If you haven’t joined the grassroots home garden movement, it’s nice to know you still can–and without spending a load of cash.  Last week’s post featured several ways to get your hands on free materials. Today we interview a family who has managed to set up six raised beds while parenting two children under three years old.  Whew!

Instead of letting a pile of old cedar fence boards go to waste,  JD and Kara used them to fashion a garden in their front yard.  The results are pretty impressive and extremely cheap.  They also used other recycled materials to keep their beds safe from birds, animals.. and pesky toddlers!

GBG: How have you child-proofed/bird-proofed your beds?

JD made a “cage” for one bed that we’d planted with seeds instead of starts – the cage is made out of some weld wire fencing we had left over from our fence.  He made a sort of box shape out of the wire, about 6 inches tall to keep little hands from easliy reaching the dirt… this may have also helped for the birds… but did not help with slugs, as they ate our first round of beans entirely.

We are trying various ideas to keep the slugs away, including beer to attract them elsewhere, coffee grounds to hop them up on caffeine and keep them busy and crushed egg shells, which are supposed to be unpleasant for slugs to crawl along.

 We had birds eat our first batch of baby pumpkin buds as they emerged from the soil before we knew what was happening, so we replanted after planting sunflowers all around our fence – giving the birds something they’ll enjoy WAY more than baby pumpkin leaves, hopefully. Oh – and we have a giant bamboo teepee to help support some tomato plants.  It also seems to help deter the toddler people some. Mostly… we just have to talk a LOT about plants and how the dirt is their home and we need to be gentle and careful and soon we can eat yummy things.

GBG: What would you tell people about your experience of raising plants from seeds? 

This year we tried to start a few things from seed in the house… the only things that have made it through so far are the spring mix. 

 I think with more experience and time and space we could do more from seed – it’s definitely a LOT cheaper… but with our lifestyle and inquisitive kids, etc. I would highly recommend buying starts.

 We might be brave next year again and try a few things… but starts have a huge advantage because they’re already so much bigger and more likely to thrive AND they take less time and energy (which we obviously don’t have an excess of).  I would recommend seeds to people who are more patient and have the space to get it done.

GBG: What did you use to fasten the recycled fence boards for your raised beds?

The fence boards are old cedar 1X8’s (which are actually 1″X8″ as opposed to modern boards which are only 3/4″X7 1/4″). The corners are just butt joints with 3 evenly spaced 2 1/2″ #8 deck screws.  I may need to eventually repair or reinforce the corners with pipe strap. 

The beds are 6′ by 3′ and the center brace is to keep the soil from bowing out the sides (which usually isn’t an issue on a bed this size if you are using 2X8 lumber). 

Thanks for adding your Thrifty Green Thursday links below so that all of our readers can learn from your simple tips on how to save a bit of money and the planet.  Everyone’s welcome, but if you don’t know where to start, click here for directions.  Thanks for joining us this week!