengths 35" long and screwed the back piece into place. To make sure everything was level I place a length of 2 x 4 across the back then bought the 35" length till it touched the cross piece. This way everything turned out level and true. Now we can screw our drum into place. I screwed the bottom of the drum into the cross brace in the middle of the frame. Now its not going any where. In the picture you can see where I screwed the edges of the edge of the frame. I did this on all 4 sides
Step 6: Installing End Cross Braces.
Cut 8 pieces of 2 x 4 10 inches long. These will become you 45 degree cross braces that you see in the pictures. I have a cut off saw that does all angles which makes it easy but if all you have is a hand saw then that's perfectly fine too. Each end will be cut at 45 degrees so that they will fit . These will give a lot of added strength to the whole structure. At this stage its extremely solid while it was heavy it was not too heavy that it could not be moved by one person.
Step 7: Bottom Cross Braces.
Now we come down to the last bit of the construction. Cut 2 pieces of 2 x 4 42 inches long. These will be your bottom braces (see pictures). When the dirt / potting mix is put in (the half drum took three large bags) it may tend to splay out the ends so by putting the bottom cross braces on the frame it keeps it solid.
Step 8: End Product and Things to Consider.
All you have to do now is fill it with potting mix and place it where you want and away you go. You don't have to use grow lights but we do so its easy. I built the planter at this height as my wife who is disabled cannot bend down like I can. As she loves gardening and growing things so this is at the right height for her and wont create any stress on her back and shoulders as she works the soil. Also I will be putting plywood across the bottom braces to make a shelf for storing extra items
Things to consider.
Here I only used one half of the drum but I will be making the other half into to another planter so for the cost of $40:00 in timber and a free drum I am able to get two huge planters that will grow plenty of vegetables over the winter months. One of the planters will be for herbs only. As I get more drums I will make more planters and composters
Make sure that you drill some small holes in the bottom of your planter to let out excess water so it does not become water logged.
Hope you find this useful.
The Kranky Aussie
Step 9: Update
The Sunday that I made this I planted broccoli, carrots, spring onions and beetroot. From the left the beetroot has come up and no sign of the carrots but the broccoli and the spring onions have come up as well. I found that for watering I used a 1 gallon lawn and garden sprayer that I got from Lowes for around $12. Using this instead of a watering can disturbs the sail less and therefore leaves the seeds where they are planted. It also gives an even moisture contents