Friday, April 17, 2009

Raised Vegetable Bins

Pinched Stoneware Paperweight
by Linda Starr

When we moved here there was a big corral behind the barn. Since we weren't going to raise cows or horses, we decided to tear down the corral and re purpose the lumber into raised vegetables bins. The lumber for the corral was full cut and untreated, perfect for the bins. First we removed the boards, that part was easy. Then we had to remove the nails which held the boards to the posts. They were 3 and 4 inch nails that had been in the boards for quite some time. There was a whole lot of prying and hammering for many a moon removing those nails.

Anti Cribbing or Wood chewing Nails

Not knowing much about horses, I had never heard of anti cribbing or anti wood chewing nails. Let me tell you they are a pain in the neck to get rid of. Apparently little nails are hammered part way into the tops of the boards to prevent the horses from chewing on the wood. If you want to re-use the lumber you have to either remove the nails or hammer them in.

broccoli and Brussels sprouts

Then I drew up a plan for the bins and chose a fairly level spot which gets morning and afternoon sun. Which is between my studio and my storage/potting shed. I decided to make the bins 34 inches wide, a little less than three feet wide because my aviary wire comes in three foot sections. We had more than 20 boards that were 8 inches by 18 to 20 feet long and were in the best shape, so we were able to make five bins 16 inches tall. We used the cracked and warped boards for the ends of the bins. We used the posts on the inside corners of the bins to strengthen them. We also made three smaller bins 8 inches tall and 6 feet long. That gave us plenty of space to grow lots of vegetables and I planted flowers in the first bin near the studio. A year or two later I planted dahlias in two more bins and I still have enough room to grow the vegetables I want.

Swiss chard, lettuce, and spinach

I rolled out a section of aviary wire 14 feet long and then we built the bin on top of the aviary wire. We used the aviary wire on the bottom of each bin to keep the gophers from coming up into the bins from below. After we built one bin, we took our tractor and filled the bin with native soil mixed with compost all the way up to the top of the bin. We knew the soil would settle after we watered it in.

baby broccoli

Then we moved on to building the next bin. Filling the bins as we built them meant we could use the tractor to move the soil instead of hand shoveling the dirt into the bins. We left about 4 feet between the bins, enough room to comfortably get a wheelbarrow down the aisle. We also put ground cover cloth between the bins and spread 1/4 inch minus chip rock between the bins to keep it neat looking. I like chip rock much better than pea gravel because it doesn't roll under your feet when you walk on it.

raised vegetable bins

After we got the soil well watered, I rolled out a good quality ground cover cloth over the top of the soil and tacked it down with landscape staples. I cut two rows of criss cross holes in the ground cover cloth every two feet to put my vegetable plants in. Then I shook buckets of bark on top of the cloth. The cloth helps prevent weed seeds from germinating and the bark helps keep moisture in the soil. Both allow water and air to penetrate to the soil.

potting shed

So far this year I planted spinach, red Swiss chard, lettuce, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. I decided not to plant any warm season vegetables like tomatoes or peppers until after April 15 because last year we had a late frost and my tomatoes and peppers were frozen back to the stems and it took them forever to recover. Thanks goodness I delayed planting tomatoes and peppers this year, we had late Spring frost last night.

Above is my potting/storage shed where I can start seeds and store my tools. I planted two antique roses on either side of the door to shade the building in summer. They are Devonesis and Madam Alfred Carriere, both fragrant climbers. I attached a lean to, to the side of the storage shed as a potting area. It has a tin roof and the sides are covered with beige shade cloth. Since the potting shed faces east in the summer it remains relatively cool there in the afternoon. Have a good weekend.


  1. Hi Linda,
    I do like those raised vegetable bins and your explanation of how you made them makes me feel like rushing out and making some too! I never realised about Anti Cribbing nails, I guess I feel a bit sorry for the horses, but can understand the logic behind the practice.

    That is a nice looking paperweight with an interesting green glaze. Are the lighter green areas small crystal formations in the glaze?

    I'm doing an earthenware glaze firing in the electric kiln today of some test tiles and an assortment of small bowls and cups that were made by different people at a pottery demonstration day that I did 3 weeks ago (I'm hoping they all turn out OK as people have paid for them to be glazed and fired). I also took the opportunity of Saturday morning to wet mop the studio space.

    Thinking of you all, P.

  2. Hi Linda, These are inspiring pictures to get us going in our garden. That's a lot of hard work.

  3. WE have just finished making 3 raised beds.
    I will start planting next week!
    I have a small area with spinach and lettuce which we are eating now- yum!
    Nice beds! and Pots!

  4. your garden makes me want to move to the country and makes me hungry too... like the green black glaze on your paperweight piece.

  5. Gorgeous Linda - as a fellow gardener and urban dweller with limited space, I'm jealous!

    Never heard about the anti-chew fence, city slicker that I am.

  6. Hi Peter, I had raised bins when I lived in Arkansas made from block which is better than wood because they don't rot, but we didn't have the budget for them here. They are nice since you have to bend over as far to pick the produce and they warm up earlier in the year. The glaze is a Tom Coleman green to black satin matt glaze. I will have a few more pots in the next firing with this glaze on porcelain and am anxious to see how it performs on them. The light green is flash from my camera, I will have to take a better photo, this was taken when I was just learning how to use a digital camera. I have a toothpick holder with the same glaze and it looks completely different. I will take a photo and post it on the right so you can see the difference. Good luck with your earthenware firing, I remember reading about the event and the demonstrations you gave, hope you post photos.

    Hi Michael, the hard work is up front, after the bins are built they are easier to maintain and harvest from and the veges I can grow are better tasting. I don't use pesticides so I know what I am getting.

    Hi Meredith, something's been eating my lettuce and it wasn't me - yikes. Good luck in your sale.

    Hi Jim, thanks about the glaze it is really a crazy one, can't wait to try it on porcelain this coming firing. I bet you and Sophia could grow a couple of tomatoes in a pot or something, I bet she'd like it. Beans are always fun for kids to plant because the seeds are big and the first leaves are so visible when they emerge from the soil.

  7. Hi Cynthia, our barn has evidence of horses chewing on the wood, I should have posted a photo of that too. Hey, I learned something myself as I never would have known. I think at the time we were cursing all the nails and asked someone and they told us about it.

  8. I was out adding compost to one of my raised beds and came in to eat breakfast in front of the computer and read about your raised beds. Ah, spring. . . I like them because the soil doesn't get so compacted and there is less digging each spring. I was admiring the forethought in putting dirt in each bed before you built another so you could use your tractor.

  9. Linda your garden is so wonderful! You have put a lot of time and effort into your grounds. Everything looks so sunny and warm -we're still under snow.

    I have 5, square, raised beds for lettuce, cabbage, carrots and flowers because the raised beds grow the veggies quicker due to the warmth above ground. Hopefully I can put the starts in Memorial Day weekend...

    Then with all of the sunlight during our summers, growing happens fast BUT it's usually all over by Labor Day weekend!

  10. Thanks for the glaze information Linda. What temperature or cone do you fire your stoneware to? I'll put a photo of the result of the electric firing on my blog for you. It's currently at about 400 degrees C, so I'll be unloading tomorrow first thing.

  11. Hi Barbara, yah I forgot about the soil compaction but that's true too. Believe it or not there is a lot of soil in those bins, so it would have taken forever to add it by hand. They actually could use some more compost, but I am not up to it. Perhaps the next owner can do it.

    Hi Cindy, this was a lifelong dream, now I too decrepit to keep it up. Hopefully someone who loves plants as much as I will buy it. Your summers are too short for me, we lived in the Cascades near Mt. Lasson and our season was the same there, but I could grow beautiful rhodendrons there. Pretty soon is will be sunny and hot, hot, hot.

    Hi Peter, I get my stoneware fired at the local college. For three years they insisted I put my flat and smaller pieces on the bottom shelf and I had a lot of warping and runs. It is a gas updraft and most times the bottom shelf goes to Cone 11, top shelf goes Cone 10 between 2350 and 2380 F. But lately I've talked them into letting me put pieces in the middle of the kiln which does better for the stoneware. These three pieces went to Cone 11 reduction. This next firing I have quite a few porcelain pieces so I am not so worried about overfiring or warping. The blob paperweight to the right is a tan matt glaze over which I dabbed tenmoku on the thumbprint depressions in the clay, the tenmoku ran down and pooled, just touching the shelf but not sticking. I was looking at it today and I would like to try this combination again - it has a lot of character and color. The photo may not show but there is an ever so slight greenish tint to the tan matt at the top of the piece. I've been experimenting with some unusual combinations of glazes, combining matts with glossy type glazes and have gotten some interesting results. Most of my glazes are hand brushed with a goat hair chip brush not dipped and I mix my glazes a little on the thick side.

  12. Hi Linda,
    Thanks for the further information and great photos, goodness this blog thing is like having an international shared workshop at times. Wonderful! The "blob" paperweight looks yummy, I do like the combination of the tan matt and the tenmoku. I've done experiments here with similar glazes the other way round, and get a nice lace-like pattern with a tenmoko or iron red glaze boiling up through a dolomite matt top glaze. Cone 10-11 is an exciting temperature range with lots of great things going on. We have basalt rock locally and schist which both melt at that temperature. I do quite a bit of hand brushing too, as well as dipping and pouring. That green glaze is a nice one too, by the looks of things. Is it a chrome green, or one of the "fancy" titanium/cobalt ones?


I love suggestions, questions, critiques, thanks for your comment