April 10, 2012

Gardening...on Wheels?

Finished project!
    Well, spring is here and being able to go outside again is both good and bad for my creative side. It means I spend less time indoors with idle time on my hands, but it also means more time spent in outdoor spaces. And since the backyard becomes an extension of our home in spring, what better craft project to do than one involving plants and our patio.

   Last summer, I found a few old drawers at an estate sale. The lady sold them to me and asked what I planned on doing with them. I said I wanted to make a planter out of them - of course, right? Now that was all well and good to say it, but actually getting there was kind of a struggle. First, I had to clean them out (they had sat outside all fall and winter) and put holes in them for drainage. Then I painted the decorative details purple and water proofed them using spar varnish. Next came the question of how to actually arrange them. My dad and I went through quite a number of configurations before settling on the final design. And then I was so happy, thinking all we had to do was put it together and we'd be done. But then my mom got in on the design process, suggesting we add height and wheels.

     Wheels? What? Why? But still, I was intrigued by the idea of a cart peddling herbs. So, we added old chair pieces and AV cart wheels my dad had lying around. And Tada! We were done, right? No, now we must paint the chair legs white so that they match the drawers. This is an example of a little input from others being a good idea, but too much having the potential to derail a project. My garden clock is ticking away, letting me know that time is running out for my herbs to be able to grow and flourish as the heated onslaught of summer peaks it head over the horizon, laughing that we are at a standstill.
     Theatrics aside, this project was quite hefty and required a lot of power tools I didn't even know existed. Be prepared. (Also, as with all my other projects, I'm sure there was a much better way of doing this and it could certainly be done with other materials, but this is only found out when I finish a project or it is tried a second time.) Last note, I'm not sure how much the paint and spar varnish could mess with the plants trying to grow from seed. I know there are some concerns about subjecting plants to chemicals, so if you want to be really safe, use unstained/unpainted wood.

Clamps; they are a family favorite
Supplies (in sections):

  • drawers (any size / shape)
  • paint (optional)
  • spar varnish (optional)
  • drill (with different sized drill bits)
  • saw
  • random pieces of wood (2x4s)
  • window screening
  • staple gun and staples
  • chair pieces (optional)
  • wheels (optional)
  • screw drivers of various shapes and sizes
  • screws and bolts in various sizes


See all the holes drilled into the bottoms of these drawers? They look like celestial patterns.
     1.  Clean drawers out and drill many drainage holes at the bottom of each (spacing was 1.5 inches or so). Paint any decorative details on the front of the drawers and then spar varnish them.

Adding a clear coat of varnish to prevent the wood from rotting as quickly
      2.  Lay them out in various patterns until you find one that you like - we used a pyramid shape so that part of the drawers were hidden by the drawer above.
One of the many arrangements we tried for the drawers. This was before they were drilled, primed, and painted.
     3.  Start screwing your drawers together, one layer at a time. For this, we put planks of wood between each place the drawers met (because the drawer front has a lip and it was more secure to add supporting wood). Then we drilled holes through the two meeting drawer sides and bolted it together. We used 3 bolts for each join.
This was possibly overkill, but a good idea once we added the height and wheels.

     4.  In order not to waste the extra dirt that would have been hidden by the drawer above, we cut pieces of window screening to fit the opening and stapled it shut.

*This would have been the end of the project for me. However, if you wish to go on and add wheels and/or height, here ya go.

     5.  Support the bottom of your piece using  2x4 planks of wood, laying them long-wise and bolting into place. (Just screwing them in didn't work for us, the piece fell right out when we flipped it over. Thanks gravity...) You should also use triangle joins whenever possible for strength.
Back view of the movable garden, so you can see the extra set of wheels we added. Though it looks slightly crooked still.

     6.  To add the height, you will use pieces of chairs (we used the three arm pieces from 2 chairs). Burn a hole in the bottom of the chair legs using a drill and then smack the wheels into place with a hammer. Very archaic, but effective.

     7.  Depending on how your chairs are designed, the next part could be interesting. Ours worked perfectly that there was a shelf to wedge under the drawers for support. Then we bolted it into place (is this starting to sound like our solution to everything or what?)

     8.  Flip it back so the wheels are on the ground and hold your breath. If everything stays stable, you are good to go. However, if it seems wobbly, flip it back over and add some more supports and bolts. Not the most scientific answer to a project, but we aren't architects or engineer, so hey.
Finished project!

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