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Planning Your Summer Landscape? Box Gardens Made Easy!

Spring has sprung and summer is just around the corner! If you’re looking forward to fresh summer veggies or a beautiful floral landscape, have you considered planting a vegetable or flower garden in a box? It doesn’t have to encompass an entire section of your yard. Nowadays, people are finding that box gardens are a great way to grow their own produce or flowers in addition to adding an asset to the landscape.

Here is some information to help you easily and affordably create a garden for your family this summer.

Types of raised box gardens
Box gardens are raised—either right on top of the soil or grass, or on legs about 18 inches off the ground. They come in different styles and sizes, and kits are available at your local Home Depot, Lowes or similar home and garden retailers. If you’re feeling particularly creative, you could even design one yourself.

Many gardens are constructed out of cedar or untreated wood. Pressure-treated wood is also an option, which is generally considered safe to use around people, pets, flowers and vegetables. Read more about pressure treated lumber and wood preservatives on the EPA website: Overview of Wood Preservative Chemicals. Vinyl, plastic and composite garden beds are another option which are strong, durable and built to last.

What it costs
A 2-foot-high, 4-foot-by-4-foot raised bed kit will set you back about $100-300, depending on size, material and design. Shipping costs may be additional and will vary depending on where you live (as do the costs of the soil, fertilizer and plants, which will be additional). Remember that your garden box is an investment that will likely be usable over many years. You can always use Tower’s Mastercard® or Home Improvement Loan to finance your project if you don’t have the cash on hand.

You can also build it yourself from materials you choose! Here are a few tips from Home Depot for building your own wooden box garden:

  1. Create a 4-sided structure using 2 x 10-inch lumber that has been cut to length.
  2. The garden should be 4-feet wide or less to allow easy access to the middle of the box, and 8-10 inches deep for flowers; vegetable gardens should be 12-18 inches deep.
  3. Place the shorter walls flush to the longer walls to create a rectangle.
  4. Drill pilot holes and use 2-1/2 inch deck screws to fasten the ends of the walls together.

Coverings
Consider adding a mesh cover to keep birds and rabbits away, if they are the dominant critters in the area. You can also add a garden trellis next to the bed for vines and tall plants.

Placement
Pick a flat spot in your yard that has good sun exposure. Most vegetables should receive at least eight hours of full sun each day. The more sun the better, so it makes sense to plant your new garden in the sunniest part of your yard. Avoid low, wet areas where the soil could stay soggy. Also, because your garden will need to be watered during the growing season, you’ll want to have relatively easy access to a hose.

Lining the box
Next up—protect the bottom of the box from pests and weeds by lining it with landscape fabric before planting. This porous material allows water to pass through for good drainage, which makes it soil-ready. Gardeners recommend filling the bed with a mix of nutrient-rich soil and compost with these proportions: 60% topsoil, 30% compost and 10% potting soil to allow for proper drainage. This Mulch and Soil Calculator from Lowes can help you estimate the amount of soil you will need.

Add plants or seeds
If you want to start with seeds, the best time is to begin the process in late March or early April. In June, it’s probably better to buy some more-established plants for a summer garden that could take root quickly and roll into fall as well. When choosing your veggies or flowers, you will notice tags on most plants that have details on the care and conditions they need to thrive, and also the expected height and width of the plant as it grows to full size. Careful placement will help avoid overcrowding, which can hamper optimal growth.

Are you a bigger fan of flowers? If you opt for a flower garden, consider planting alternating rows of seasonal flowers so you have something blooming all year round.

How to pick the best mix of plants
Plant what you like to eat—salsa, salad, herbs or a combination of all three. It’s amazing to see how many plants you can grow at home saving you money and creating a great hobby that the whole family can get involved in.

The following plants tend to be the easiest to grow: Chard, cherry tomatoes, sweet potatoes, chili peppers, bush beans, lettuce and other greens. Make sure you use plant cages or a trellis for any plants that become vines so they don’t overcrowd your box. If you opt for the more sprawling plants, you’ll need to properly place them near the sides so they can “vine” over the edge of the box. In the words of great gardeners: When plants sprawl…they go big! Not a bad thing. It means they are healthy and will thrive.

Safety points to consider while constructing the box:

  • Wear gloves, a dust mask and eye protection when handling or cutting wood.
  • Wash your hands after working with treated wood.
  • Dispose of sawdust and waste according to local regulations.
  • Don’t burn pressure treated wood.
  • Don’t use pressure treated wood as mulch.

Resources: Home Depot, Eartheasy.com, Lowes, Gardeners.com, Environmental Protection Agency