How to Build a 4 x 4 Raised Garden Bed

In the beginning, the naive among us, and that was a lot of us, thought COVID would be a passing thing. I would never have believed I would be unable to visit, hold, and smother my grandchildren with kisses for so many months. In June, when the number of new COVID cases dipped, my husband and I got in the car and drove south, first to Hartwell, Georgia to visit and hug one son and then on to Orlando to see another.

While we drove (and listened to cookbook author Ruth Reichel’s delightful novel, Delicious!), I got to thinking about a way I could stay connected to my grands that was symbolic of times we shared when they lived down the road from us. I thought about this photo that I keep on my kitchen windowsill. You’ve gotta love a two-year-old superhero who wears a diaper.

The photo became my inspiration for a COVID project I hoped would provide outdoor fun for my grandchildren. I wanted to build them a vegetable garden so they could experience the anticipation and joy that comes with watching a seed unfurl its leaves as it pokes out of the ground. That you get to eat the food you grow is secondary to the miracles and discoveries that happen every day in a garden.

Meanwhile, my husband, the builder in the family, was like yeah, yeah … But what is your plan, Judy? Plan? I had no plan. I am more of a make-it-up-as-you-go kind of person. I drew up something for him on a napkin that he translated into a plan.

My Plan:

His:

We went to Home Depot to get supplies.

Here is what we built in one afternoon.

Here is how it looked two months later.

How We Built the Garden

First things first — before you get started building a space for a garden, look for a sunny spot with easy access to water. Next, write up a list of plants you want to grow.

And we’re off…

We bought two eight-foot cedar boards that were 8″ in height. Do not use pressure-treated lumber as the chemicals that keep the wood from rotting will leach into the soil over time.

By all means, let a staff person cut the boards into 4-foot lengths for you. Also, look around for a big piece of cardboard to line the bottom of your garden.

You will need a box of three-inch screws. And, if you are going to divide your garden into squares, you’ll need string and thumbtacks. I would not recommend the twine shown here. It disintegrated within two months.

Next, head to the garden center to purchase soil. To keep costs down, we bought inexpensive topsoil and composted manure for the bottom layers and saved the richer raised-bed soil for the top. You will also need to buy a bag of all-natural “sandbox” sand to help with soil drainage.

The formula for calculating how many cubic feet of soil to buy is as follows. Volume = length x width x height. All the numbers need to be in the same type of units- in this case, feet. Thus, 4 x 4 x .67 (8 inches = 8/12 =.67) equals 11 cubic feet. We bought 12 CF because once you water the soil, it gets compacted, and you need a little more volume to fill it. Soil bags come in cubic feet.

 

If you don’t have a drill, it’s going to be harder to put your raised bed together. You could simplify the process by buying lumber and specialized cement blocks or use a raised-bed kit.

Instructions in Pictures

Planting the Seeds

Stopping to Smell the Flowers

Watering the Garden

One of the discoveries – snake beans that germinated in three days!

Two Months Later

Last week, we planted a few cool-weather seeds.

One day, while the children were on a walk with their parents, they passed this patch of pineapple plants. The homeowner gave them a pineapple and told them to cut off the top and stick it in the dirt to grow their own. I never thought about how pineapples grew.

I think my son and DIL have gotten the “growing edibles” bug because, in addition to planting the pineapple, they have added three fruit trees to their backyard: guava, mango, and fig, and planted seeds to grow cosmos which attract bees and butterflies and my granddaughter. She loves to pick flowers!

Nothing could make me happier than to pass on my passion for growing food to my family. Now, when I FaceTime with my grands, they often take the phone outside to show me their garden. It keeps us all happy and connected when we can’t be together for hugs. My friend, the Reverand Susan Masters, put this notice on her Facebook page. She, like me, is a hugger!

Related Posts:
Edible Landscaping with Nashville Foodscapes
Family Dirt
Fall Planting Guide for Your Kitchen Garden
Putting Your Garden to Bed with a Blanket of Cover Crops

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© 2014-2020 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

DIY Ant Remover

In the beginning of #SaferAtHome, my husband, a doer if ever there was one, became obsessed with our cordless vacuum cleaner. There was nary a dog hair or toast crumb to be found in our home; that vacuum cleaner was always either running or recharging. His reward for his labor was a full dust canister to empty into the trash. I am grateful that obsession has passed, and that he has found other problems to solve in our home …

When it rains a lot, as it has in Nashville lately, ants get flushed out of their outdoor nests and look for dry, higher ground. Kitchens are an ideal place to go because they provide a food source and shelter.

One of the things I love about my husband is the way he quietly observes a problem and then gets laser-focused on solving it. This past Saturday the problem was ants all over the kitchen. Searching the Internet, he found a recipe for a DIY ant remover solution that used supplies we had in the house.

Ingredients
2 tablespoons of Borax
⅓ cup of sugar
1 cup warm water

Supplies
condiment lids or bottle caps to serve as trays for the solution
cotton balls
a lidded jar for storing the solution
a spoon or bulb syringe for moistening the cotton balls

Directions
Mix Borax and sugar in warm water in a glass jar with a lid. Dip cotton balls into the mixture and place them onto small lids that serve as a tray. We made three of these trays and placed them close to the wall on the countertop. Do not place them on the floor where a child or pet could get to them.

The ants were gone in three days. Ants are attracted to the sugar, and the borax gets ingested and taken back to the nest. He adds more solution as needed to keep the cotton balls moist.

Related How-to Posts

Readers who have been around for a few years may remember when my husband created the Nifty, Thrifty Thaw Detector for our freezer so we could tell if we had a power outage while we were out of town. If we had, the penny would be at the bottom of the container when we got home. This is another use for condiment holders if you buy a bag of them.

Check out the How-To page on the menu for other household tips.

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Always check my blog for the latest version of a recipe.

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© 2014-2020 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

Food and Fabric Fun While Being #SaferAtHome

Have you ever wondered how to tell a hard-boiled egg from an uncooked egg without cracking it open? Watch my hubby explain and then try it at home.

How to Tell If an Egg Is Fresh or Hard-Boiled

 

Have you ever wondered why you can’t smell when your nose is stuffed up, yet your tongue can still taste, sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and umami (savory)? Check out this fun food activity to learn more.

Test Your Sense of Smell

 

Yellow onion skins help give chicken broth a beautiful golden color. I figured that out when making these naturally dyed eggs using an assortment of foods to make the dyes. Give it a try.

To Dye For: Making Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs

The next year, I invited a few young friends over and we figured out how to add more colors to our repertoire.

The next year,  I took a DEEP DIVE into the fridge, my backyard, and my imagination, and my kitchen became a color laboratory.

Some of the eggs did not take up the color. I redipped those eggs into an indigo dye bath. Wow! These shades of blue were delightful.

The cotton boll on the right did not take up color as well as the eggs. That led to the deepest dive of all: growing a crop of indigo and traveling to a Kentucky farm to learn how to get the indigo dye to stick to cotton. That took a little chemistry. It was a colorful adventure.

How to Make Indigo Blue Dye

There was one more project to try with natural dyes — learn how to tie and dye fabric squares and make a quilt. This post is one of the most popular of all at Judy’s Chickens.

Group Project: A Shibori Dyed Quilt

This cake from My Name is Yeh, made with natural food dyes, is one I will try in the near future.

naturally colored rainbow cake

This cake is definitely in my future.

Old-Timey Vanilla Bunny Cake

Christians, Jews, and Muslims will be contemplating Easter, Passover, and Ramadan this month. Most of us will be acknowledging these holiest of times differently this year. Whether you are alone or with whoever makes up your family group, may you experience peace, love, recovery if sick, and continued health if well.

I was blessed to have my friend, Mary Carter, of Award-Winning Chocolate Chip Cookies fame, gift me with a handmade face mask with unicorns on the fabric “for magical powers.”

My plan this week is to pay it forward and make a few more.

Take care,
xoJudy

P.S. Check out my list of movies to watch while #SaferAtHome:

Upbeat Movies to Watch While Social-Distancing

Follow Judy’s Chickens on Instagram and Pinterest @JudysChickens.

Always check my blog for the latest version of a recipe.

If you enjoyed this post, please comment, share, or become a follower. Be sure to press “confirm” on the follow-up letter that will be sent to your email if you subscribe.

© 2014-2020 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

How to Choose What Goes in the Recycle Bin: A Holiday Guide

I had no idea.

I thought I was so with it when I learned soiled food containers (like pizza cartons) were big NoNo’s in the paper recycling process. There is so much more:

  • Food waste of any kind
  • Liquid (make sure acceptable containers are free of food or liquid)
  • Food soiled containers such as pizza boxes, paper plates, napkins or paper towels
  • Plastic takeout containers
  • Plastic trays (Lunchable trays, frozen dinner trays or bowls, etc.)
  • Plastic trays, buckets, and flower pots

If you are looking for last minute ideas for Sides and Desserts for Thanksgiving Dinner, look here.

My must haves include: 
Karen’s Foolproof Make-Ahead Gravy
Grandma’s Cranberry Chutney
Melissa’s Sweet Potato Casserole
Mom’s Pumpkin Pie

Always check my blog for the latest version of a recipe.

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© 2014-2019 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright