After one year in our house and only a few cardboard boxes left to unpack, we decided to install a raised garden bed to start growing some of our own food. Home gardens also provide an excellent opportunity to educate kids that food does not just come from cans and bags.
Who has time to water their garden every day?! Check out how we modified a raised garden kit to implement a self-watering (sub-irrigating) system!
- Metal Garden Kit
- 1 – Grande Garden Bed – Model GR8490
- 1 – Grande Extender – Model GX4242
- 2 – 25’ Rolls of 4” Perforated PVC Drain Pipe
- 1 – Roll of Filter Fabric for Drain Pipes
- 1 – 18” Long x ¾” Diameter Galvanized Pipe (Overflow Tube)
- 1 – 24” Long x 2” Diameter PVC Pipe (Fill Tube)
- 3 – Cubic Yards of Soil
- Duct Tape
- 10’x15’ Pond Liner – Heavy Duty – Fish Safe http://www.homedepot.com/p/Beckett-10-ft-x-15-ft-EPDM-Flexible-Pond-Liner-EPDM1015HD/202563437
- Hand Tamper
- Utility Knife
Step One: Choose a Location
We observed the sun patterns of our yard and determined that the south side of our house received the most amount of sun. Our oaks and pine trees shade out the remaining areas of our yard.
Step Two: Decide What Type of Raised Planter You Want
There are hundreds of DIY raised garden beds out there and cheapo plastic types. We really liked the idea of mixing metal with wood but we wanted to stay away from pressure treated wood because of the toxins.
We stumbled upon www.metalgardenbeds.com. They offer raised metal garden bed kits that can be combined to fit the dimensions of your space. Their prices are pretty reasonable. We purchased one Grande Garden Bed – Model GR8490 (http://www.metalgardenbeds.com/grande.html) and one Grande Extender – Model GX4242 (http://www.metalgardenbeds.com/grande-extender.html). Combining these two made the bed 10’ 3” long by 3’ 5” wide. You can add additional extenders to make the bed longer. Since we built this garden bed, the company has additional kits available for different shapes and configurations.
In addition to this kit, we decided to sub-irrigate this raised garden bed. This technique is also called self-watering. Plants do best with deep watering. Top watering tends to only saturate the first few inches of soil. Watering from below promotes deeper and stronger roots. The soil also stays saturated longer when you water from below.
We’ll walk you through the installation.
Step Three: Site Preparation
Once you select your site, you will need to level the ground. This part is critical because the water stored inside your planter will need to be level to evenly irrigate your soil and plants.
Step Four: Assemble and Install Planter Kit
Follow the planter kit instructions for assembly. We modified the kit and installed the lower cross braces at the bottom of the raised bed to allow the sub-irrigation pipes to fit and lay flat.
Dane Good Tip: Do be sure to wear gloves as the inside edges can be sharp! The edges on the outside are rounded and smooth.
Dane Good Tip: Tape the bolts and sharp edges as this may puncture the pond liner and cause leaks.
Step Five: Install Sub-Irrigation System
Install the pond liner inside the raised garden bed. Make sure you purchase a pond liner large enough to avoid having seams and that can be installed up the sides of the raised bed. We purchased a 10’x15’ and cut it to fit with a utility knife and scissors.
Dane Good Tip: Take off your shoes and wear socks when standing on the pond liner. Shoes could contain rocks and puncture the liner. Socks help protect your feet because the liner gets really hot!
Dane Good Tip: Pay attention to the corners to make sure water cannot escape. Water is sneaky! We actually had a huge leak when we first filled it all up and thought one of the dogs punctured the pond liner! Luckily the water was just escaping out our corners that were a bit too low and not taped well enough. We just excavated some soil, elevated the liner and re-taped.
Measure the inside of the bed and cut the pipes to length for a snug fit. Wrap each pipe with the filter fabric and tie a knot on each end. The filter fabric prevents soil from entering and clogging the pipes.
Install the pipes. Cut a hole on the top of one pipe and insert the filler tube.
Lay the overflow pipe across the top of the pipes to determine where to drill a hole through the side of the raised garden bed. Wrap the overflow pipe ends with the filter fabric to prevent clogging. Insert the overflow pipe through the hole.
Dane Good Tip: Fill the planter with water before adding soil to check for leaks.
Step Six: Add Soil
We purchased a 50/50 mix of topsoil and organic compost from a local landscape supply company. There are many blogs and DIY plans for making your own raised planter soil but for this first year, we chose the easy route and purchased 3 cubic yards. We had the soil delivered to our house and had some left over to keep handy for additional plantings throughout the year. It helps to have a toddler around for supervision and soil filling.
Step Seven: Plant!
Plant per the separation recommendations on the back of the seed packets or plant tags. We planted beans, arugula, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes and various herbs.
Step Eight: Water and Wait
Dane Good Tip: Top watering will be required until the seeds or seedlings develop deep roots.
Step Nine: Harvest and Eat!
Our son, Nolan, loved picking the arugula right from the garden. He would pick a piece and eat it while playing in the back yard. Who knew this picky kid would like arugula!?
Step Ten: Prepare for the Winter
We will be working on a greenhouse top for the raised bed so we can continue growing veggies and herbs through the winter months. We’ll be sure to post that project.
We’d love to see some of your finished projects! Let us know how they turn out!