Five Garden Projects You Can Build
Gardening and woodworking have a lot in common. Both are enjoyable, relaxing hobbies that can add value to your home and can also be money savers. Building projects for your gardening hobbies can double your enjoyment and provide gardening tools you can use for years. The five projects shown are all fairly simple to build, and I constructed them from scraps lying around my workshop.
A traditional row marker is the simplest of projects, but extremely handy. Two markers with a string tied to them can be used to lay out your garden rows for beans, corn and other vegetables. Merely push or tap the markers in place at each end of the proposed row, then use a hoe to dig a furrow or row alongside the string line. The markers are made of a piece of heavy dowel rod and an end cap. I used the handle broken off an old hoe instead of the dowels, but a section of wood closet rod or even a 1-inch dowel will work as wel1. Cut the dowels or “legs” to length and then sharpen their ends. I used a band saw to make four-sided cuts, and then rounded the cuts on a disc sander. The top pieces were cut from a piece of 5/4-inch deck board, but 3/4-inch exterior plywood will also work. Mark the circle with a compass and use a band saw or saber saw to cut the circle. Drill a countersunk screw hole in the center of the circle and fasten the circle to the leg with waterproof glue such as TiteBond III and a galvanized wood screw. Bore a hole for the string in each marker. Because I’m always losing things, I spray painted my markers fluorescent orange. Tie a length of nylon string, the length of your rows, to each marker. Wind the string around one marker.
Row Marker Materials List
Legs, 1-1/4 by 11-1/4”, 2 req’d.
Tops, 5/4 or 3/4” exterior plywood, 4 x 4”, 2 req’d.
Nylon string as required.
This kneeling tray is also a handy garden carry-all
for tools, seed, bulbs and plants.
Planting bulbs, setting out tomatoes, peppers and other vegetable or bedding plants is usually best done kneeling, but an hour or two spent kneeling can be painful to the knees. A soft foam kneeling pad can prevent many problems. The kneeling tray shown not only keeps the foam pad in place and off the garden soil, but also has storage space for trowels and other tools, along with space for holding plants or bulbs.
The first step is to cut the bottom from 3/4-inch exterior plywood. I used a piece of construction sheathing. Then cut the back to size from 3/4-inch solid material. Economical pine shelving material was used for this. Fasten the bottom to the back using waterproof glue and brads or countersunk screws. Or you can use an air nailer with staples. Cut the side pieces from 1/2-inch plywood. Mark the rounded corners; I used a gallon paint can to mark the circumference, but a compass can also be used. Cut with a bandsaw or saber saw. Smooth up the cuts with a disc or hand sander. Fasten the side pieces to the back and bottom in the same manner. Cut the main divider, ripping it to the correct width and then cutting to the same length as the back piece. Fasten in place with screws, brads or staples and waterproof glue. Cut the small divider to size and fasten it in place. Rip the handle and handle supports from 3/4-inch solid stock and fasten the upright supports to the sides and up against the main divider. Fasten the handle to the upright supports with waterproof glue and countersunk wood screws. Sand all surfaces and give a coat of waterproof polyurethane varnish or paint.
Kneeling Tray Materials List
• Bottom, 3/4” plywood, 16 x 20”, 1 req’d.
• Back, 3/4” solid stock, 5 x 20”, 1 req’d.
• Sides, 1/2” plywood, 5 x 16”, 2 req’d.
• Main divider, 3/4” solid stock,
4-1/4” x 20”, 1 req’d.
• Small divider, 3/4” solid stock,
4 x 4-1/4”, 1 req’d.
• Handle, 3/4 x 1-1/2 x 20”, 1 req’d.
• Handle Supports, 3/4 x 1 x 8”, 2 req’d.
A grow-light stand coupled with a heat mat can make seed starting
easy. The stand shown is adjustable to raise or lower
Grow lights can be used to help start seeds or to grow plants indoors. The lights are available as kits, with a bulb and fixture sold at local garden supply stores. You can easily build a frame to hold the light bulb kit in place. The frame shown has a sliding light support that allows you to raise the light as the plants grow. The frame is made of 3/4-inch solid stock, except for the feet, which are made of 2-by-2’s (1-1/2-by-1-1/2”).
The first step is to cut the inside end pieces to correct size and shape. The end pieces have a slot cut in them to accept bolts from the outer end pieces. This allows the top support to slide up and down as needed. Wing nuts are used to lock the top in the position desired. Locate the bottom end of the slots in the end pieces and drill a 1/4-inch hole at that location. Then mark the sides of the slots and cut the slot using a bandsaw or saber saw, from the top edge down to the previously bored holes. Cut the end feet to size and round their top corners using a bandsaw, saber saw or disc sander. Fasten the feet to the inner end pieces with waterproof glue and self-starting wood screws. Rip the top support pieces and cut to length, then fasten to the inner end pieces with waterproof glue and screws.
Cut the outer end pieces to size and shape, mark the locations for the bolt holes and bore the holes. Cut the top light support piece to size and shape. Bore a 1-inch hole in one end to thread the grow-light cord through. The outer corners are rounded using a bandsaw or saber saw. Note the inside dimension must allow for fastening the grow-light kit in place to the underside of the top. Cut the top to size and shape and fasten to the outer end pieces with glue and wood screws. Fasten the grow light kit to the underside of the top piece using the screws furnished, and then thread the electrical cord out the hole in the end piece. To assemble, insert carriage bolts in the slots of the inner end pieces, and then thread the bolts through the holes in the outer end pieces. Add washers and wing nuts and lock in place.
Grow Light Materials List
• Inner end pieces,
3/4 x 11-1/2 x 12”, 2 req’d.
• Feet, 1-1/2 x 1-1/2 x 16”,
• Top Support Pieces,
3/4 x 2-1/2 x 30”, 2 req’d.
• Outer End Pieces,
3/4 x 5-1/2 x 12”, 2 req’d.
• Top, 3/4 x 3-1/2 x 30-1/4”,
• Grow Light Bulb and Fixture
A plant marker is pressed down on the growing medium
to create holes for starting seeds.
Planting Tray and Plant Spacer
The next portion of the seed starter is a planting tray and a plant spacer. Seeds start quicker with gentle bottom heat, and the Burpee Electra Grow Mat (www.burpee.com) is perfect for the chore. The thick heavy-duty rubber mat also comes with a wire rack to hold the mat off the table or other surface and to hold the seed starting tray above the mat. The mat is 15-1/4-inches wide and 25-inches long. A seed starting tray can easily be made to fit the top of the mat. Make sure you use a wood that is decay-resistant, such as Western red cedar, cypress or redwood. Waterproof plywood can be used for the bottom, or decay-resistant solid stock. Rip the sides and ends to width, cut and assemble with waterproof glue and self-starting galvanized screws. Cut the bottom to size and fasten with glue and screws. Caulk around the inside edges and corners with a good acrylic caulk and then coat the inside of the tray with waterproof polyurethane varnish or a good exterior latex paint.
Above and below: You can easily make seed starting trays to fit the grow-light and heat mat.
The tray can be used to hold plastic seed starting cells, or you can simply fill the tray with seed starting mix, such as Burpee’s Seed Starting Formula, and plant directly into the tray. Burpee’s Seed Starting Formula is a pure, soil-less mix that has excellent aeration, drainage and water retention and will provide disease-free growth for 6 to 8 weeks. A special Tomato Formula, for tomatoes, peppers and eggplants is also available.
Planting Tray Materials List:
• Sides, 3/4 x 2-1/2 x 15”,
• Sides, 3/4 x 2-1/2 x 19-1/2”,
• Bottom, 1/2 x 15 x 21”,
First step in creating the seed marker is to create a
full-size pattern, tape it to the support board and
punch holes to locate the dowels.
If planting directly in the tray, another handy helper can be constructed: a seed spacer matched to the size of the tray. The spacer consists of a piece of 3/4-inch solid stock or exterior plywood, with dowels spaced the distance apart you want the seeds started. To make the spacer, cut the support piece from plywood or glue up a solid stock to make up the width. Use waterproof glue and biscuits and a biscuit cutter, or dowels and a doweling jig to create a strong joint. Make a pattern of the dowel locations on a piece of paper. Tape the pattern on the bottom side of the support piece and then use a nail or punch to mark the locations for the dowels.
Use a forstner bit in a drill press to create stopped
holes for the dowels.
The dowel holes are bored half way through the support piece from the bottom side. This can be done with a portable electric drill and bit with a depth gauge, or simply wrap a piece of tape around the bit to mark the depth. The best method, however, is to use a drill press and a forstner bit. Set the drill press depth gauge to the correct depth and you can quickly and easily bore precise holes to the correct depth for each dowel. The next step is to cut the dowels to length. This can be done with a handsaw and vise, a saber saw, even radial arm or table saw. The simplest method however is with a bandsaw. Use a pair of C-clamps to position a stop board the same distance away from the saw blade as the desired length of the dowels. Simply butt the dowel end against the stop block and push the dowel through the blade. Once the dowels are all cut, make sure the holes are clean, and then glue the dowels in place with waterproof glue.
The 96 dowels requred are easily cut on a bandsaw
using a stop-fence to gauge their length.
To use, first fill the tray with starting mix and water until the mix is thoroughly soaked. Incidentally you can also easily create a self-watering system. Use a piece of 1/2-inch polypropylene rope coiled in the tray bottom and with about 12-inches left protruding. The end is then placed in a container of water and will continually wick water into the tray without having to sprinkle or pour water over the seeds or growing plants.
With the rope wick in place, the seed starting formula in the tray and soaked, the seed spacer is positioned over top of the tray and pressed down firmly until the bottom of the support piece rests on the top edges of the tray. Carefully remove the seed spacer and you have rows of depressions in the starting mix. Drop seeds into the holes and cover with mix according to the planting depth of the specific seeds. When you’re ready to transplant the plants, use a sharp knife to cut between the plants, creating small squares of roots and mix with a plant in each one. Then lift out and transplant.
Spacer Materials List
• Support piece, 3/4 x 15 x 21”, 1 req’d.
• Dowels, 3/8 x 1-1/2”, 96 req’d.
Left: This handy garden tool caddy also serves as a small hand-truck.
Right: The back has a tray for holding small garden tools, seeds or plants.
Garden Tool Cart
Toting shovels, rakes, hoes, fertilizer, soil or other tools and materials to the garden site is made easy with this cart, which will also double as a lightweight handtruck. A tray in the back can be used to hold small tools. I’ve also found the cart excellent for doing concrete work when I need to organize a variety of tools in one spot. A pair of lawn mower wheels and a threaded rod are used for the “running gear.”
First step is to rip a 2-by-4 to create the 2-by-2 upright supports, and then cut these to length. Cut the front board to size and shape from 1/2-inch exterior plywood. Fasten the front board to the upright supports with waterproof glue and self-starting wood screws. Rip and cut the upper and lower horizontal braces and fasten them in place between the uprights with glue and self-starting wood screws. Fasten the top and bottom edges of the front piece to the horizontal supports with glue and screws.
Cut the upper and lower tool support shelves to correct size, round their front corners and mark the locations for the tool holding holes. These are best cut on a drill-press using a forstner bit. Set the depth gauge so the bit tip just barely protrudes through the wood. Then bore the holes partially through, turn the stock over and drill from the opposite side, positioning the bit point in the marked hole. This creates a clean hole without breakout as the bit comes through the opposite side.
Cut the notches for the bottom support shelf to fit around the uprights and then anchor in place with glue and screws. Fit the top support shelf in place and fasten with glue and screws.
Cut a 1-by-12 to the correct length to create the bottom width and round the front corners. Fasten in place to the bottom of the lower horizontal support. Cut the bottom side supports and round their bottom front ends. Bore the axle holes in their back edges, and then fasten to the underside of the bottom with glue and screws. Cut the side pieces from 1/2-inch plywood. Cut their rounded front edges with a bandsaw or saber saw and then fasten the sides to the bottom and upright supports with glue and screws. Thread the threaded rod axle through the holes, add washers, wheels, washers and then locking nuts. After the nuts have been tightened in place, cut off the excess rod with a hacksaw and use a file to smooth any rough edges.
Cut the handle supports to shape and round their front ends on a disc sander. Locate the handle hole positions and bore the holes in them. Install the handle support pieces to the sides of the top tool holder and to the upright supports. Cut the handle to length from a dowel rod and insert into the holes. Add glue, then bore a starter hole in the bottom of each handle support and anchor the handle in place with a screw through the hole and into the handle.
Cut the back shelf front and ends from 3/4-inch stock and fasten together. Then cut the bottom from 1/2-inch stock. Fasten it in place on the bottom of the sides and front pieces. Add a 3/4-by-3/4-inch support strip to the back edge of the bottom. Anchor the shelf in place with glue and screws into the upright support strips. Add screws from the front piece into the bottom shelf-holding cleat. Cut the front foot to shape and fasten to the front edge of the bottom with glue and screws.
Cart Materials List
• Upright Supports, 2 x 2 x 36”, 2 req’d.
• Front Piece, 1/2” plywood, 18 x 24”, 1 req’d.
• Horizontal Braces, 1-1/2 x 1-1/2 x 15”, 3 req’d.
• Bottom, 3/4 x 11-1/2 x 18”, 1 req’d.
• Bottom Side Supports, 1-1/2 x 1-1/2 x 10”, 2 req’d.
• Sides, 1/2” plywood, 9 x 9”, 2 req’d
• Tool Supports, 3/4 x 4-1/2 x 18”, 2 req’d.
• Handle Supports, 3/4 x 2 x 7”, 2 req’d.
• Handle, 1” dowel x 19-1/2”, 1 req’d.
• Back Shelf Side Pieces, 3/4 x 3 x 6”, 2 req’d.
• Back Shelf Front, 3/4 x 3 x 15”, 1 req’d.
• Back Shelf Bottom, 1/2” plywood, 6-3/4 x 15”, 1 req’d.
• Back Shelf Bottom Cleat, 3/4 x 3/4 x 15”, 1 req’d.
• Front Foot, 3/4 x 3-3/4 x 5 _”, 1 req’d.
• Threaded rod, 1/2” x 24”, 1 req’d.
• Lawn Mower Wheels, 7”, 2 req’d.
• Lock nuts, 1/2”, 2 req’d., plus 4 washers.