Eco-Victory Garden: The Sustainable Salad

I posted recently about an idea for providing low cost garden systems that came to me while blog surfing. There is so much buzz about Michael Pollan’s new book, and at the same time so many of the Garden Blog set have Spring Fever and are challenging each other to various great ways to expand their gardens. But what if you read Pollan’s books, get all fired up about eating fresh food, but have zero experience with gardening and no garden blogger friends?

I had proposed building a small raised bed of cedar, and then coupling it with a small 1 cu yard compost bin, and a rain barrel. Combining the three would allow a household to grow local food (at least some salads), begin learning about waste recycling, and also water storage and harvesting. Below is my first crack at the prototypes this weekend. All told, well under $100 in materials (and that is including enough fencing to make 4 bins) and about 3 hours for this armchair handy man if I had built the rain barrel.

Enter my “Eco” Victory Garden:

Earth Victory Garden

The product I will present for our county’s sustainability group will not use the oak whiskey barrel due to pricing, but I included it for now since I have not yet received delivery of the plastic 55 gallon drums. The pitch that I will be making to the group this week, is that with some grant work or sponsors we will be able to provide these systems to the community for $75 or so… installed. With Plants!

In our own family, we started down the road to a more sustainable lifestyle due in large part to our desire to find healthier food for our kids, and just look where it has led! Everyone eats, and even on taste alone the difference in home grown heirloom food is evident to virtually anyone. Food is a great “in” with fence sitters, but its not the only one. Composting can seem like magic to those not familiar with natural systems “you mean garbage can turn into dirt?”. And in conversations I had selling over a hundred of rain barrels last year convinced me that they have a great ability to start conversations about recycling, wastefulness, and common sense practicality. Why not put all three into a turnkey system and start turning the some small portion of the wastes of suburbia to good use?

Though I spent some energy paring down the designs to inexpensive form, there are cheaper ways to do this, and certainly more environmentally friendly ones using reused materials, etc. But I am choosing to break some eggs to get an “in” with those just starting to look for ways to lower their impact. I am banking that an attractive, long lasting cedar system will allow us to reach a larger audience -to make a bigger impact.

Once this country grew local veggies to help a War Effort. I believe that now the time is right to grow veggies in a sustainable fashion, across the nation, to show the world that American can unite for something besides destruction. The end goal hasn’t changed: we are still fighting for the future of our children. But this time, the stakes are, if anything, higher.

Below I will give a high level “How To” to help you make one for yourself, or if in case you want to start a program in your area. Keep in mind that I studied philosophy not architecture or engineering and absolutely zero CAD design software was harmed in the making of these products.

Material List for the $36, 5’x 3′ Raised Bed :

  • 4 1.25″x6″x8′ cedar decking boards ($32.50)
  • 1 1″x 2″ x 8′ cedar board (only use 4′) ($3.25)
  • Handful of 4d coated nails.

victory-garden-resize.jpg

Cut the Cedar Decking boards into 5′ and 3′ pieces and then cut the 1″x2″ into 4, 11″ chunks. Use the 1×2 pieces as corner braces to support and nail the decking together. Done!

Material List for $48, 40″ Compost Bin:

  • 4 1″x4″x10′ Cedar Boards ($20)
  • 1 38″ piece of 1×2 left over from raised bed (free)
  • 120″ of 3′ coated wire fencing (I had to buy 50′ for $23)
  • 1 box 3/4″ poultry staples ($1)
  • Handful of 4d coated nails
  • 2″ Brass coated “L” brackets ($3)

Cut the 1×4 into 4 38″ pieces (verticals), and 7 40″ pieces. Cut 40″ of fencing and bend it flat. Using 2 38″ pieces lay them on the floor and center the 36″ fencing on the 38″ uprights leaving 1″ space on each. Now lay 2 of the 40″ horizontals on the 38″ pieces and the centered fencing and, once it is squared, nail the cedar boards together with 3-4 4d nails. It should look about like this:

compost-side-resize.jpg

Now you need to tack the fencing on tight so the weight of the compost doesn’t bow it too badly:

poultry-staple-resize.jpg

Try to hammer the poultry staples across corners of the fencing squares as shown to limit its ability to mover around. Repeat this for the other side. The back is tricky since you have to hold the side upright and then nail the 2 40″ cedar pieces on top the final 40″ fencing piece to complete the back of the bin. A helper or some clamps makes it possible. It might also be easier to just use a 120″ piece of fencing without cutting it. I will try that next time. Now, take that remaining 40″ board and use it to hold the bottom of the open front together. I know this makes the bottom uneven, but once it is in the yard you won’t notice. With the exception of the top brace (more on that in a minute), it should now look like this:

compost-bin-resize.jpg

Now for the final touch. A simple, open framed bin like this bows something awful without a top brace. But a fixed top brace makes turning the compost VERY frustrating. So I included a removeable top brace. Take the left over 1×2 from the raised bed and cut it to 38″. Using pilot holes, screw the “L” braces to each end and then place it on the top of the front of the bin as shown:

anti-bow-strap-resize.jpg

The brace is sized to fit behind the front uprights which will prevent it from slipping off the front of the bin. Congrats! Your done!

Advertisements

23 Responses

  1. Nice! I think that system will be very appealing for people looking to grow some of their own food but not sure how to get started. Your setup is way cheap, and simple. Put dirt in that one, kitchen junk and leaves in this one, and water in the other. Easy!

  2. So does the delivery/installation price point include provision of growing soil? I’m just thinking for urban areas I know a lot of soil is apparently toxic and so unsuitable for food production so was unsure how/if you were looking to get round that.

  3. Oops submitted prematurely!

    Was going to go on to say that I guessed that was a reason for the raised bed but was interested in the potential logistics involved.

    It looks like a pretty simple, easy to use starter kit.

  4. Tell me more about the rain barrel?

  5. Thanks Meg!

    TH, Absolutely-the soil in mos suburbs is dead dirt and we want this to be a positive experience! Most of the municipalities here have building sized compost piles that no one uses. The bed is sized to take about .75 cu yards of compost that we will plant the veggies right into. I have a 5×8 trailer with sides that will fit the bill nicely.

    Meryl, I modify whiskey barrels and install native gardens as a side business (Someday Gardens) to help suburbanites live a little lighter and to fund my Eco Experiments. This Garden Program is a pro bono gig with our new local Eco Group Sustain Jefferson that I am a part of. The barrel pictured is from a local brewer that uses them to cask finish some of their ales… essential a beautiful industrial waste product. To make them into a rain barrel I cut a hole through the top with a giant Bosch hammer drill and 4 1/4″ carbide tipped hole saw (5/4 oak is TOUGH) which I fill with a screen lined floor drain to keep out debris, and then put a 1″ hole in the side near the bottom with an auger to insert a brass hose spigot. You also need to plug the bung with something -I use 2″ tapered rubber stoppers from chemical supply companies. Once I get the plastic barrels (free) I will post another how to on getting them built up-figure 1-2 weekends after I figure it out.

    -Rob

  6. I didn’t even think of using cedar deck boards for the bed frame, I have two…possibly three beds to add/ adjust size, and was wandering the aisles at lowes wondering what would be appropriate.

    PERFECT! thanks for the tip. Now I’ve got something to work on if the temp gets a tad warmer and I can comfortably work outside.

  7. This is an awesome idea! Anything to get lots more people gardening, and it looks pretty, is very appealing to me. I’m glad I found your site. I’ll check back for the plastic rain barrel how-to as a rain barrel is definitely in our future…

    Lisa

  8. Nice! That is a great idea.

    We couldn’t have an open compost bin with our neighborhood rules…and the rain barrel would depend on color and size…but a great idea. That kind of thing is just what we need. I have gardening knowledge and experience, but such a weird yard, HOA rules, sloping/grading (that we are not supposed to level), and utilities for 2 homes running down the center of our skinny 18 foot wide yard (with houses on each side making for odd sunlight). And two small boys so time available to setup is limited too. So raised beds with plants? Rain barrels? Ready to go? Amazing.

    I think with the poor thin “topsoil” that was dumped over massive rocks which they call a “yard” here plus utilities running down sides and middle means raised beds are really the best bet outside of our main tiny garden area. Just need to figure out how/where to put them! 🙂 It would be nice to have several! And we definitely plan to have rain barrels this year–just need to find something that looks nice enough for the rules!

    Rambling on…just something I have been thinking about lately, and with the kids and odd yard I need something that is ready to go yet affordable. Gets the wheels spinning! 🙂

  9. You’ll have to forgive me as I’m not very familiar with HOA compacts. How difficult is it to lobby for a rules change? What legal requirements bind you to the agreement and what penalties exist for violation. I participated a year back in a group discussion following a showing of An Inconvenient Truth, where an individual was in a similar bind. Rather than pave his driveway with blacktop as the HOA demanded he wanted to put in something permeable like stone or even brick with adequate gaps for drainage. Maybe I have a bit of an anarchist streak but my first thought equated to civil disobedience: do it anyway. Obviously there must be some consequence to violation, not to mention the ill will of his neighbors, but in stark contrast to Onestraw’s successes with his HOA, they can be a potential roadblock as well.

  10. What a nice system. Easily adapted to locality.
    A good set-up for demonstrations at events throughout the city. Do you mind if others use your basic idea.

    Here in Chicago the compost bin must have a top and all sides openings 1/4 inch or smaller.
    compost bin home made
    wood single
    http://www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/homecomposting/urbanbin.html

    Plastic or metal garbage can with tight fitting lid (min. 32 gallons for best results)
    http://www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/homecomposting/basicbin.html

    or the city of Chicago sponsers a $30 sale of plastic rodent proof bins and rain barrels several times a year.

    In April of each year the Garfield Conservatory puts on a Green and Growing Fair in Alliance with
    Growing Power .
    http://www.growingpower.org/

    The UIUC Extention service Master Gardeners volunteer to run a year round community garden behind the conservatory in a space the equivalent to a city lot. We use wooden pallets and broken concrete and other inexpensive ways to build raised beds.The Organic Demonstration Garden is open April through November but has volunteers and demonstrations of planting, growing on and harvesting Tuesday and Saturday in season. Also a compost area and bee hive care is demonstrated. Visitors are encouraged to join in for hands on learning.

    The city of Chicago has gone to great lenths to help organizations work together toward teaching and encouraging successful sustainable growing.

  11. What a nice system. Easily adapted to locality.
    A good set-up for demonstrations at events throughout the city. Do you mind if others use your basic idea.

    Here in Chicago the compost bin must have a top and all sides openings 1/4 inch or smaller.
    compost bin home made
    wood single
    http://www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/homecomposting/urbanbin.html

    Plastic or metal garbage can with tight fitting lid (min. 32 gallons for best results)
    http://www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/homecomposting/basicbin.html

    or the city of Chicago sponsers a $30 sale of plastic rodent proof bins and rain barrels several times a year.

    In April of each year the Garfield Conservatory puts on a Green and Growing Fair in Alliance with
    Growing Power .
    http://www.growingpower.org/

    The UIUC Extention service Master Gardeners volunteer to run a year round community garden behind the conservatory in a space the equivalent to a city lot. We use wooden pallets and broken concrete and other inexpensive ways to build raised beds.The Organic Demonstration Garden is open April through November but has volunteers and demonstrations of planting, growing on and harvesting Tuesday and Saturday in season. Also a compost area and bee hive care is demonstrated. Visitors are encouraged to join in for hands on learning.

    The city of Chicago has gone to great lengths to help organizations work together toward teaching and encouraging successful sustainable growing.

  12. Gloria, by all means use the idea! I will likely sell a sligthly sturdier version through my business complete with one of my oak rain barrels, but the intent is to for more people to garden and the version, or something very similar, will be designed for use with non-profits and gardening groups.

    This design could be modified to use 1/4″ diameter hardware cloth and for an increase of about 30% in cost add removeable lid and sides for rat proofing. The hardware cloth is significantly more expensive than the wire fencing though.

    To make it more Eco, it could be built with the wood from one or two pallets as well. This is something we are debating now: make it more sustainable with reused materials or make it more accessible through attractive, though virgin, cedar boards.

    It is great to see what major metro areas like Chicago are going. We toured Growing Power with Will Allen in December at he blew my mind. a true savant and hero!

    Thanks for you comments and links!
    -Rob

  13. My compost bins are the same kind of 55 gallon plastic drums as my water barrels. They’re black, and I drilled them full of 1/2″ holes (sides and bottom). Saw off the lid, reattach with screws and a latch, and you’re in business. The best part? To turn my compost, I just knock a barrel over on its side and roll it slowly around the yard. 🙂

  14. That is a great idea Emily! We have enough barrels on hand from our local source that it may be a real option. Thanks!

    -Rob

  15. This is a great post – and instead of calling this a kind of victory garden, I am calling new – and experienced – gardeners to create HOPE GARDENS. I think the issues we face now with global warming, water shortages etc are about how we work with Mother Nature. We don’t want, and can’t have, victory over Mother Nature, but we can work cooperatively with her in the HOPES that we can return our Mother Earth to health. With all the politicians talk about HOPE and change, I think gardeners and potential gardeners should join with HOPE GARDENS.

  16. […] bookmarks tagged dirt surfing Eco-Victory Garden: The Sustainable Salad saved by 5 others     XxPostalDudexX bookmarked on 02/16/08 | […]

  17. […] we built our Earth Victory Gardens, we discovered a source for 3×12×16′ reclaimed fir boards. A company had salvaged them […]

  18. […] 19, 2008 by onestraw Today I head up to the MREA fair with a truck loaded full of our booth, an Earth Victory Garden (EVG), and the entire Gasifier.  I have swapped the Insight for the day with another of our group who […]

  19. I’ve been able to get a few large plastic barrels from local supply stores for free or very little. They’re essentially rubbish to them, and bulky rubbish at that!

    Here’s my version of a tumbling compost bin made from one of these barrels:
    http://www.pool-room.com/2001/12/tumbling-compost-bin/

  20. […] non-profits, not the government were able to create something as simple and effective as the Earth Victory Garden (EVG) or as fascinating as the Gasifier was incredibly inspiring to the attendees of the MREA.   […]

  21. Thanks for the design ideas. Will let you know if the neighbors go for the Concrete Jungle Garden.

    RedRoad
    Lynne Mayo

  22. […] as a break out speaker in one of their after lunch sessions.  I gave a 30 minute talk on our Earth Victory Garden project that was essentially a shortened version of the one I gave to several hundred at the […]

  23. […] Sustainability  501C3: Sustain Jefferson with a booth showcasing our Gasifier and our Earth Victory Garden concepts.  I will be getting up there Friday morning and should be manning the booth starting after […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: