Building A Box Garden

It’s that time of year again! If you’re like me, you are excited to plant your vegetable garden. The box garden is a popular option because it makes the most of a small space. Plus you don’t have to till up the ground or do any really hard work.

Building the box is simple and cheap. Of course, you could go all out and use expensive wood or build a structure capable of withstanding a flood, but it really is not necessary for the classic box garden. Box gardens are very popular in Japan because they are nice, neat and create a lot of vegetables in a small space.

The secret is that the dirt inside never gets stepped on. It’s nice and loose, allowing roots to penetrate really deep. Plants grow stronger, bigger and produce more vegetables when they are planted up off of the ground like this. You can also place plants closer together and squeeze more in.

To construct your own for practically nothing, buy landscaping timbers. They top out at about three dollars each. You’ll need to stack them two high. The box needs to be a rectangle no more than four feet across. This will allow you to reach the center without ever stepping on the dirt. Make it as long as you would like. I use four 8’ landscaping timbers for each side and two 4’ timbers for each end. I hammer stakes in the ground along the outside to keep the walls from toppling over.

Once your box is in place, fill it up with bags of soil. Check the bag to see how many you need. A normal small bag will fill one cubic foot of space, so for a 16’ long box like mine, I used about 30 bags. You only need the dirt to be about eight inches deep for vegetables. You may want to work in some cow manure, peat moss or other types of soil. Once you have it filled, you can use it for many years. I recommend refreshing the soil yearly with peat moss and new dirt so that your garden doesn’t become low on nutrients.

Now you are ready to plant. Water the new garden thoroughly to see how much it is going to settle. You may decide to add more soil at this point. With a shovel or just your hands, dig out rows short-ways across the box. Each row should be four feet long. Plant your vegetables according to each plant’s directions. But remember, because you are using a box, you can plant closer together than the directions might say. For example, tomato plants normally need to be 18” apart. In a box garden, you can plant them as close as 9” apart. Plus you’ll enjoy more tomatoes from each plant.

You will want to keep your garden hose reel close by for frequent watering because a box garden can dry out more quickly than one located on the ground. Don’t water tomatoes too much or they will lose precious vitamins and turn out whitish and grainy inside. Just a little tip from one tomato fan to another!

By: Stacy Pessoney

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