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How to Build a Self-Watering Vegetable Garden

In this DIY Smarts project, Ask This Old House landscape contractor Jenn Nawada travels to Raleigh, North Carolina to help a couple build and plant a self-watering vegetable garden.

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Steps for building a self-watering garden:

  1. Start by cutting the cedar boards to the desired dimension. Jenn recommends starting off with a smaller garden until you can get comfortable caring for that amount of plants.
  2. Insert the boards into the corner brackets. Secure them with outdoor rated screws.
  3. Put the frame of the bed in place and check it for level. Fill in any low spots with soil until the bed is level.
  4. Put a layer of landscape fabric along the bottom of the inside of the garden bed to keep out weeds.
  5. Pour the soil into the garden bed on top of the landscape fabric. Even it out with a rake.
  6. Stage all the fruits and vegetables being planted. Jenn likes to keep taller plants, like tomatoes, in the back, and shorter plants in the front so everything can be easily reached and tended to.
  7. Plant everything in the garden bed. Dig small holes by hand that are as deep and twice as wide as the root ball of the plant. Tease the roots as necessary and back fill the holes once the plants are in place.
  8. Connect the soaker hose to the spigot on the corner bracket.
  9. Weave the soaker hose in between all the rows of plants. Jenn recommends using landscape staples to hold the hose in place. Be sure to cap off the other end of the soaker hose.
  10. Connect the irrigation timer to the hose spigot. Then, connect a regular garden hose to irrigation timer on one end, and the bottom end of the corner bracket on the raised garden bed on the other end.
  11. Program the timer to soak the garden bed twice a day: early in the morning, and then in the evening, both for roughly 15 minutes.

TIP

Keep them hydrated

Summer 2021 Ask TOH, irrigation for raised-bed gardens Colleen McQuaid

Jenn sets seedlings into the fresh soil of a newly built raised bed, which has a soaker hose already pinned in place. The hose connects to a spigot on an Aquacorner Raised Bed Soaker System (Gardeners.com). A regular garden hose, threaded onto the Aquacorner’s lower end, feeds water inconspicuously up to the bed’s level.

Hands-off irrigation control

Watering a raised-bed garden can be a daily chore in hot summer weather. A single-zone electronic watering timer, such as the 1-Outlet Hose Faucet Timer from Orbit (Home Depot), gives you a break from that routine. Installation is simple: Just thread it onto an outdoor faucet. On rainy days, push a button to stop irrigation.


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Jenn built a heftier raised garden bed using cedar 2x lumber, which she got from Western Red Cedar Lumber Association. The corner brackets that held the lumber together and contained the hose connection are the Aquacorner Raised Bed Soaker System, which is available through online retailers. The timer Jenn connected to the spigot was a 1-port single dial irrigation timer, which can be found at The Home Depot.

Because the homeowners wanted to grow vegetables in the garden, Jenn selected an organic raised bed/potting soil mix. She also selected strawberries, tomatoes, basil, oregano, thyme, Thai basil, and lettuce for the vegetable garden. These can all be found at The Home Depot.

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