Container Gardening on a Dime: Spring 2014 Master Gardener Newsletter

By Master Gardener Joe Bernardo

I thought the Master Gardeners might like to know a way of doing home gardens in containers without spending a great deal of money on planters and supplies. After attending the Master Gardening class, I decided I would like to expand my own garden by building some raised beds and containers. When I went to the box stores, I was quite surprised to see what it would cost to build a raised bed out of redwood planks. I began to think it would cost more than I wanted to spend just to have fresh vegetables. Then, I remembered the stack of lumber at the Habitat for Humanity and decided to give them a visit.

The first time I went there, they didn’t have any lumber to speak of. About a week later, I went back. That day they had a whole stack of used 4×6 beams about 12 foot long. They wanted $10 each, but I offered $30 for the lot and they said OK. It turned out that I had to make two trips because there was too much for my truck to hold in one load. I got plenty for my raised beds and also enough for quite a bit of fire wood.

There were several 2×6 and 2×8 also with the pile. I took two saw horses and used the 2×6 to make a 4×8 bed for my vegetates and herbs. If you are on a budget and don’t want to buy a lot of soil, then you can make some of your own by using compost and other materials. I use all my grass clippings and whatever I can mulch for filling the beds.

In the very first year, I produced all the onions and tomatoes I could eat. That same bed had lots of lettuce and greens. I had five cuttings of my greens. I will be mulching over the winter and will start again next spring.

To keep the critters out of the raised beds, I was able to buy wire at Habitat for a small price and totally enclosed the planters. We got nice squash and pumpkins from my back raised bed.  I found out by making them only five feet wide by ten feet long you can cover them easily so the quail won’t bother them.

All in all, I ended up with one 5×20 foot bed, one 8×10  foot bed and a raised bed 4×8. Not bad for a $30 investment. I found out that the big box stores have a closeout rack where they sell out at 70-90% off lumber that has warped or a bow or crack in it. Many times that won’t be of any concern or you can cut it off. If you ask, most stores like to get rid of defective lumber that is good for what you need.

The raised beds are a good place to put your coffee grounds and kitchen  trimmings over the winter. Most left-over lumber new or used can make a good and attractive container garden. Use your creative mind and see what you can dream up. I used screws and joist clips I bought at Habitat for 5 cents each. By the time I had finished the beds I had only paid $51.00 which included sprinklers for my beds. This is one of many ways to do container or raised beds on a dime. This is only my opinion as a Master Gardener.