DIY project: Level 2 (easy to medium)
Here’s how to make your own moveable raised bed / large container using recycled materials – all for just a few pounds or dollars. Add a lick of paint to the outside and you’ll create a stylish container to rival any you can buy!
The benefits of making your own containers
A big advantage of making your own containers is that you can design them to fit your space – perfect for small spaces where every inch is valuable. Also, decent sized containers for veg growing are often hard to buy or pricey – so making your own can save you time and money. It’s also rewarding to make your own and to give new life to recycled materials.
Why grow in a large container like this?
The general rule with containers is that bigger is better – as long as space and weight holding capacity permits. Bigger containers hold more soil, food and water. This means you get bigger, more productive crops. Bigger containers are also easier to look after, and require less regular watering and feeding.
Note for balcony and roof terrace growers
I’ve no doubt that most of you will be aware of the weight issue, but I should mention it again just in case. Large containers like this, filled with soil are extremely heavy, particularly when wet. Always check that your roof terrace or balcony can hold the weight of large containers. If in doubt, talk to a structural surveyor. Also, although bigger pots are easier to grow in, many crops can still be grown very successfully in smaller pots.
What you need
- Set square for marking straight perpendicular lines (many hand saws can also be used as set squares).
- Old scaffold boards (source these from scaffold companies – they have to replace their boards every few years by law. You can also often find them at allotment sheds, timber recycling projects or on Ebay).
- Discarded estate agent boards.
- Wooden battens to attach base (wood from old pallets is ideal).
- 2inch x 2 inch wood to join corners (estate agent posts will do the job).
- Screws – non rusting
- Plastic to line the inside (old compost bags are ideal) and prolong the life of the wood – optional.
- Paint or varnish to spruce up the outside – optional. If you want to paint the inside, make sure you use a food safe paint like Osmo…
How to make it
1. Cut the planks to length you require to fit your space. (Don’t forget that large containers are very heavy when filled with soil so if you ever want to use them, don’t make them too big!).
2. Attach the 2 x 2 (5cm x 5cm) to the corners on two sides of the wood, leaving a gap at the end the same thickness of the scaffold plank you’re using. (To make a deeper box you could join two scaffold boards together).
3. Attach the sides to complete the frame of the box. This job is best done on a flat surface and is easier if you can borrow a second pair of hands to hold the wood in place.
4. Cut an estate agent sign (or two) to fit the size of the box. This will be the base.
5. Cut several battens the same width of the box (here, I’ve used pieces of old pallet). Use the battens to attach the plastic base, by screwing through the battens. The battens have two functions – they hold the plastic firmly in place, and they raise the container from the ground enabling it to drain properly.
6. Drill plenty of drainage holes (1cm / 0.4 inch diameter is ideal if you have such a drill bit – if not, use the largest you have) in the plastic base (see image above).
7. Line the inside of the box with old compost bags if you want to preserve the life of the wood. Even without lining, the box should last several years, and you may prefer to grow in a more natural environment without plastic. (I’ve lined this one with plastic, but find I’m increasingly prefer to grow in natural materials).
8. Finally, if you chose, you can give the outside a lick of paint. As this container was destined for outside our front door I painted it a smart black in an attempt not to lower the tone of the neighbourhood! I used Osmo Country Colour wood paint, which is the most natural paint I’ve been able to find.