Saturday, 6 March 2010

How to Build a Salad Box

Posted by Thomas from A Growing Tradition Blog

I first came across the concept of salad boxes and tables while watching the PBS show, Cultivating Life. The idea behind them is pretty start forward - many salad crops have shallow root systems and therefore only require 3 to 4 inches of soil medium in order to grow. Building a salad box or table made out of 2 x 4's enables you to harvest fresh greens right at your doorstep or even on small balcony. As a result, they are ideal for urban areas and for gardeners with limited amounts of growing space. Since they are movable, salad boxes and tables also allow you to extend your growing season. Finally, I think they would look quite attractive in any kitchen garden.

Here are the materials I used to construct a large salad box:

6 - 2 x 4 x 30 inch pieces of pine
16 - 3 inch galvanized screws
1 - 30 x 36 inch piece of aluminum screen
1 - 30 x 36 inch piece of hardware cloth (with 1/2 inch mesh)
2 - galvanized door pull/handle
4 - 1 inch galvanized screws
staple gun and staples

(Note: Since I wanted to build two of these boxes, I purchased three 2" x 4" x 12' lumber and asked the sales attendant to cut them down to twelve 30" lengths.)

building a salad box 1
1. Start by constructing the frame. Screw together four of the 2 x 4's (using two 3-inch screws at each corner) to build frame measuring 30 x 34 inches.

building a salad box 2
2. Attach the aluminum screen to the frame using a staple gun. The side of the screen measuring 36 inches should be placed on top of the side of the frame measuring 34 inches, leaving about an inch of overhang on each side. Start by stapling the corners and then at the center of each side, lightly stretching the screen taut as you do so. Then place a staple every 4 inches or so along the frame.

building a salad box 3
3. Place the hardware cloth on top of the screen and repeat step 2. The hardware cloth adds stretch and rigidity to the bottom of the salad box.

building a salad box 4
4. Fold and staple the excess screen and hardware cloth onto the sides of the frame.

building a salad box 5
5. Place the two remaining 2 x 4's on top of the hardware cloth (positioning them about 8 inches from each side) and attach them using the remaining 3-inch screws. These will serve as the legs of the salad box and add greater stability to the frame.

building a salad box 6
6. Attach the handles to opposite sides of the box. I placed mine about 14 inches from one end and at a slight angle simply because this felt most comfortable for me. Imagine that you are carrying a rather large laundry basket with your arms stretched out and one side of the basket resting against your lower abdomen as you walk. Ideally, you want to attach the handles to where you imagine your hands would grasp the frame in this position.

building a salad box 7
And there you have it. Pretty simple, right? The box offers about 30 x 26 inches of growing space. I can probably manage moving this box (soil and all) by myself but some of you may want build a box half this size. This year, I intend to grow all of my baby leaf salad greens in these boxes as well as some mini-heads of lettuce and certain varieties of Asian greens (like Bonsai pak choi, tatsoi and mizuna).

If you'd like more information on salad boxes and tables, including other building designs, what soil mix to use and what greens to grow, visit the following links:

Martha Stewart's Website

College of Agriculture & Natural Resources

University of Maryland


Simple in France said...

Oh! That is so cool!

Just a question: does the box 'drain' so that water and dirt flow out the bottom, just breathe or what? Or do you just water the greens with a minimum each time? I'm totally going to build one/or several of these.

I've also been thinking of using a large plastic 'lid' for growing the lettuce . . .which is why I'm wondering how important the drainage actually is . . .What do you think?

Catherine said...

That's a great idea, thanks so much!
Catherine :)

Thomas said...

Simple in France - the idea is that the screen is fine enough so that the soil mix does not fall out but water can still drain through. if you're using a plastic lid to grow lettuce i would punch a few holes into the bottom or be very careful not to overdue the watering. I've made that mistake in the past the plants become more susceptible to disease and rot.

Joseph said...

This is the perfect depth for lettuce because their roots only go down a few inches. What a great idea. I like the fact that it is mobile, so maybe I'll try this next fall. I've already got all the lettuce I'll need going in the garden!

Captain's Wife - Jennifer said...

I would love to do this, just thinking that our cats would think it was one giant litter box! Maybe with a screen cover on it too...

Annodear said...

That looks great! And the instructions are very simple and clear. Thank you!!

Sustainable Eats said...

My parents just moved into a house and wanted to garden but for some reason were concerned there were chemicals in the soil (there is a story there that I missed) so they build something that looks just like this. It's working great for them. Yours looks great!

soulsearcher said...

salad boxes are so iphones are too..iphones are so IN these days...why done you buy an iphone case to protect your precious

Myrnie said...

What a great idea! Thanks for the clear instructions :)