One of the most fun and educational things you can do with your child(ren) is to start your own garden.
You don't have to make it a veggie garden, although eating what they grow does tend to intrigue the little ones. You can do a flower garden, a butterfly garden, or a cactus garden, to name a few.
I am also going to teach you how to add another twist to it. You and the small ones can build a garden that moves!
Why make a mobile garden? A mobile garden means you can change locations so you can use different plants at different times of the year that have different sunlight requirements. It also means that you can bring the garden to you when you want to work on it. Details after the break!
The materials you will need to make your 4'L x 4'W x 3'H roll-around garden:
- (1) - 4x4-12' pressure treated or redwood post cut to 4 pieces 32" long.
- (5) - 2x4-8' pressure treated or redwood studs cut to 8 pieces 41" long. Cut the last stud to 1 piece 45" long.
- (2) - 4'x8'x3/8" siding (I recommend getting the siding that is grooved 4" on center.) cut to 4 pieces 4' x 32 1/4". Have the groove run in the vertical direction. If you want you can also replace the siding with dog eared pickets cut to 33" high. You will need 32 of them.
- (1) - 4' x 4' piece of 3/4" exterior plywood.
- 40 square feet of a weed block type liner that will allow for water to flow out, but not the soil.
- 1 gallon of asphalt emulsion.
- (1) five pound box of 8d galvanized joist hanger nails, 1 1/2" long.
- (4) 2 1/2" casters that swivel.
- (16) 1/4" x 2" galvanized lag screws with galvanized washers.
- (18) Model A35 hangers from Simpson. Make sure they are ZMAX style if you are using pressure treated lumber.
- Tools: Hammer, ratchet with 7/16" socket, cheap paint brush, staple gun with 1/4" galvanized staples, saw (hand or circular), T-square
- 24 cubic feet of soil. Consult your local home center or nursery for guidance on what will best suit what you are planning to grow.
The first step is to attach the A35 hangers to the ends of all of the 2x4 pieces. The hangers will need to be bent. The bottom of each hanger has 2 pieces that can be bent 90°. Bend each one so that you can support the long and short side of the 2x4 pieces on each end. The un-bent side is the side that will be attached to the 4x4 legs of the garden. The 2 hangers that are used for the longer 2x4 piece will need to have both sides bent to 90°.
After all the hangers are attached to the 2x4's you can nail them to the 4x4 legs in a vertical position. That means that when you look at it standing up you will be looking at the 4" side of the 2x4 when you face it. Each side of the garden will have 2 of the 2x4's nailed to 2 of the 4x4's. The first 2x4 will need to be nailed on so the top of the 2x4 is flush to the top and outside face of the 4x4's, so that it looks like you just built a small fence panel. The second will need to be nailed on 18 ¾" down from the top of the 4x4 legs.
This second row will allow for 18" of soil to be kept in the garden. This will be more than enough depth to support whatever you want to grow (including dwarf fruit trees).
The third step is nailing on the cross support. Take your longer 2x4 and nail it to two of the bottom 2x4s, so that the planter base will have support across the middle. Make sure you appropriately locate the middle of the 2x4s by measuring them out.
The fourth step is to install the plywood base. Notch out the plywood piece at the corners. Use a scrap piece of 4x4 post as a guide to draw your cut lines. Next cut the 4x4 piece in half. Insert the 2 pieces in to the bottom of the planter so that the plywood is supported by the bottom 2x4 pieces and the cross piece. For maximum support, make sure the seam in the plywood is 90° to the cross support. Nail in place.
The fifth leg of our odyssey is to nail on the siding. Use your T-square to ensure that whichever side you start on first is square, line up the bottom of the siding to the bottom of the 4x4 legs, and then proceed to nail the siding to both the 4x4 legs and both of the 2x4 cross members. Repeat for each side.
If things go right you shouldn't even need the T-square for the last side. Make sure you use enough nails, as these provide the support to hold in the soil. About 20 nails per side should do it.
The sixth step is to screw on the casters so this baby can move. Use the lag screws with washers to secure the casters to the bottom of the 4x4 legs, then flip the garden back over. Try not to give into the temptation to use it as a demented go-cart at this point. It's hard, but I think you can do it!
Step seven is coating the garden's interior with asphalt emulsion. Use a CHEAP brush to liberally apply it to all the exposed wood inside the planter (don't use a good brush, as you will not be able to get it clean afterwards). After making sure you have an uninterrupted coating, let it dry completely.
The eighth step has you using your staple gun to staple the liner material to the inside of the planter so that when it is filled, the soil will touch only the liner -- not the wood. Be generous with the staples, to ensure firm attachment.
As soon as the liner is secure, you can paint the outside of your planter: either match the decor outside, or let the kids cook up their own designs. Have fun with it!
Lastly, after the paint dries you can fill it with soil and start planting your own personal, mobile garden.
A couple of variations you can try are reducing the height if you need to, making the base more shallow for a cactus or serenity garden, or using sand and rocks for a Japanese rock garden. I hope you and the kids have fun with this, using it for quality time, and as a way to teach and learn.