How to build a corrugated metal garden bed

Steel Raised Beds

Scatter these free-form beds throughout your garden for a unique look.

Ann Summa

Click to Enlarge

Inspired by the idea of using stock tanks as planters, Ivette Soler built a similar raised beds of corrugated metal in her front parking strip. Following are her instructions, reprinted with permission from Timber Press; they’re from Soler’s recent book, The Edible Front Yard: The Mow-Less, Grow-More Plan for a Beautiful, Bountiful Garden.

Material for 1 round bed

(12 in. tall by 5 ft. wide)

  • 8 panels of corrugated metal, cut to size. (Soler’s panels were 28 in. wide, but width varies depending on where you buy it.)
  • Drill
  • Rivet gun and rivets
  • 8 rebar or steel rods (20 in.)
  • Wire hardware cloth to line the bottom of beds


  1. Lay out the panels so they overlap one another by 2 in.
  2. Starting at one end, prepare to attach panel to panel by drilling 3 holes down each seam, evenly spaced, through both panels.
  3. Using your rivet gun, place a rivet in each of the holes.
  4. You will now have 1 long strip of metal. Take it to the designated location in the hellstrip and stand it up.
  5. Rivet the final seam that will turn the strip of metal into a circular bed.
  6. Place the support rods on the outside of the beds and pound them into the ground until they are even with the top of the beds.
  7. Cut lengths of hardware cloth to fit inside the bed. Place them in the bed so they overlap and curve up the sides.
  8. Fill your new bed with compost and start planting.



How-To Harvest Rainwater

There’s money falling from the skies every time it rains. Here’s how you can harvest your share. Creating a rainwater collecting and storage system is simple. (We’ll show you where to buy barrels and how to build your own.) And every time you use it to replace expensive, chemically treated city water in your garden, you’re saving money. Best of all, this collection system is right over your head. The three elements of any rainwater harvester are the collection area, the transportation system and the storage facility. Click the three areas on the illustration to the right see how to use these three elements to your garden’s advantage.

Collection area

Collection AreaAnywhere falling rain doesn’t soak in to the ground, the runoff can be collected. So if you have a roof, you have a collection area. Determining how much water your roof collects can involve lots of complex calculations. But all you really need to do is figure how much water your garden will need and if your roof can collect that much. The gardener who’s going to irrigate a large vegetable patch in the desert Southwest will need a lot more water than the one dousing a few container plants on a patio in the Midwest. The rule of thumb is the average 25 foot by 40 foot home roof sheds about 600 gallons of water in an hour of moderate rainfall, around 1 inch. If you have two downspouts, they’ll each divert about 300 gallons of water toward the barrel under them. The more barrels you have, the more of this water you can collect.

Transportation system

Transportation System

The gutters and downspouts along the edges of your roof are the water transportation system of your rainwater harvester.

Material — Gutters and downspouts can be made from aluminum or plastic. It’s the size, not the material that’s important.

Size — Gutters and downspouts have to be large enough to carry the water running off the roof. Most home gutters come 5 or 6 inches wide. 3-inch-diameter downspouts attach to the 5-inch gutters; 4-inch downspouts go on 6-inch gutters.

Forroof collection areas up to 1000 square feet, a 5-inch gutter and 3-inch downspout are large enough to carry the water. Larger roofs’ collection areas should have the larger size gutters and downspouts.

Filters — Be sure there are some kind of screens, such as the one in the illustration, to keep leaves and other debris from clogging the downspouts. In areas where mosquitos are a problem, use a fine-mesh, aluminum window screen to keep the insects away from the standing water in the barrel.

Storage Facility

Storage Facility

Now we come to the heart of he rainwater harvesting system: Storing the rainwater you collect for use in dry times.

Barrels — There are several great water storage barrels available from specialty garden online catalogs, or you can build your own using Garden Gate‘s plan for constructing a rain barrel.

Placement — Whether you make barrels or buy them, they need to be placed properly.

Locate barrels under a downspout that’s also close to the thirstiest parts of your garden.

Dig out a 4-inch-deep area the length and width of the cinder block base. Fill the area with 1/4-inch pea gravel. This makes a base to help you level the cinder blocks and drain away water to keep your foundation dry.

The higher you can raise the barrels, the better the water pressure will be. Raising the barrels up also gets the spigot higher off the ground so you can get a watering can under it.

Capacity — Of course, you can only store the total gallons of water your rain barrels hold times the number of them you have.

Still, the system in the illustration, using three, standard 55-gallon drums, has 165 gallons of water ready and waiting to give the garden a drink when other supplies might not be available.

The more water you can store, the better. Short lengths of hose can be attached to individual barrels to link them together and boost the capacity of your system. And they can be added over time as you see how much water your garden needs.

Overflow — During heavy rains, there may be some overflow from the barrels. The 4-inch layer of gravel under the cinder blocks, as in the illustration, will divert this water away from your foundation. Or you can install an overflow port near the top of the barrel and attach a hose to divert excess water out to the garden.

Make a Rain Barrel

If you have gutters and downspouts on your house or garage, you have a fantastic system for harvesting soft, clear rainwater for the garden. The only missing piece is a collection reservoir, otherwise known as a rain barrel. To find one, check with companies that buy food ingredients in bulk. Some of their supplies come in large, seamless, plastic containers.


  • 1 clean 30- to 55-gallon barrel or garbage can
  • 1 “S”-shaped aluminum downspout elbow
  • 4 concrete blocks
  • 1 piece of aluminum window screen
  • 1 standard 1-inch hose spigot with ¾-in. pipe threads
  • 1 ¾-in. x ¾-in. coupling
  • 1 ¾-in. x ¾-in. bushing
  • 1 ¾-in. pipe thread with a 1-in. hose adapter
  • 1 ¾-in. lock nut
  • 4 metal washers
  • 1 roll Teflon thread tape
  • 1 tube silicon caulk


  • hacksaw
  • screwdriver
  • pop rivet gun with rivets
  • drill
  • pencil
  • ruler
  • spade
  • level
  • adjustable open end wrench

Scrub the inside of your container thoroughly with soap and water to remove any residues. Because they’re so hard to clean out, barrels that contained motor oil or fuel products don’t make good rain barrels. If you can’t find these barrels, you can substitute a large, plastic trash can.

Level the area for your barrel with a spade, set the concrete blocks in place and level them. To measure where the downspout elbow will come out from the side of the house and direct water into the barrel, put the barrel on the blocks. Hold the new elbow just above the top of the barrel and mark where the elbow will join the downspout — about an inch or so above the barrel is best.

Set the barrel and elbow aside and measure down 2 inches from the mark in the downspout. This will allow the downspout to fit into the elbow with a good, solid connection. Use the hacksaw to cut the downspout, then fit the elbow on and fasten it with sheet metal screws or pop rivets.

Drill a 3/4-inch hole in the wall of the barrel. Make it high enough to put a bucket underneath. Squeeze caulk around the hole on both sides. Next, refer to the illustration at right to build the spigot assembly. Connect the spigot and coupling, and wrap Teflon tape on each of the threaded ends for a tight seal. Slip on a washer and insert the threaded end of the coupling through the hole from the outside. On the inside, put a washer over the pipe and fasten everything together with the bushing.

A couple of inches down from the top of the barrel, drill another 3/4-inch hole. Then build the overflow assembly according to the illustration at right. Squeeze caulk around the hole inside and out and place a washer on the hose adapter. Push this assembly through the hole. Slip a washer and Teflon tape on the inside threads and tighten everything together with a nut. When you connect a length of garden hose to this overflow valve, you can direct some of the overflow into the garden after a heavy rain.

If your barrel has a lid, cut a hole where the new downspout elbow will direct water into it. Cover the hole with a piece of screen to keep mosquitoes out.

Finally, set the barrel back on the concrete blocks, make sure the downspout will direct water into it properly, and wait for the rain.


Making a Compost Bin with Free Building Plans

diagram showing dimensions for making a compost bin

If you are thinking about building and making a compost bin, then you have come to the right place. When you grow vegetables , mow the lawn and tidy up the garden, there is a wealth of material just waiting to be composted. Making a compost pit allows you to keep your garden tidy. Here we provide you with 2 plans to make your own compost bin showing you the materials, dimensions needed for a 3 bay wooden compost bin.

For those of you who have the space, a large wooden compost bin is perfect for 3 stage compost processing. For those of you who are serious about being organic farmers and gardeners, you cannot do without compost to enrich your soil and provide the nutrients for healthy growth.

The downside of composting is that it can look an unholy mess. That is why we have provided plans for you to make your own compost bin to keep those yards tidy and to make composting easier. When building a compost bin, it is always wise to make sure that you build your compost bin with removable slats . The compost can then be removed with ease and the slated sides allow for necessary air-circulation. Here is a plan for a second wooden log composting pit .

MAKING A COMPOST BIN: Materials for a 3 Bay Compost Bin: 270cm x 150cm

  • Use treated pine for the total construction, and when finished cover your compost with a piece of tarpaulin or a sheet of fiberglass.
  • Wooden slats for side walls and dividers: 28 wooden lengths 150 cm long x 10 cm wide x 4 cm deep.
  • Wooden slats for back walls: 21 lengths of 90 cm long x 10 cm wide x 4 cm deep
  • Removable slats: 21 lengths of 70 cm long x 10 cm wide x 4 cm deep
  • Posts – 8 lengths of 156 cm x 15 cm x 15 cm
  • Grooves – 12 lengths of 150 cm x 5 cm x 4 cm
  • Spacer Blocks – 42 blocks of 15 cm x 5 cm x 4 cm
  • Quick-Setting Concrete

MAKING A COMPOST BIN: Construction Method

Dig out the soil to make post holes, 30 cm square. Sink the posts by 15 cm. Fill the holes with quick-setting concrete.

Once the concrete is hard, nail the slats onto the outsides of the posts, leaving a gap of 4 cm between slats to allow air to get to your compost.

To make the grooves for the removable slats, nail two boards on to each inside face of the 4 front posts, leaving a 5 cm gap between the two boards to allow for the slats to move up and down with ease. Nail two boards either end of the two middle posts, and on the inner sides only of the two outer posts, again with a 5 cm gap.

To make the movable bars, fix 2 spacer blocks to the undersides of each wooden bar.

MAKING A COMPOST BIN – How do you Use it?

Your finished compost bin will have 3 separate compartments. The first bin compartment is for the roughly chopped vegetation that needs time to break down. Once it has reduced considerably in size move it over to bin compartment number 2. Fill the first bin compartment with new compost. Once bin 2 compartment has reduced in volume even further, place in the last bin compartment. Soon this will be the rich and friable compost that you will use on your garden.

Now that you have everything you need, get cracking and make your own compost bin to enrich your soil and grow healthier plants and vegetables. If you don’t know how to make compost we will show you how.


DIY : Mason Jar Drop Lights

I’ve been eyeing the Edison style drop lights for a while now, and today I decided it was time I brought the style into our apartment. The project was actually pretty easy, and I’m really happy with the outcome.

1. Edison bulb; These can be found at Anthropologie, but I found this one for about half the price at Butter Home , in the Melrose Market.
2. Cord kit; I bought this one on sale a while ago at UO, but they have them everywhere, including Ikea.
3. Vintage mason jar; I found this particular one at the Seattle Trading Post.
4. Cordless Drill (my baby)
5. Pliers
6. Hammer

1. Drill holes as close together to one another as possible, around a traced circle.
2. Hammer the middle to pop out the center, and use the pliers to bend jagged edges.
3. Attach the cord by unscrewing the plastic top and sliding the lid one. Re-screw onto other side of the lid.
Lastly, put it all together! Add the bulb, put the lid on the jar, and presto, you have a DIY mason jar drop light!