Raised Bed Gardening From Recycled Materials

by David Morris on May 17, 2012

Welcome to this week’s Urban Survival Newsletter, brought to you by the famous Urban Survival Playing Cards, which is a deck of playing cards with 52 tips, tricks, and tactics for surviving breakdowns in civil order after a disaster in a populated area. These are things that you’re likely to forget under pressure and having a deck with you could mean the difference thriving in a disaster and barely making it.

This week, in response to my article on raised bed gardening, aquaponics, and hydroponics, we have a first hand example of how a reader is using almost all recycled/scavanged materials to build enclosed raised bed gardens.

Making Raised-Bed Greenhouses from Recycled Materials
By Pat Perry Sullivan

Growing up in the woods, I developed a life-long passion for the smell and feel of earth. I also came to understand our part as caretakers of this part of the Creation. So it makes sense that I would learn as much as possible about nurturing all that mother nature provides. This path has led me to organic gardening, foraging for wild edibles, and to a commitment to educating regular folks about Self-Health and Natural Healing. I also  grew up with parents who lived through the first Depression, whose frugality I inherited. Enough on my background and onto the project at hand….building raised-bed, intensively planted, greenhoused gardens for practically no cost:

With the exception of poly-sheeting for the greenhouse covers, Velcro tiebacks, rerod, and hooks and eyes, all the lumber was salvaged from the burnpit at our local dump. Most was Contractor waste.

Typically, the beds are made of 8 x 8 beams that have been stabilized with rerod (rebar stakes). Corner joints are overlapped and secured with rerod, as well. We lined the beds with a plastic liners all the way to the soil surface, and then filled them with composted loam, peat moss, with a small amount of sand thrown into the mix. The soil was then treated with 2 wonderful supplements: Spray and Grow (a fertilizer), and Actinovate (an anti-fungal).

Looking at the accompanying photos, you can see that 2 x 4’s were placed as corner posts and as a frame around the top of those posts. In the center of the gardens, we placed old used wooden patio umbrella frames (also salvaged) which we secured to the outer frame with wire. Plastic greenhouse grade sheeting was placed over the top and secured to the upper frame with strapping. At the base of each side “wall” we rolled the plastic around, and secured it to 8’, 1” x 2” lumber scraps, added hooks and eyes, and voila!…our greenhouses.

While there is minimum cost, there is a good deal of labor involved and the need for access to some tools such as a table saw, chop saw, cordless drill and screwdriver, nails, and screws.

There are several very important reasons why we made the effort to use raised beds and enclose them in a greenhouse:

First, obviously, is the extension of the growing season. (With the use of Agribon as a row cover, we even have plants that successfully overwintered).

The second reason is to protect our food from acid rain, and chemtrail and radiation particulate fallout. We do not need barium, aluminum, mycoplasm, mercury, or radioactive particles to fall on our food supply. (Even if you decide not to take on this project, make sure to wash all produce thoroughly with colloidal silver, lemon juice, oxywater, or an ozonator. Because of Fukushima, I would also recommend trying to buy produce from South America or south of the Equator). The last reason for 3’ high raised beds is the convenience of tending the gardens without a great deal of bending.

[David Morris’ note:  Although I haven’t personally seen evidence to convince me that jet contrails are actually chemtrails, I respect several people who do.  In any case, I strongly agree with using greenhouses to protect your food from airborne pollutants, which, in my mind, also include pollen from genetically modified plants.]

The gardens are planted intensively. As the first crops mature, more heirloom seeds are planted for a fall and winter crops. I was harvesting until the end of January this last year. Also be sure to do companion planting with herbs and flowers. Besides making the gardens beautiful, this will attract beneficial insects (which eliminates the need for pesticides). So there you have it. Enjoy!




Thank you to Pat for this great article.  I hope it’s an inspiration, both to people who don’t think they have enough money to prepare and to people who do have the money but who haven’t taken measurable action.  If you want to go the growing-in-soil route, I want to encourage you to look into square foot gardening in raised beds inside of a greenhouse.  For more information, check out these books on Amazon.com

What are your thoughts, tips, and best practices that you’re willing to share with the thousands of relatively new gardeners reading this blog who are scrambling to learn how to grow their own food as quickly as possible?  Please share your tips by commenting below.

Until next week, God bless, stay safe, and keep making daily forward progress in your preparations.
David Morris


Facebook Comments
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

{ 65 comments… read them below or add one }

Vote -1 Vote +1Linda Baker
May 18, 2012 at 5:13 am

Unless plastic is being used as a cover ALL the time pollutants will get through ordinary row covers.


+3 Vote -1 Vote +1George Luniv
May 18, 2012 at 5:57 am

Just a thought from a resident in Florida where there are a lot of Orange groves, that combat the freezing nights during the winter, with oil burning pots on a calm night to prevent freezing. My thought is to use a 50-100 watt light bulb put in the middle of the enclosed garden bed during the night. The heat from the light bulb with the plastic lowered to the ground will give the plants an “electric blanket” effect. Then during the day, turn it off. This would also extend the growing cycle.

Thanks for your consideration.


+2 Vote -1 Vote +1Scott A
May 18, 2012 at 6:01 am

Good ideas for starting on a budget. I suggest doing Aquaponics to grow faster without weeds/bugs indoors in 1/10th the space. Look u Murray Hallum’s stuff, good info to start. Start NOW before you cannot buy what you will need. Weeds are getting more aggressive and resistant, AP is a better way to farm large or small.


Vote -1 Vote +1Ron Welker
May 18, 2012 at 6:15 am

I use 2 ft by 4 ft raised beds that can be covered by plastic if need be will take some pictures in future and post them -my tomatoes for instance have green tomatoes and are 5 to 6 ft high vines and have green bell peppers,Swiss chard,spinach,carrots ect here in Kansas as I speak-most folks here just planted their tomatoes for instance


Vote -1 Vote +1Amy
May 18, 2012 at 6:16 am

Thank You for publishing the raised bed green house, it is a wonderful idea. I would like to add that my Husband and I also used recycled material and built a green house this year. We put in all new windows in our home last year as they were very cheap storm windows. We used those windows for the top and sides of the green house framed them in with scrap wood from the dump, found some scrap metal at the dump as well and and TADA it was done. I also brought home 4 huge tractor tires from the dump, filled them with soil, dirt, compost and they make wonderful raised beds as they hold the moisture and heat it.also in a moments notice because of frost or wind I can go out and stake a cover over the tire to protect the top growth. Happy gardening!!


+2 Vote -1 Vote +1Slaboon
May 18, 2012 at 8:22 am

I’d like to see a picture of your greenhouse with the used windows.


Vote -1 Vote +1Joanna
May 18, 2012 at 7:09 am

I love your website and have subscribed to your courses – they are so encouraging. Re growing under cover i live in the tropics and it would be impractical. But I have moved recently to an apartment with a lovely long balcony and intend to become as self sufficient as possible for various reasons. I use the Square Foot Garden book and find it so informative. If I ever need to bug out I will have my seeds and the knowledge of surviving in a relatively small space.
Although I have just started my garden I think the biggest challenge will be getting the quantities right and when to set new seeds to keep crop continuity. It is made easier here as we can grow all year round.
For planters I find that 30 gallon plastic storage containers are ideal, big enough for a fruit tree or bush with underplanting. When a few flowers are mixed in they do not look so obvious when people come to visit. I have space for some deep beds but I think they would be too obvious.
My problem is what to do about providing grains – that is calories. Any ideas?

Keep up the good work


Vote -1 Vote +1michael Ferrell
May 18, 2012 at 7:24 am

Thanks I’ll look into this but my back yard is all threes thus no real sun light but I love the idea.


Vote -1 Vote +1TZ
May 18, 2012 at 10:22 am

I also have a lot of pine trees in my yard. I have found, though, the Earth Box http://www.earthbox.com that I have used now for 5-6 years very successfully. I grow tomatoes and even corn in a small 29″ x 10″ x 13″ box. Also, I have built an 8′ x 3.5′ wooden box for a raised bed and covered with 6 mil plastic propped by arches of plastic pipes. I use six 8″ nails at each corner and middle of the box to hold the plastic pipes that can easily be removed.

Yes, the greenhouses pictured here are great but need to be divided into two boxes with a small path in the middle so you can reach the plants. Anyway, anything that works for you is good.


+2 Vote -1 Vote +1star
May 18, 2012 at 7:40 am

Looks interesting but i dont see room in some of them to get to the plants unless one has very long arms ? I mean like walking between rows etc ? Plus would cost a fortune to get good soil to put in them . Other wise kewl idea !


Vote -1 Vote +1davidmobile
May 18, 2012 at 8:28 am

Great point! If your beds are 4 feet wide, no point is any more than 2 feet away, no matter how long the beds are.


+2 Vote -1 Vote +1Frank
May 18, 2012 at 7:52 am

I already square foot garden, but I live in a trailer court and have very little space. I only have one 4’x4′ garden patch and I grow tomatos, peppers, zucchini, onions, radishes and lettuce.
There is only two of us in our household and that helps us tremendously. My bed is only about 1′ in depth. I love the concept of square foot gardening. It is much easier to control weeds, etc. This year I am trying banana peppers for the first time.


Vote -1 Vote +1Rex
May 18, 2012 at 7:58 am

My wife and I built a raised bed for our strawberries, with scavaged materials and it worked so well that we are going to build some more. This was a great article and has inspired us to make some similar green houses. Thank you


Vote -1 Vote +1David L. Freeman
May 18, 2012 at 8:14 am

Hey, this is just what I have been loking for. Thanks for the info, Dave.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Eddie Hinson
May 18, 2012 at 8:34 am

Great idea, everyone needs to learn some gardening skills. Raised beds are great and teach some gardening skills that will be needed if you have to use them to survive. Think they are a little paranoid about pollutants. Pollutants have been around forever, just use common sense when gardening. To escape pollutants, you would have to live in a totally isolated world, too much greenie talk.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Big Red
May 18, 2012 at 8:43 am

Years ago I grew potatoes inside of old tires. I stacked 2 or 3 tires on top of each other and presto, great potato crop.
I like this raised bed idea. Currently I use Garden Patch Grow Boxes. A great concept for living at 8100 ft. elevation like we do. I tried gardening the usual way but the moles wiped me out so the grow boxes have solved that problem.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Quilty
May 18, 2012 at 4:54 pm

I have heard about successful potato growing in stacks of tires, adding another tire each time the plants grow taller. Are there toxins in those tires though?


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1CRYSTAL
May 18, 2012 at 8:54 am



Vote -1 Vote +1AvonCTStyle
May 23, 2012 at 4:07 pm

I’m guessing that O YARD NO FENCES means that you have a small open yard & maybe you live in a complex where fences aren’t common or maybe even allowed? Can you maybe do the small hedge type plantings starting in the corners of your yard & then each year you can stake down a few of the longer branches to the ground & those should root to expand into a growing hedge framing your yard, I know that some raspberries will hedge like that & the same for the forsythia bushes & I think some of the roses will do the same – prickers on those types of bushes discourage people from cutting through

If people already know that you have a veggie garden there’s not much else that you can do except maybe encourage your neighbors to do the same, but if you put flowers on the side that faces the street & the veggies to the back away from street view strangers might not realize you have veggies as they travel visiting others or on their way to other places – I would think that doing your best to keep the veggies from street viewing would be priority


Vote -1 Vote +1SailormanAndy
May 18, 2012 at 9:09 am

Great information as usual. Thanks again.
We have been growing in greenhouses for a number of years beginning back in the late sixties, and we are still learning. I thought I might add a little hard earned knowlege. In the beginning ours was hardly more than a few sticks, visqueen, and duct tape, mostly recycled. Last fall we recovered our eight by sixteen foot leanto with a product that I had done some research on and decided to use as a replacement for the corregated plastic that was becomming brittle and hard to keep sealed for warmth. What we used was a translucent plastic called Solex. While it may be an option for a free standing greenhouse, it has been a failure in our case. We planted cold weather crops like peas, lettuce, carrots, and harvested some, but the lack of sunlight made for spindly weak plants and little quality, even with the use of growlights. We have moved our remaining stuff out doors for this summer with the intention of replacing four hundred dollars worth of Solex with the old tried and true corregated plastic sheeting that has been painful to keep sealed, but allowed much better results. Years ago we began planting in growboxes, so although heavy and bulky, they are portable. They have, in the past, produced quite well with compost and garden soil as a medium for our heritage plants. We have been fortunate in that we have been able to grow and harvest year around and enjoyed fresh veggies and salad for Christmas and New Years dinners, the exception being this last year. We recycle, and I think a source of water storage has been overlooked. Ours is in the form of recycled water heater tanks. One forty gallon unfiltered for plants and a fifty gallon for domestic use that uses a gravity filter going in. So far, we keep both filled with the city water supply although another source is available. Thanks again for your dedication and valuable information, Andy


Vote -1 Vote +1Bryan
May 18, 2012 at 9:30 am

Been a Raised bed Gardener for some time. Have been looking into extending my growing season to rid myself of the “welfare dependance” mindset of EVER using the grocery store…

Thanks for the Agribon tip. I have been trying to find an affordable greenhouse cover.

Also check into Hortonova Trellis’ for growing beans peas, cukes, Honeydew, Cantaloupe and other vine plants. very economical for dense growth…

I started my Raised bed style with Square foot gardening. Truth is, you can pack your plants a bit more densely than suggested in the book. With the trellis, yoou can really control your growth. Growing corn is amazing, I can plant up to 96 stalks with beans and peas as companions in a small 4×8 area. That has yielded me, at most, over 280 ears of corn. And with proper technique you can grow 2 crops in the north. That’s a lot of corn for a family of 6.

Thanks for the article…


+2 Vote -1 Vote +1Tim
May 18, 2012 at 9:31 am

Remember to put down galvanized 1/4 wire mesh FIRST to keep moles and voles out of your beds. Our gardens are 2′ high, 4′ wide and made with 2X10 PT lumber last strong and semi-portable (Once the dirt is removed… LOL) It’s our fourth year of raised beds, first year at 2′ and it makes a HUGE difference to your back.


Vote -1 Vote +1Doom Nut!
May 18, 2012 at 9:36 am

Great Article! SInce I am all about growing my own stuff, this gives me tons of ideas on how to use this. I do use raised beds, but never thought of building a cover like that! Very impressive. We have a small greenhouse but nothing over my raised bed in the back. Looks like I am going to see what I can come up with now! Nutrition is the key…and growing and storing food all year is a hugh part of my prep!


+3 Vote -1 Vote +1Joe
May 18, 2012 at 9:50 am

If you’re just trying to raise the temperature a few degrees during a light frost, this will work. As a former electrician, I can verify that the heat from an incandescent light bulb can take the edge off cold temperatures. We used to use them to keep moisture out of transformer windings until they could be powered up. The calculation was 3 watts/cubic foot of area. Note that this was in an enclosed (but unheated) building with the cardboard box still on. This provided a degree of insulation in a still-air environment. You will not have those conditions outside. The heat dissipates exponentially as the distance from the bulb increases. This is all relative to the wind blowing, the thermal insulating factor of the covering, the height of the enclosure (heat rises), and desired temperature differential.


Vote -1 Vote +1Kacy
May 18, 2012 at 9:52 am

I have just started doing some container gardening and hope to expand to raised beds this summer. I want to try out my non-GMO seeds, too, and get a feel for the entire process from start to finish, including composting. However, I have a question about Aquaponics gardening…I know it’s all the fad right now and takes up much less space supposedly. And, I was all set to set started with it. However, has anyone actually done a study on the nutritional content of aquaponics or hydroponics produce? I mean, traditional fruit and veggies absorb nutrients and minerals from the soil (that’s how and why it gets depleted). Can veggies grown in water really absorb all the appropriate and necessary nutrients and minerals? Just curious…thanks for posting this about the raised beds–I’m going to try it!


+4 Vote -1 Vote +1David Morris
May 18, 2012 at 10:09 am

Hi Kacy,

I’m glad that you brought up the perception that aquaponics is a fad. Aquaponics could be seen as a fad right now, but the practice is over 1000 years old and it’s more accurate to say that it’s increasing exponentially in popularity because of valid concerns over traditional food supply chains. People are jumping on the aqua/hydroponics bandwagon, not so much because it’s cool (which is why I got started about 10 years ago) but because of a simple self-preservation instinct and trying to find the most efficient way possible to grow food. Some people will stop practicing aquaponics if they don’t get the results that they want…or because they quit everything that they do. Most people, though, are properly motivated by a desire to eat and will learn how to make it work. If supply chains remain stable, they will simply get spoiled with fresh produce. If supply chains break down, then the gardens will be incredibly valuable.

As to nutrients…it’s not a simple answer. You can grow nutritionally inert food using dirt, hydroponics, or aquaponics. If you turn dirt into soil and nurture it, you get food full of nutrients. If you feed your fish high quality food, maintain your filter media, and stay on top of your pH, then you will grow food with high nutrients quicker and in greater quantities with aquaponics.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1MP
May 18, 2012 at 9:39 pm

When you do hydroponics you would have some type of fertilizer solution in the water to feed the plants. If you’re trying to go the organic route you might make some type of compost tea or use commercial fish emulsion mixed in the water. Aquaponics nutrients come from the fish pee and decaying organic matter in the water (food, crap, etc). Under normal circumstances the levels of ammonia would eventually kill the fish in the tank or pond but the plants suck it all up before that can occur. As far as necessary nutrients, commercial hydroponic fertilizers would have all the necessary nutrients, otherwise you would have to compose your own kind of liquid fertilizer to supply the stuff the plants need.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Nena
May 18, 2012 at 10:35 am

Great article and comments.

Might I encourage those who have not done gardening before, but have the seeds and supplies, to give gardening [whether square foot or otherwise] a try. I reside in Las Vegas, Nevada and over my last two seasons of gardening have learned a great deal.

Much of the gardening literature, and internet resources, available do not address my area/climate, so my husband and I have learned by doing, alot of hit and miss. Glad to be dealing with the how-to’s now as opposed to when/if we are in a life and death situation and there will be little room for error.


-1 Vote -1 Vote +1Dave
May 18, 2012 at 4:19 pm

Sounds like a book in the making. I hope you keep notes.


Vote -1 Vote +1Nena
June 1, 2012 at 10:30 am

As a matter of fact, someone encouraged me to make a notebook with a section for each vegetable/herb that I am planting as well as pictures. My hope is that next year it will be a great reminder as to the dos and don’ts.

One of the things I just learned this week, is even though the garden books say parsley and cilantro can be in full sun….not here! Moving them to my diffused sun area. Another note in the book :)!


Vote -1 Vote +1J.B.
May 18, 2012 at 9:44 pm

I agree with you totally. It is very important to practice and keep learning so we can become better gardeners. If we wait, we could find ourselves in trouble because of lack of experience. I recently was able to save seeds from my turnips but I was not successful saving spinach seeds because I could not identify the male vs. female spinach plants (internet resources were unclear). This is my 3rd year growning heirloom tomatos from seed and I am still working out the best timing for my area. Texas quickly gets too hot for tomatos. I did learn to put a heating pad under my kitchen seed sprouting tray so that more seeds will sprout in the late winter. No matter what I try, I am thrilled to be learning new things and saving seed!!


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1.M.
May 21, 2012 at 7:32 pm

I have heard of people in hot climates painting the tops of the leaves on their tomato plants with white latex paint (just the top side of the leaves). Don’t ask me if it’s toxic (it may be if you have a latex allergy), but it keeps the plants from burning up.


Vote -1 Vote +1Susan
May 19, 2012 at 7:56 am

Finally! Someone who actually gardens in the desert! I live in the high desert of Arizona and can’t find much to help me learn abt gardening in this climate. It’s super cold at night still (low50s) and getn hot already! (high 80s). Started tomatoes int eh house and they’re getn big, but seems every time I put one outside, it curls up and dies! Is it too cold for them still? The wind beats them up pretty good, too.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Joseph morehouse
May 19, 2012 at 9:26 pm

Hi Susan
I live in northern arizona in a town called Tuba City for 8 years and my first couple of years my gardens were very sad , my solution was to ask the Hopi’s and Dina’ farmers in the area ,they were rich with information and most were willing to share what they new ,they hook me up with the right kind of seeds for the area and directed me to the library in local agraculture section to show proper planting time and dry farming . Check out your local farmers and pick there brains. good luck


Vote -1 Vote +1David Morris
May 20, 2012 at 8:07 am

That’s a great solution. Most people will find that a combination of books/online resources AND local boots-on-the-ground experience will provide optimal results.


Vote -1 Vote +1Valerie Bate
May 21, 2012 at 10:49 am

Sorry just had to laugh at low 50s being “super cold”….here in MO that’s a nice fall or early spring day….just a matter of perception. This is my second year doing the raised beds and I use pvc pipes criss crossed over my 4×4 beds and cover with plastic. Very easy to manage and quick to put up if a bad storm is coming or a frost.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1FuzzyLee~
May 18, 2012 at 11:15 am

Hi David ,, for you & Kacy , get onto Aquaponics4You.com , they are a couple in Haiwaii that have successfully developed small and now a commercial Aquauponics business and will share newsletters and helpful info for all even here in the various climates of the U.S. They certainly will respond to you, it’s Tim & Suzanne , very helpful for me … Fuzzy~


+3 Vote -1 Vote +1Pat
May 18, 2012 at 11:16 am

Just want to let you know that, although you cannot see them in the photos, there are flat stones placed as paths through these gardens. Moreover, this year they were rebuilt
1′ higher than last year to accommodate standing comfortably inside the gardens. By mid-
summer last year, the tomatoes and quinoa were getting tall enough to be bent over. Also now trellised pole beans, snow peas, snap peas, and cucumbers will be more accessible.
They eventually climb into and hang from the umbrella parts. We placed chicken wire between the 2 umbrella poles on the 8′ x 12′ garden and planted on both sides of it to
accommodate these climbers. By the way, if you feel it will be necessary to hide your
gardens, do a search for “survival gardens”. There is a fellow on there who shows you
how to make hidden gardens in the woods.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Tina Alfinito
May 18, 2012 at 11:39 am

I use the same ideas as the writer…thank goodness for the dump goodies, heh? For our raised beds I used the redwood lumber from the deck we tore out! Just cut out the ends that were rotted or broken down by nail/screw holes! My corner posts are higher than the bed to have the four corners for attaching a covering. Hardware cloth on the bottom of bed is a must, in the foothills of california. ***To Mr. Morris and also Mr. Hinson, It amazes me that anybody can doubt the chemtrails. Almost everyday we wake to blue skies that by end of day are spewed with “cloud cover” that resembles sour milk! Take a look at the commercial flight plans and you will see that the criss-crosses made by the jets flying in GOVERNMENT air space are not the same. Plus you can only see the contrails from a commercial jet for a few minutes or seconds and they dissapate/vaporize, but the chemtrails linger on and spread their poison out until there is no more beautiful blue sky to be seen. Only if there is a good wind high up, will the sky not get milky. Doesn’t mean the particals aren’t there, just that they have spread further apart. The sooner you come to terms with the reality of our enemie’s agenda(s), the sooner you can help adjust and inform others. Please excuse spelling errors and remember, VOTE RON PAUL, your country needs you and it needs him, too!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


+2 Vote -1 Vote +1Cindy Merrill
May 18, 2012 at 12:29 pm

You may have heard that Dandilions are”Past Season”: Not yet. The buds of the plant that are still closed are edible and very good. Pick them as soon as you can ( the smaller the buds are the better)- after they open they’re prone to bugs. Soak in cold water overnight, rinse well, cover with fresh cold water until ready to use. Drain and stirfry with veggies and rice/barley, ect.


+2 Vote -1 Vote +1Martin
May 18, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Great info. Being a rookie gardener, I’m starting small (4′ X 25′) just to see what we can do. I started with cinder block and then filled the garden with topsoil and horse manure, rototilling it well. Can’t plant yet as we get frost well into June. I plan to make rebar hoops and run them from one side to the other inside the block. and cover with visqueen. We also to plan to plant marigolds inside the cinderblock around the garden to hopefully keep away the pests. Don’t know if this will work, but it is a start. Marty


+2 Vote -1 Vote +1Nan in NC
May 18, 2012 at 1:29 pm

I enjoyed the article and the comments. I’ve been a raised bed gardener for many years. At the moment I have 5 – 4 X 8 foot beds and 1 – 4 X 4. I’m putting in a new one this year (after I dig up my roses) and I think I will try the corn/beans method one person mentioned, I think it was Bryan. I’ve never grown corn, but would like to try.


Vote -1 Vote +1Dave
May 18, 2012 at 3:58 pm

I learned something. Did not know there was greenhouse plastic. How is it different from regular plastic? UV damage? I noticed it is opaque and not translucent or clear. How do the plants still get enough light?
I saved some glass patio doors when someone was about to toss them. I thought they would work. At least for the sides, if they can’t withstand hail. Any thoughts, pros and cons?
Wanted to share a few ideas:
You can also use and re-purpose those old 8 foot satellite dishes. The mesh kind. The ribs are already curved and make good hoops to hold up the top plastic. My Dad made a firewood holder out of some. The have held up for 15-20 years already. never rust.
I read on another blog somewhere, that one woman placed black barrels (blue or white spray painted) filled with water in her greenhouse. Absorb heat during the dayand release it at night. Don’t need electric. smaller sizes would probably work in a small space.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1davidmobile
May 18, 2012 at 9:14 pm

The black barrel strategy is called passive solar heating with a thermal mass and will work way North. You just have to adjust how much of the barrel is buried and how many barrels you use based on the specific conditions you’ve got.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1MP
May 19, 2012 at 11:34 pm

While this is definitely off subject, those huge mesh sat dishes also make good solar cooker frames too, lines with foil with the center mount for the pot, you’re supposed to be able to cook the crap outta stuff.


Vote -1 Vote +1David Morris
May 20, 2012 at 8:08 am

You’re right on, MP. I discuss that in the Advanced Urban Water Purification book.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1.M.
May 21, 2012 at 7:48 pm

Don’t use common polyethylene sheeting (drop-cloths, tarps, etc.) as it WILL deteriorate when exposed to ultraviolet light, and all your effort will end in frustration (this may take months or as much as a year, but it will become brittle and shred like paper toweling). Look for UV STABILIZED plastic sheeting. It might be wisest to look for some that is specifically marketed for greenhouses, but that may also add cost.

Another point worth noting is that those staples used to tack it to wooden furring strips will rust away in time if they are the regular (plated steel) staples. The nylon webbing over the plastic is a good idea, but you need to find some stainless steel staples. Again, doing it right the first time will help the structure to endure, and minimize disappointment.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Quilty
May 18, 2012 at 5:31 pm

We are currently looking at moving to the high desert. Neighbors do not do much ‘gardening’ as the soil is hard to dig. Oddly, the big city at the desert floor has much more greenery in residential and commercial property and lots of golf courses. Looks sandy & rocky, so raised gardens appear to be a good bet. With wire mesh against gophers. I am thinking already of a good way to make a simple greenhouse that will not blow away or apart with the DAILY winds. Although there is occasional snow up there at 4000 ft, it is generally not deep and does not last more than a day, typically. Sun, in all 4 seasons, is plentiful.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Caribou
May 18, 2012 at 5:34 pm

We used the light bulb trick to keep our boats somewhat dry over the winter. We took a three pound coffee can and cut both ends out, then we sprayed black paint on the inside of the can. A simple ceramic light fixture was then mounted in the middle of a small square of plywood scrap. Three or four L-brackets attached to the can so as to leave at least one inch of air space between the plywood and the can creates an effective chimney. We found this to be an effective and inexpensive heater.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Bob
May 18, 2012 at 6:35 pm

Old tires may be a great idea? My biggest concern is that they are round and a lot of space is lost to a circular form. Secondly would be any toxic leakage from the tires leaching into the soil and ultimately food source. Any idea from how “organic” using a tire would be? I don’t think the roots would spread out to the tire, but over a few years some of the decomposition may reach the soil and plants.


Vote -1 Vote +1MP
May 18, 2012 at 9:49 pm

We’ve been doing raised bed gardening for a while now, utilizing 2×10 boards making beds 4×12 in size so we can reach all around. We filled the beds with regular top soil, compost, and other stuff. Sometimes we would bury fish guts from our cleaned catches in the soil to help things along too. With the soil in our area being composed of mostly clay, growing anything except grass and weeds is near impossible. We rotate our beds occupants every season but we have one bed with strawberries planted all the time. We’ve also utilized old tires for planting berry bushes, grapes, herbs and fruit trees. When we do the fruit trees we would start with a small hole dug in the ground, the tire placed over the hole, some dirt placed in the hole, then the root ball of the tree placed slightly in the hole and the tire filled with dirt. By putting the root ball slightly into the hole, when rain does saturate the ground, water will collect in the hole and act as a reservoir to keep the root ball moist for an extended period of time. Otherwise in this hot climate the beds need to be watered everyday to prevent drying out of the plants. But with this practice, we’ve got all sorts of fruit trees, berry bushes, grape vines, and veggies growing everywhere. We also built our own generic earth box using a couple of 5 gallon buckets. A magazine article showed us how to do that, one bucket inside the other, the inside bucket with a large hole cut in it to accommodate a bowl with a bunch of holes punched in it, along with a smaller hole with a PVC pipe placed in it extending to the top of the bucket and the bucket filled with dirt. You put the inner bucket into the outer bucket and fill with liquid fertilizer water thru the PVC pipe. The plant will wick water from the “reservoir” to feed the plant and keep it moist.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1A. Carroll
May 19, 2012 at 11:55 am

I looked into indoor hydroponics a couple of years ago, and the electricity costs were staggering. Has anyone figured out how to beat this?


-1 Vote -1 Vote +1davidmobile
May 19, 2012 at 9:15 pm

You either pay for electricity or technology…and there’s trade offs for both. What kind of bulbs were you looking at?


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1MP
May 19, 2012 at 11:43 pm

When we did a couple of smaller hydroponic setups using PVC pipe formed into a grid using 2 liter bottles inverted as the planters, each 11 pot garden used a small fountain pump for circulating the water thru the bottles using an overflow pipe to keep the level in the bottles from overflowing out the tops. The pumps were hooked to a simple cheap timer that turned the units on for about 15 minutes every couple of hours or so thru the day and night. The tomatoes I grew in those things literally overtook the whole setups, it was insane. I imagine that such a setup or something similar such as the large sewer pipe with holes drilled along the length to hold lettuce or other veggies can be rigged to a solar panel to provide power during the day. Maybe using a sprinkler system timer which uses a lower DC voltage via an AC adapter, hooked directly to a solar panel, can be used to power a DC fountain pump. A deep cycle battery for those slow solar days can keep the garden going for as long as you need it to.


+2 Vote -1 Vote +1Frank
May 19, 2012 at 3:52 pm

I always encourage gardning but, pressure treated lumber snould never be used. It can leach chemicals into your garden soil and then into your food. true there is no arsenic in the chemicals they use today but, do you know what else is in it now?


Vote -1 Vote +1KJ
May 19, 2012 at 7:19 pm

Please. David Morris. respond to Tina Alfinto’s comment on chemtrails. How can you not see that???? I read everything you write, but I’m not getting why you don’t get chemtralis. Take care.


+2 Vote -1 Vote +1davidmobile
May 19, 2012 at 9:25 pm

Believe what you want on chem-trails. I’m not going to debate it. I grew up flying and most of my immediate family either is or was involved in commercial, military, and law enforcement aeronautics. It doesn’t pass the sniff test for me and I see it as a diversion.

If you can prove it AND come up with constructive action I could take to remedy it, then I’d love to listen. Until then, I’m going to focus my mental energy and action on things that will actually make my family’s lives better both now and in the event of a breakdown in civil order.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Rick
May 20, 2012 at 6:22 am

Most important thing. Your growing medium. The dirt. Start by building on a solid foundation. Good soil. Good soil…..


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1betty peckmann
May 20, 2012 at 8:05 am

Our raised beds are 4′ x 8′ and 24 inches high. We used the “Lasagna” method of filling them. We started with a double layer of wet newspaper.. black and white, no slick color sheets, on the grass, then approximately 4 -6 inches of rough yard waste:small branches etc. followed by 6 inches of dry leaves then 6 inches of compost and finishing with good black dirt. The sides are landscape timbers for looks as well as strength and used rebar to hold them together at the corners as well as 6 inch spikes for each 2 timbers, total of 6 “3” inch timbers high.
We have had bumper crops every year. Every spring we add more compost and for the newest beds more dirt, as the base breaks down into compost. the only weed we have are what the birds plant for us. The height is just right to sit on while enjoying our labor or save our backs from bending. We also tried the topsy turvy tomatoes, but that was a bust, so this year we have turned that arbor into the curcubit jungle. I planted cucumbers, squash, pumpkins in 5 gallon buckets and nailed/screwed our squash ladders to the arbor frame, training the vines up the ladders. Hopefully the vines will not mind being vertical.


Vote -1 Vote +1Nancy from Missouri
May 20, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Another possibility for a greenhouse is the Starplate Dome kit which you can purchase at http://www.strombergschickens.com. The kit can be used for any number of other things as well. Since the kit only contains the starplates with or without the bolts, you can use recycled lumber and coverings to suit your needs. For the larger sizes you could put down stones, gravel, bricks or boards as walkways to divide it as you wish. I bought a couple of kits but haven’t had a chance to put them up yet.

This year my garden is a combination of square-foot gardens and regular gardening. Still have a bunch of things to plant!

The local “big” city (Springfield, MO) has a yard-waste recycle location that sells compost ($15 a sq yard), screened mulch ($12.50 a sq yard) and unscreened mulch ($5 a square yard) which is much cheaper than buying it from a store. For perspective, a large heaped-up pickup load is considered three sq yards. They also sell it by the bag or trash can full. Check your local phone book for recycle centers.


Vote -1 Vote +1Tamara
May 20, 2012 at 6:34 pm

We have raised beds all over our yard. They are only 3′ x 6′, and we can rotate crops as needed to keep the soil good. We use small hoop covers as needed, but our growing season is adequate for most of what we grow. We can extend that for a month or two each way when we want to with the hoop covers. We built our raised beds with left-over cinderblock from several sources, and hope to continue getting a bit more to make a very long bed to grow squashes and melons for a few years, then another crop for a few years…we find crop rotation is the best way to keep our soil healthy. Chicken or turkey mulch/compost grows great veggies, and sweet flowers bring in the bees. We even got a few bumblebees this year! Our chickens keep us in mulch, so we’re getting closer to being prepared! Good luck.


Vote -1 Vote +1Bigfootthechipmunk
May 22, 2012 at 12:37 am

Here is another option for gardening when you don’t have much space / land. http://www.kimhigg.towergarden.com It’s easy to put together, easy to use, fast growing, and can be heated for a nearly year long growing season, even in New York City.

I garden in dirt and this way. I also dream of buying the lot next door to grow more, living in town. Of all 3, the towers are the best for growing a steady supply of things we use most, like lettuce and herbs. Obviously, root, bush and tree plants need the ground. ; )

Blessings to all who grow their own!


Vote -1 Vote +1Bigfootthechipmunk
May 22, 2012 at 12:53 am

I’ve also seen some cool ideas for building recycled materials greenhouses from plastic bottles. Here is one. http://www.squidoo.com/plasticbottlegreenhouse I’ve been leaning more toward one built with the smaller water / soda bottles, not 2 litres.

I’d like to have one for starting seedlings, and maybe one for my tower gardens. I have had the thought though of the need for cover if war broke out. Part of my back yard is currently covered with stepping stones, but it wouldn’t be hard to build cover for my 3 beds.

I kind of wonder what natural elements might potentially be blocked by covering the beds though. Just a thought… but I guess we grow plants in green houses, and much of hydroponics is done completely indoors.

I notices someone talking about aquaponics. I want to try that, at least for the experiment of it if nothing else… fascinating concept!


Vote -1 Vote +1Cindy
May 24, 2012 at 7:21 am

Great idea on the raised bed gardens, however I think these Tower Gardens are amazingly more simple.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Chris
June 2, 2012 at 6:42 pm

This is our 2nd year for raised bed gardening. The yard space on the side of the house that we use for our boxes is only 12 feet wide. Our boxes are a foot in from the property line, but the vacant lot next door is for sale…

We took the square foot gardening premise and added our own touches. Our beds are only 6 inches high because that is what the square foot gardening guy said. We used
1 x 6 x 8′ boards. We bought some white plastic lattice and cut it in half. We nailed them to the ends of our 8′ boxes and use them to grow zuccini and cukes. We also used it for growing peas as the peas curled right around the latitice. We bought 10 foot furring strips and nailed them to the long sides of our boxes and we use them to grow pole beans. We used our post hole digger and dug holes to plant sunflowers in along our property line. We also used that same white lattice for our blackberries. We have quite a nice crop of them. We have 4 different kinds of tomotes including a couple of heritage ones, we have a ton of sweet banana peppers, about 8 cayenne and poblano peppers, onions, peas, cukes, squash, and 2 watermelon.

If I knew how to post pics with my posting, I would post pics of the garden we have. We have a ton of stuff growing, now I have to replace my dehydrator. My husband and I killed it with overuse. Before we do though, I have a plan for a solar dehydrator and am going to try that. I also have plans for a solar oven and am going to try that too. My family thinks we’re nuts for prepping. My patriotic and like-minded friends are way ahead of us and we are just trying to catch up.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: