Elevated Garden with Automatic Watering

Time Spent:
January 15th, 2017 – 5 Hours
January 22nd, 2017 – 5 Hours

Planning Phase

This is the fun part! What, where, how? How Large? My plan started on an early 3:30 AM morning when I couldn’t sleep. The general idea, due to constraints and preference, was a complete elevated garden large enough for tall and deep roots.

First Draft

The first thing you probably notice is the three levels of heights. Tomatoes having some of the largest root requirements get placed in the tallest locations. The major issue with this model was the spacing of the three elevations each being only 12 inches. I decided to cut out the shortest bed and simply have two 18 inch elevations.

Second Draft

A little blurry, but here’s the re-worked design. Very simple!


Once I finalized everything, I put it into a Google Sheet, using the columns as 6 inch measurements. The actual veggies are not completely determined, but it gives a good outline of what can be done.

Selected Veggies

PLANTS Spacing (in) Depth (in)
A Asparagus 16 24
B Broccoli 14 12
Bs Brussels Sprouts 16 12
C Cauliflower 16 12
Ca Cantaloupe 18 18
Ce Celery 12
Cu Cucumber 12 18
O Onion 3 12
P Pepper 12 18
T Tomato 18 24

Planting by Height

With elevated gardens, it’s important to use height as the strategy for planting. Here’s a great chart to share depth of roots. In my system of two levels of heights, I will also be planting taller roots behind shorter roots, where the divider actually allows sprawling into the base of the other bed, if needed.

Shallow Rooting
12″ – 18″
Medium Rooting
18″ – 24″
Deep Rooting
24″ – 36″+
     Arugula      Beans, dry      Artichokes
     Broccoli      Beans, pole      Asparagus
     Brussels sprouts      Beans, snap      Beans, lima
     Cabbage      Beets      Okra
     Cauliflower      Canteloupe      Parsnips
     Celery      Carrots      Pumpkins
     Chinese cabbage      Chard      Rhubarb
     Corn      Cucumber      Squash, winter
     Endive      Eggplant      Sweet potatoes
     Garlic      Kale      Tomatoes
     Kohlrabi, Bok Choy      Peas      Watermelon
     Lettuce      Peppers  
     Onions, Leeks, Chives      Rutabagas  
     Potatoes      Squash, summer  
     Radishes      Turnips  

Material and Cutting Phase


Depth (in) Width (in) Len (in) Count Total (in) Total (ft)
Front and Back Boards 2 6 120 10 1200 100
Left and Right Boards (Top) 2 6 18 2 36 3
Left and Right Boards (Base) 2 6 36 10 360 30
Total 2×6 Boards 1596 133
Top Planks 1 6 120 2 240 20
Baluster 4 4 72 4 576 48
Baluster 4 4 24 6 576 48

Assembly Requirements

60x #10 4-inch Galvanized Outside Wood Screws = $8.47
60x #10 3-inch Galvanized Outside Wood Screws = $8.47

With these measurements, I needed 2 very basic types of wood.
14x 2x6x10ft for the Wood Walls = $114.38
5x 4x4x8ft for the Balusters = $40.85

IS MY LUMBER SAFE??: Yes, You Are Fine!
There are many types of Lumber. The one that you might be worried about is specifically the EPA ban in 2003 on Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA).
The wood required to be ACQ graded for sale to the normal joe. You can use Naturally Rot-Resistant Cedar or Redwood, but your costs will skyrocket (8x). Also, just note that metal should be Stainless Steel and/or Galvanized.
Feel free to scare yourself from the PSU report here
Then understand the difference here
And further go behind the logic behind the issue here

If you have ever drilled into large planks of wood before, you will need two things:

  • 1x Drill that is 20V+
    • Wireless is fine, just have an extra battery
  • 3x Stanley or Dewalt Drill Heads
    • I completely stripped a cheap Walmart brand one, and got Dewalt Gold #10’s
    • I did not guide with pre-drilling holes, some recommend it, I skipped it completely

Note that Home Depot or Lowes will make all of the cuts for you, for FREE. For time reasons, I picked up the material and did the cutting at home with a Circular Saw. I don’t have a table, so I typically setup a temporary one.

Pieces all cut, time to start arranging everything.

Base Assembly Phase

For the base, there will be 3 modular pieces that can be attached and/or removed.

  • 1x Angled fence corner
  • 1x Angled window corner
  • 1x Center Separation / Irrigation Feed

First step is to assemble the large 10ft walls.

The next step is to attach the sides, Remembering not to screw the two 10ft walls together. Please take special attention to how this will remain detachable.

What I did was screw the side walls (3ft long walls) on a single side of each 10ft wall, then placed the two sections together. When placed together, I could place the final bulusters to make the 3ft long walls secure.

In between this, I created the middle separator and tested the fits inside of the assembled structure. Remember that these two angles are not screwed in together, we will get back to this.

You will see that I also placed and screwed down the top 10ft wall planks. Needed a ladder for this.

The very last piece to the Base Assembly is laying down the tarp on the concrete. Because these two corners are not attached, you can move the entire assembly where ever you need to, including lifting and placing the tarp.

Base Complete! Time to burn some scrap wood.

Sow Phase

The sow phase will involve timing. Two items that are involved: Soil/Growing Pellets and Miracle Grow Potting Soil. Place a pellet in your desired sized container, with the pellet to match. Unwrap the pellet and pour over top with warm water, the pellet will expand into the size of your container. Fit the seeds in as each package recommends and cover up. No need to pack it tight. If you need, you can add the potting soil over top to keep the moisture on the bottom and protect the top.


Remember to keep track of your sow’s.


This particular dish uses a pad underneath so it’s not necessary to water day and night. The larger potters will though.


Watch them grow!




As they grow, remember to move each plant to an appropriate pot size (biodegradable) so that the roots can stretch.


And be sure to update your tracking sheet so you don’t forget what is what.


Soil Phase

Current Soil Estimate’s and Costs. There will be 10% Potting Soil, 30% Compost, and 60% Top Soil. There is the potential at having a layer of rocks on the base.

Type Depth Width Length % cu Inch cu Ft Price
Potting 24 36 120 10% 10368 6 $62.79
Compost 24 36 120 30% 31104 18 $71.73
Top 24 36 120 60% 62208 36 $60.84

Delivery: $25
Stacking: $50


Pretty easy process, grab a huge knife, place the bags in first, then cut them open.


Keep filling in layers, Top Soil on the base, Compost on top and mix. Potting Soil goes on the very top for protection.


Cage Assembly

Notice a few additions. Because I did not want to completely attach the structure together, I setup a set of loops on both sides in addition to 2 inch dowel segments to hold in the top and side of the cage.




Using the nylon cord, I attach the two tops together so that the base is as tight as possible.




Here’s a shot of the six 1×4’s that are stapled to the chicken wire. This will stretch across the top and side crate.


I noticed along the 10′ side of the fence, there was about 6″ of open space. Perfect for squirrels and birds to get in. Keeping with the concept of a modular design and not permanently attaching to the fence, I got some very inexpensive bird mesh, used a staple gun to attach to the frame and then zip tied the mesh to the fence to keep animals out of this access point.



I reinforced the door frame using stainless steel angle brackets and screws so that when the door opens, it’s not as wobbly as the picture above with the ladder.

In addition, I needed to find a reliable stand for the door so I’m not grabbing the ladder every single time. I took the last 8 foot balluster and cut it into segments, 1x 6′, 2x 1′ and attached the two small pieces to the base. I used 3″ galvanized screws at an angle at about 6 points to get them connected.


Remember, Zip Tie’s are your friend.

Planting Phase

In the DC area, April 1st is usually when to start looking at dates for planting. This year, we’ve had a very warm winter and a particularly nice set of 14 days starting March 25th, 2017. I went ahead and planted then. It’s looking like there could be one low of 42º F day in about a week.

I started with the easiest, potatoes. These will go in their own planter pot.


Then I went back to my seedlings to see what I had prepped, built out a new plant guide and figured out what would fit where. Tomatoes, Zucchini, Cucumber in the back. All the smaller plants in the front.

These biodegradable potters are great because of how easy they are to move them around and reorganize. Once all set, plant away.

I also pre-plotted the garden a few times on Google Drive and taped it to the frame.





UPDATE: My rule is that I do not want plants to sit in temperatures of less than 40º F, at all! When I planted (March 25th), March 29th was the only outlier with a potential low of 42º F. The day before (March 28th), estimates are saying the low could get to 38º F. Most say that the air temperature has to get below 32º F, but I’m going to be safe and do a plastic cover across the top to be sure. I’m also going to water the plants right before sunset to keep the soil moist.

Planting Plans

2nd Draft — If you go to the top of the page, you’ll see the first draft.

Final Draft — This is what and how it was actually planted.

Irrigation Phase

This is a lot easier than many people think. The number one rule is keeping a seal. Rubber seals on the inside of the faucet screws are important to keep fresh. Also a tight seal using pliers is the best.

Three items I purchased:

Faucet Timer $32.51
DIY Irrigation System $20.52
Garden Hose Splitter $14.97

Here are the very basic tools: Hose, splitter and a nozzle.



I set my timer for 5 minutes, twice a day. 8 AM and 8 PM. This might increase as the roots grow.


Whenever splitting, always keep the main line straight, the offshoot is meant to disperse water. That’s how they are designed.





It’s not uncommon for hose lines in the front of the water path to disconnect when the timer turns on. Tiny Zip ties are the best way to get these to stick on. They aren’t required everywhere, but I’ll probably attach them as I see trouble points.



Watching it Grow

I realized I was watering way too much, many leaves were yellowing and the plans were not jumping out quick enough. I ended up dropping the watering time to 2 minutes twice a day starting May 28th, 2017 approximately 2 months in. I got back 2 weeks later and boom! Everything started to go crazy. Here’s the update from 10 weeks in:20170613_172525

Harvesting Phase

So far:

  • 1x Strawberry
  • 3x Basil Leaves
  • 11 Potatoes

Overall Money Analysis and Output

Was it worth it?

Cost per pound of Veggies? (still working on)

Veggie $/lb lb/harvest Plants $$$
Broccoli $2.67 3
Brussels Sprouts 3
Cauliflower $4.46 3
Cucumber 2
Habanero $3.16 1
Jalapeno $0.99 2
Peppers $2.87 4
Tomato $4.07 20lb 4
Zucchini 1

See my Solar Powered Garden v2 Project Here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *