Gardener Story: Mike & Claudia Langley

We are now in our second season as members of Build It Up Tennessee. Our original reason for joining in 2018 was to give Claudia’s father a project and motivation to help with our gardening. He was 91 years old at the time and still able to do significant work both in and out of the house. His wife was suffering from advanced dementia and he was in need of a useful distraction to take his mind off of her condition.  Our garden was a real blessing for him throughout the season.

Our gardening saw real improvement when we joined Build It Up. The information and training provided, helped us make better decisions about planting, soil conditions and the design of the garden. In preparation for joining we constructed 15 raised bed planter boxes to fit the profile of our filled in 20 x 40 foot pool. It helped greatly with organization of the garden and also made it easier for all of us to work in the garden with the raised bed design.  Less bending and kneeling makes for more enjoyable gardening!

As you can see from our photos, using cattle panels as a trellis system has been very successful for us.  We initially wanted to use the panels for pole beans, but have added cucumbers and also a second set of panels for large Kershaw squashes. Pole beans love the raised panels and it is much easier to harvest beans that hang down inside the panels. Our pole beans have grown over ten feet in length and are beyond the top center of the curved panel in some areas.  

Weather has been and issue for us this year. Our tomatoes have suffered lots of “water splits” due to the large amounts of rain we have had early in the summer.  We have been fortunate, though, and have not had a lot of fungal problems. Our bush beans are just about done producing and we have decided to only plant pole beans next year. Our Cobra pole beans have provided more than enough beans for the family and plenty to put up for winter.  

All in all, Build It Up has been a great learning environment and has helped us become much better gardeners. The requirement of making a written and drawn up plan is a real motivator and gives much more structure to the garden than just “planting stuff,” which was how we did it before. The varieties of seeds and plants provided by the program has also assisted us to plant the right types of crops for this zone and the environment we have here, versus something not right for this area.  

I’ve attached a couple of photos of our current garden as well as our planter box construction.  Enjoy and keep planting!

Corrugated Planter Boxes:

Sizes: Mine are 3′ x 6′ and 3′ by 8′ for ease of reaching to the center of the box.  You can make them any size or shape desired. I planned to put four hay/straw bales in the 3′ x 6′ in order to support the bales.  They tend to collapse and I have had large plants like zucchini “fall out” of a bale that is not supported.

Height/Depth:  15” or as deep as you want/need.

Assembly:  Sides and ends are made as a “frame” by using Kreg pocket holes for assembly.  

To obtain the 15” height I use 2 treated 2 x 4s, cut to length (3’/6’/8′) for the top and bottom rails.

The frame “sides” are 8” in length, again cut from treated 2 x 4.

Drill the pocket holes at each end of the 8” block, then assemble between the long side or end pieces.

The sides of the boxes are made from old fashioned corrugated roofing material—galvanized silver in color, 24” wide.  For these boxes I cut it to 12” sections (from 8′ pieces for ease of handling). Used my hand grinder with a metal cutting wheel.  

To install the sides I left 1-1/2” from the top and merely overlapped the corrugated roofing material to fit.  Usually one or two “peaks” overlap worked perfectly. For the ends I cut one piece in half at 12” to fit the 36” size.  If you made a 4′ box you could skip this step as two pieces would cover the end.

Attaching the metal can be done a couple of ways.  On my first/prototype box I used self tapping metal screws.  Pretty labor intensive. I then switched to a narrow crown air stapler and set it to just go deep enough to leave the crown on the surface of the metal.  Careful here—most staplers will go through the thin metal if you are not careful to set it correctly. 

Ends and sides are screwed together using #10 x 3” coated deck/construction screws.  Best practice is to pre-drill all the holes to prevent splitting.

I also air stapled 1/2” square hardware cloth across the bottom of the box to prevent any little beasties from burrowing up through the bottom.  Nothing more discouraging than pulling up a garlic crown with nothing on the end of it…due to gourmet burrowing creatures.

Attached photos show the basics and the final configuration of the garden.

More images from the Perry garden!