The Shed

The Shed
The Shed

Saturday, January 28, 2012


Unless your raised beds are made of stone or some other virtually indestructible material they will need to be replaced from time to time. But why pay for lumber or railroad ties when the woods are literally, full of raised beds? We are going to show you how to build a 4' x 10' raised bed from a single log. You will need:

* Sledge hammer
* Wedge
* Splitting maul or axe
* Sturdy knife
* Chain saw

With all vital tools assembled, scour the woods for a potential log. Rarely does one find a log in satisfactory condition just lying about, and therefore it will be necessary to cut one. Here is discovered a tall, straight ash trunk, about 11" diameter where the cut needs to be made. It is indeed a potential log, and evidently quite proud of the fact.

A few deft cuts and the potential log becomes a log in reality.

Since we want internal bed dimensions to measure 4' X 10' we cut the long log - the side pieces - to 10' and the shorter to 5' as these will "cap" the longer logs to form the end pieces.

Once again use the chain saw to cut a slot in the end of the longer log, deep enough to hold the wedge in place, and running directly through the logs center point. A few sharp blows with the sledge hammer and the log will begin to split, straight and true down the center.

Help the splitting process along by enlarging the split with the maul, or wedge, or even as seen here, the wedge shaped piece that came from the notch which was cut when the tree was felled. In very short time the log will simply fall apart into two 10' semicircular planks, the two long sides of the new bed. Do exactly the same thing with the shorter log and now you have the two required end caps.

Here are the finished planks.

Now all that remains is to use the saw to cut 2' sections of slender saplings, about 14 of them, and use the sharp knife or a hatchet to give them a point. Then, arrange the semicircular planks, flat sides in towards the bed area and drive in the stakes to secure the bed in position. Use 4 stakes, two inside and two outside for each 10' length and 3 for each shorter length, one inside and two out.  

These pieces are cut from an ash tree. Ash has the virtue of splitting incredibly easily and will last a number of years in ground contact. However, if a tall, slender red oak tree is available, always opt for the oak. It takes forever to deteriorate, which is good. It also splits more easily than does ash, which is better still.

You need never again visit the lumber yard for raised bed components, because now you know they literally grow on trees!  

Thursday, January 26, 2012

FARM GIRL'S CORNER - butternut squash


Hi! I’m Farm Girl. I help Uncle Mac in the garden and around the shed and things like that. Uncle Mac really likes to get a jump on the growing season but even I was surprised when he called me the other day.

“Farm Girl”, he said, “Git your bony ass over here I’ve a mind to do some plowin’!”

“Oh Mac, you silly man, I told him, we can’t do any plowing it’s the middle of winter!”

But he talked me into it and do you know he was right? We plowed from eleven in the morning until two in the morning the next day; it was amazing. I haven’t participated in a plow fest like that since homecoming night my senior year at Texas A & M! I do not know where the old bastard gets the stamina! Must be all the fresh veggies…


But today on Farm Girls Corner I'm going to tell you about one of the crops that was a huge success in last years garden, "Really Big Hybrid”, a strain of butternut squash. “Really big” well describes this 10 to 15 pound whopper butternut squash, which is not only huge and prolific, it is full of tasty seeds and keeps spectacularly if you just store it in a cool but dry environment.

And it is so easy to grow! Just plant the seeds in well turned, compost rich soil, about an inch deep. Wait a full three weeks after the last frost to plant, these squash abhor cold weather. Allow three feet between each plant and its neighbor; these are vigorous, fast growing vines. They will try to grow outside the garden fence, do not allow it, critters are out there, awaiting their arrival.


When the vines are beginning to flower, hitting them with fish emulsion spray is a terrific idea. (Apply fish oil emulsion only on days when the wind blows toward that neighbor you are not crazy about. It smells awful.) Other than that, they need little in the way of soil additives or fertilizers with the exception of the compost already mentioned.

Do water well when the tiny squash begin to develop and thereafter until harvest, these are thirsty veggies and need water to achieve maximum size and weight.

The seeds for this crop came from the Jung Seed Company, but they do not seem to be carrying the seeds this year. This is unfortunate, these are excellent squash, and the best butternuts we’ve had here in the garden for 40 years. So fire up your search engines, and add these wonderful vegetables to your list, they are worth the search.

And as always, thanks for viewing Farm Girls Corner!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Since it has been established that you need a garden shed; the logical question is where the best place to build one might be. Near the garden, that seems obvious enough, perhaps inside the fence? That is convenient certainly, but now the shed will take up valuable space inside the wire that could otherwise be occupied by tomatoes, or corn or God help us, parsnips. Better perhaps to incorporate the shed into the fence, with the side facing the garden flush with the fencing, and the balance of the building projecting outside the enclosure.

Follow the sun:

Choose the side of the fence such that the shed will cast no shadows on the veggies. Here in the Northeast the sun rises in the east, sets in the west and traces an arc across the southern sky. This makes the northern side of the garden the soundest location for the new shed. This will not be the case in New Zealand, or on Tierra del Fuego, where we have hordes of avid readers.

Gateway to gardening goodness:

Since the shed is technically both inside and outside the wire why not make it the entrance or one of the entrances to the enclosure? If this is done then the inner and outer doors must be wide enough to easily accommodate the wheelbarrow or whatever conveyance you might use to haul necessities into and out of the garden, so keep that in mind when drawing up the plan.

Size matters:

How big a shed yours will be depends on the size of the garden and what tools, amendments and supplies you would ideally like to store within. Are you planning on a work bench for potting and other purposes? Would the shed be a better place to store, say, the chainsaw, lawnmower and other lawn gear than is the garage? Are you having other gardeners over for beer and poker, and find the shed better suited for this activity than, perhaps, the dining room?

Consider all these factors and then, once you have decided on a suitable floor area increase that area by one hundred and fifty percent, or better, double it, and you will have a realistic, usable building that will not immediately require enlargement.


The best of all floors would be a frost heave resistant concrete slab but several factors may militate against this as a desirable material. It may, if you do not have access to a cement mixture, be too much work to pour, or too expensive to hire out to a contractor. Also, depending on where you live by building a large shed on a concrete slab you may draw the hideous and unwelcome attentions of local government in the form of the dreaded Building Inspector – read “legalized pirate” who will make your life miserable if you do NOT obtain a building permit, and raise your property taxes if you do.


In some sections of the country sanity still prevails and a property owner can build pretty much what he or she desires, or at least the Building Inspector accepts a relatively modest bribe to forget about you completely. Know what you are dealing with going in.

Two by lumber and ¾” exterior plywood make acceptable flooring as long as they are elevated above ground contact. Placing the shed on a course of blocks and graveling the floor is also not out of the question, and is economical. Shipping pallets can then be used to keep items off the ground that need to be so kept.

The rule of fours:

Four by eight foot sheets of outdoor plywood or specialized outdoor sidings are convenient building units, just remember to keep that four foot measure in mind when setting up the frame so that you minimize cutting the siding. Use the full 8’ height of the sheet, a roomy shed is a great shed to work with. Most folks use 24 inches on center uprights for shed construction, and that is adequate. Twelve or sixteen inches is always sturdier, however.

Gambrel roof design, or peaked or slanted:


A Gambrel roof yields much more total interior room and allows for a good deal of overhead storage as well. Instructions for Gambrel roof design are available in home centers, libraries and on line. It also looks quite pleasant.

Special effects:

Simple windows let in light and or air, you can make these from glass or poly sheets and simple framed screens, no need to buy ready made. Electricity inside and out will be welcome, bring the power from the house. A floodlight or two on the outside will allow you finish up some chores as the sunlight fails and to show off your zucchini to nocturnal visitors, should you be so inclined.

A water tap is convenient, for cleanup and watering and is best located just outside the door facing the garden. Make sure the system can be easily drained if you live where winters are harsh.

It is always best to do the plumbing and electrical work when the Building Inspector is on vacation.

A kerosene heater, or best of all a small potbelly stove makes the shed a hospitable place when the temperatures plummet, you might end up moving in!

Tool racks for each tool, workbenches, heavy shelving for bagged and weighty items, out fit the interior to meet your particular gardening needs. 


A traditional red and white exterior always looks good but many things can be done to spruce up the exterior. Hang bird houses or feeders from the roof beams, flower boxes from the window ledges and hanging plants wherever they will fit. Let your imagination run wild, make a first rate shed a part of your gardening experience, and enjoy it for years to come!

Monday, January 23, 2012

FARM GIRL'S CORNER - collard greens

Hi! I'm Farm Girl and I help Uncle Mac in the garden and around the shed and things like that. I'm the first one he calls upon when he feels the need to stake a tomato.  ;0)


Today I'm going to tell you about one of the crops that was a huge success in last years garden, "Champion" collards. Champion is a variety of Vates style collard that has a long growing season and great resistance to both bolting and frost. It is prolific and produces some very large leaves that are perfect for stuffing. Of course they are also terrific in more traditional southern dishes as well.

Uncle Mac likes to cook them in a crock pot with corned beef, adding potatoes to the mix to make corned beef and collards. It sounds heretical but since collards and cabbages are both Brassicas a dispute about which to use is much ado over nothing and the flavors blend very well indeed.

Collards are easily started directly in the garden once the danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed and been prepped with ample amounts of compost. Plant four or five seeds in one spot that you could cover with a silver dollar for each individual plant that you wish to grow. Plant them about 1/4" deep and pat the soil down gently. When the plants germinate thin to one plant in each spot. Allow each individual plant 4 square feet in which to grow. This sounds like a lot of space but Champion produces large plants that will benefit from the extra growing room. Plants will generally max out at about 36" tall and spread out until their leaves interlock.


Care is minimal. Keep the plants weeded and when the weather warms in late spring mulch well with sifted compost. Fertilizer is not required except in the poorest of soils and the plants do not require staking or trellising. Keep them well and consistently watered.

Take the large leaves from the bottom of the plant first and the plants will continue to produce. Here in north Jersey we slow cooked a mess of collards at Thanksgiving, after several moderate frosts with fine results. A hard and protracted freeze in early December finally ended the collard patch, long after every other plant had gone to the Great Compost Heap in the Sky.

Of course, you can get a two to three week jump on the season by starting the plants indoors four weeks before the final frost date and transplanting them to the garden four weeks after germination, which will take perhaps ten days.


You will enjoy your collards immensely but you need to fence them in. It isn't that they'll make a break for freedom, it is just that a wide assortment of critters both domestic and wild enjoy them as much as you and your family do. Woodchuck, bunnies, goats, sheep, cattle, deer, the list of collard fanciers goes on and on.

Find a spot for these long term, tasty (and by the way healthful) crops inside the wire and enjoy them from early summer through early winter.  They are widely available but here are three suggestions for potential suppliers: Hometown Seeds, Jung Seeds, and Territorial Seed Co.

Enjoy your collards and thanks for visiting Farm Girl's Corner!