Raised Beds: Part I

I constructed two different types of raised beds for growing vegetables, herbs and flowers a few years back. One was out of the Ikea shelving unit Hejne

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Dimensions: 78cm x 50cm x 171cm

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I had this at home already and only had to modify the way it was built to turn it into a planter.

Construct the shelving unit by shifting 2 of the 4 long posts so that they sit just outside the frame of the shelving unit and not flush with the edge as shown in the picture. (This will give you more room at the top side of the planter for plants.)

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Arrange the shelves so that they line the outside of the frame like the top shelf shown in the first picture above. You will need 6 shelf pieces:
Two on each long side of the planter with a gap in the middle, which we’ll address in the next step, and one on each short side.

The set only comes with 4 shelves so you will need to buy the expansion pack which adds an additional 2 shelves…

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You won’t be needing the metal brace pieces that come with the shelf set, so set those aside. You will need two additional pieces of cut wood the same width as your gaps (or wider is also ok) cut to 47 cm long.

You can use two cut pieces of an old pallet, which is what I used, or other scrap wood planks that are cut to 47 cm long. Nail them to the inside of the frame to fill in the gaps between the two shelves on the long sides of the planter.

You should now have a raised bed that looks something like this…

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This planter was very easy to construct as the shelves are already assembled when you buy the kit and just need to be faced outward along the edge of the frame to form a top and bottomless rectangular planting frame. Normally if you buy a raised bed for plants at a garden store they can run hundreds of dollars each. This planter cost me:

Hejne Storage System          Cost: € 25

Hejne Additional Shelves    Cost: € 9

Scrap Wood                            Cost: € 1

Nails                                         Cost: € 0.60

Total                                     Cost: € 35.60

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Upcycle: Making a Planter From Bed Frame Slats

When we purchased the twin sized bed frame from Ikea for our second bedroom, in anticipation of having my family come to visit us here in Germany, it came with a set of sturdy, inflexible, wooden slats.

These slats, which are commonly used to support beds here in Europe, are placed within the bed frame and the mattress goes on top. It’s rather uncomfortable to sleep on top of hard wooden slats, as you can imagine, so most people here opt to buy the “flexible” bed frame slats which are much pricier but a lot more comfortable to sleep on. A set of new “flexible” slats can run from at least a hundred euros and upwards depending on the style you buy. This is the system that’s commonplace throughout Europe and it’s what they use instead of the box-spring concept that we have in the United States. Since my brother was coming to stay with us for the entire summer this year, he’s staying with us from May through early October, we decided to buy a set of more comfortable and flexible slats for our guest bed. We looked around online for an affordable set of second hand slats and found a barely used set, on ebay, for a fraction of the cost that we would have paid for them new.

We then sent the Ikea planks straight down to retirement in our basement store room. It seemed like they might end up living there indefinitely if it hadn’t been for an idea I had earlier this summer to build another planter for our balcony. I needed some untreated, lightweight wood to do that and was also looking for a way to upcycle these wooden bed slats, so it worked out perfectly. I don’t have any plans because I just made up this planter as I went along but if you’re using wood that you already have on hand, fit the dimensions of your planter to the materials you have. I also in the end decided to make the planter a little bit larger than I had initially planned so that I could utilize all the wood from the slats. This meant, however, that I would be just shy of the amount of wood I would need to finish the planter and would need to purchase an additional small length of  similar wood. I figured it was better to have a larger planter and spend an extra euro or two on wood than to have a smaller one with left over wooden slats that I would have no use for.

So here’s what you’ll need:

Light wood like pine, about 16-18 meters (I had 16 slats that were 96 cm x 7 cm x  2cm)

Hand saw

Hammer

Nails

Level

Straight edge or Speed Square

Work Bench or Sawhorse (or some level surface where you can cut the wood)

Pencil

*I had everything I needed except for the saw.

The saw plus the the small amount of wood that I needed to buy cost me altogether around 10 euros.

 

I utilized the full length of the slats for the bottom and two long sides of the planter, using 4 slats evenly spaced for each of these three sides.

 

I cut the remaining 4 long slats that I had into thirds for a total of 12 shorter pieces (each 32 cm long).

 

 
I used these pieces to make the vertical sides on each end of the planter.

 

Using 4 pieces for each of the vertical sides, I now had only four short pieces left.

(this is where I needed to buy a little extra wood to finish, approx. 1.92 meters)

I needed a total of 10 of  these short pieces to brace the inside of the structure and hold all the pieces together.

 

To brace each side of the planter I used two short pieces each, one on each end, to hold the sides in place.

I nailed the inside bracing pieces flush with the top on each end. I did the same on the bottom to give the planter a little extra height.

 

For the two long sides I adjusted the spacing between the boards to make everything evenly match up and then nailed them in place.

And voila, a new planter for my balcony!

All you need to do now is staple some garden fabric to the inside of the planter and add some soil!

Saw                           Cost: € 6

Wood                        Cost: € 4

Garden Fabric         Cost: € 3

Soil                            Cost: € 6

Total                       Cost: € 19

DIY: Homemade Bread

Homemade bread doesn’t have to be daunting or even time consuming. The most time spent making a loaf of bread is the rising time, and it does that all by itself, provided that you give it a nice warm resting place that is.

Fresh, homemade bread right out of the oven is amazing  and well worth the effort you put into it. It’s generally better for you than store bought bread since it doesn’t have any preservatives or additives in it and it has a much much cheaper price tag than buying an artisan loaf from your local grocery store or bakery.

You can easily make bread with just these four  ingredients:

flour, yeast, salt, and water

There are plenty of recipes that add more to the mix than this but for an extremely simple, bare bones recipe that requires no kneading you can follow this recipe.

Or you can make bread from a store bought mix that already has leavening in it. You can find bread mixes made from a wide variety of different  flours, seeds, nuts and even have dried fruits in them and ones that use leavening agents such as sourdough starter or an active dry yeast.

 

The bread that I made here was from a store bought mix that cost me 99 cents and makes two loaves.

All I had to do was add warm water, stir it, knead it, let it rise and then bake it.

It was that simple and was done in about 2 hours.

I usually make bread from scratch but I was feeling a bit lazy this week since I’m just getting over being sick, I had a pretty bad cold that wiped me out last week, and I wanted to make a sourdough loaf without having to start my own sourdough starter. You can find tips on how to start your own sourdough starter here.

Here is one of my favorite recipes for bread, one that my mom developed and made all the time when I was a kid growing up. We didn’t have much money when I was growing up, with 6 kids in the house, but we always had plenty of fresh warm bread that my mom would make for us almost every day!

1 Bag of Bread Mix (makes two loaves)

Cost per loaf: €0.49

Time:  2 Hours

Flea Market Finds

I went to a flea market in Cologne last weekend, one that I’ve sold things at before, and found three great items all for less than 8 euros.

Bag: Handmade in India (by Bethany Leprosy Colony, AP, India and sold by MESH)

Asking Price: € 2.50

Sold For: € 2.00

Hammock: Unused, still in original bag

Asking Price: €8

Sold For: €5

Glass Bowl: Handmade in Spain, Recycled Glass, Durable

Asking Price: €0.50

Sold For: €0.50

I only had 10 euros on me and came home that afternoon with three great items and change in my pocket!