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APRIL 3, 2010   

Seemed like a good idea

Peeling paint on inside of raised-bed planterLast year I made a raised-bed planter out of a couple of old doors I had in the basement. Seemed like a good idea at the time: recycle what you have instead of buying new wood.

Here you see a problem I didn't anticipate: the paint that was intact last May was peeling and chipping badly after the winter. The top two layers of paint are latex, but the bottom on is almost certainly lead-based.

Not good, lead paint in the soil where you're growing vegetables. Last year an astute reader raised this issue after I posted the article. I wasn't too concerned, since the paint was in good shape. A year's exposure to the elements changed that.

Side removed from planterSo today I dismantled the planter and replaced the doors with pieces of 2x6 treated lumber salvaged from our most recent addition to the back deck.

Here, after I took the first door panel off, you can see how I filled most of the planter with straw, then added a layer of soil at the top. I knew that the straw would rot in a year or two, so this was part compost-heap too.

Raised-bed almost dismantledHere there's only the back panel remaining from the old version, and I've attached the first piece of 2x6 that will create the new raised bed. I've dug out the soil and much of the straw since the new planter will be less than half the height/depth of the old.

Finished raised bed planterAbout three hours later the new planter, about a foot deep, is finished.

Since I'm a guy with a day job that entails pushing a mouse around and talking to people, three hours of actual physical labor seems like a whole day. I doubt that I could keep up with my son or son-in-law, both of whom work in construction. I'll be stiff and sore tomorrow. But I did get a pretty decent new planter built.

In case you're wondering if I've just traded one problem for another, the treated lumber I used is all several years old. Test have shown that most chemical leaching into the soil takes place in the first year. Some of the boards have a coat of oil-based stain on them, not a health risk.

This time I think I'm OK.

More info on health issues.


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Cuyahoga to Colorado


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APRIL 2010