email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Garden Enclosure

It progresses.  I discovered some real problems as I went recently.  I want the top of the enclosure to be level.  But the ground slopes front to back and right to left.  That makes digging the holes for the frame real tricky.

I tried to measure the slope of the ground first.  That got me a general idea that is dropped 1.5' in both directions, but it wasn't very exact.  I suppose I could have lived with that, but my Dad was always one to point out minor flaws in anything I ever built (no matter how well built), so I have a reaction to that even though he is gone now.  Old habits die hard.  And there IS a point to seeking perfection in any project, Dad criticisms or not.  A few extra days work means years of admiring work well done.

So I wanted to make sure that, even though the ground was sloped, the top of the frame should be level.  If I had surveyor's equipment, that would have been easy.  But I don't.  So I thought about it a few days.  With some complicated ways that seemed really awkward in reality.

As I was trying to get to sleep the previous night (and I did the construction yesterday, so that was 2 nights ago), I kept turning the problem over in my mind.  It finally struck me...  A water level!  I would build the enclosure from the top down!!!

For those of you not familiar with the idea, water in a bucket with a long tube attached will stay at the same level as the bucket even when you move the tube around.  It's not a new invention, but it was a new thought to me.  I found a nice (free I hope) picture to describe it...

Well, saved me the effort of drawing and scanning it myself.  And I wasn't cutting off the tops of the PVC pipes, I just dug my holes a bit deeper to make them match at the top.  I marked each PVC pipe 8" down from the top and made the water level match it THERE.  So the tops of all my PVC frame uprights are level.

The garden enclosure is 20' by 20'   with the raised framed beds I built, that gives me 2' between each bed and 2' around the outside of them (inside the enclosure).  I hope that makes sense.  When I post this in a few weeks as an instructional post, I'll add diagrams.

But the point is that it finally solved my difficulties with the sloped ground.  Some pictures of the general steps...

The holes dug.  The digging was horrible.  The basic soil in the back yard is gravel, clay, and more gravel.  A post hole digger wasn't sufficient.  I had to use a breaker bar.  That's a 5' solid iron rod about 1.5" in diameter, with a chisel point at the bottom.  It weighes 12-15 pounds.  You lift it, you pound it down, you swivel it about.  Its the "breaker bar 2-step dance".  LOL!  THEN you use the post hole digger to scoop the loosen debris out.  It's great (but unwanted) exercise.  Good for causing hand blisters too.

This is the lowest end of the yard.  The higher end holes got to 2.5' deep
Here are the PVC pipes sitting in the holes at one end.  They may not look all in a row, but they are.
As each one was individually set at the proper depth so that the top was level, I shoveled dirt back in and stomped it down hard.  There is still some "wiggle" room to allow for attaching more pipes at the tops.
 Here is a corner, showing the connections.  It's not easy, being just me to be at both ends of the pipes, but I set up ladders to hold one end of each pipe while I set the other end in tightly.  I'm used to having to construct "helper" supports on projects.  A 6" spring clamp atached to a ladder makes a nice "V" shape to hold the far end of a pipe temporarily...
I initially thought it would be easiest to start at one corner and work my way around the perimeter, but it  wasn't.  Doing all the north/south first was easier for supporting the pipes!  BTW, see the spring clamp attached to the ladder there?  It was a very good "third hand".
And a secret.  The PVC pipe is too flexible for a good solid structure.  Metal is better.  But I couldn't find the kind of connectors I needed that fit the metal conduit pipe (unlike a site I found about building such a structure said I could).  So to get the rigidity of metal conduit pipe AND the connections that fit PVC Pipe, I put metal conduit pipe into each PVC pipe! 
THAT solution took a few days thought last Winter...  And metal conduit pipe is inexpensive, so that was not a concern.

I have most of the uprights and half the crossbeams in place.  Took two days but it will be worth it.

Why am I doing this?  Well, the squirrels and groundhogs developed a taste for my garden seedlings a few years ago and basically ruined my garden 3 years in a row.  When I cover this frame with chicken wire, they won't be able to get in.  And I will place bent chicken wire at the bottom to stick out 2' to prevent any tunneling.   Bwa-Ha-Ha!

I will have a garden yet...


Ramblingon said...

Man, I could sure use you. I had to even give up container gardening and feeding the birds!!!

Megan said...

Wow - thanks for taking the time to explain the mechanics of this project. I need to go back and study the pic of the water level to figure out how it works. Me? I would have lived with an uneven top of the frame!

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