Dec 30, 2013

Constructing A Planting Jig - The Modern Victory Garden

It’s a cool and wet weekend so the outside options are pretty limited, however it is a great time to do some shop projects. One of the tasks I had on my list for this weekend was to repot the Chinese cabbage and kale starts. They are a month old now and have totally outgrown their starter cell packs. I want to keep them under lights for another month before permanently planting them up in containers in the greenhouse. Saturday morning I popped them into sturdy 4 inch pots using organic potting soil I have on hand in the shop.

This morning (Sunday), I also planted up 2 six packs of Super Gourmet Salad Blend lettuce, 2 six packs of Ching-Chiang pac choi, 2 large flat packs of Walla Walla onions, and 2 large flat packs of Candy onions. These were then covered with a plastic dome and placed on the heat mat under the grow lights. As soon as the seedlings emerge, I will remove the plastic dome and lower the lights down to just a few inches above the plants.

The bigger project I had on my list for this weekend was to construct the first prototype of an idea I have had for a planting jig. As of this morning, I have completed the first one, which is a 2-inch spaced planting jig. I intend to make 3 more of these – one with 3-inch spacing, one with 4-inch spacing, and one with 6-inch spacing. These are the most common within row (in all directions) spacing needed to intensively plant garden beds. I made the jig a 2 foot by 2 foot size because I rarely plant single squares of any one item, but rather do multiple blocks of a crop and often work my way down a large section of bed. 

This is the list of materials that I used for this project:
One sheet of pegboard - 2-foot by 4-foot dimension (you will use half of this for one jig)
One sheet of good quality plywood – 2-foot by 2-foot dimension
Two packages of Fluted Dowel Pins – ¼ inch diameter, 1 ¼ inch length – 72 count per package (need 144 for a 2'x2' board with 2 inch spacing)
Package of #8 X ¾ inch wood screws – (get self tapping, I did not and regretted it)
Carpenters wood glue
Two 5 ¾ inch door pulls (comes with short screws)

Here is the list of tools I used for this project:
A power jigsaw (you could use a table saw as well) to rip the 2’X4’ sheet of pegboard in half to make two 2’X2’ pegboard sections
A power drill with a screwdriver bit attachment
A rubber headed or plastic headed hammer (you could gently use a regular hammer instead)
Measuring tape
Straight edge Carpenters Square
2 pieces of scrap wood to use as blocking

Here’s a picture of the plywood and several of the materials and tools used (not all). You can purchase 2-foot by 2-foot squares of plywood (and 2-foot by 4-foot panels of pegboard) at places like Home Depot or Lowes.

Step One - cut the sheet of 2’X4’ pegboard in half to make two sheets of 2’X2’ pegboard. I held the wood while my husband cut this using a jigsaw.

Step Two – place some carpenters wood glue over the surface of the 2’X2’ section of plywood. 

Step Three – place the 2’X2’ section of pegboard on to the glued surface of the 2’X2’ section of plywood. The idea is to provide a backing to the pegboard to make it stronger and to put a floor at the base of each pegboard hole opening. 

Step Four – turn the pegboard and plywood panel over and screw together at each corner using the #8-3/4 inch screws. This is not the best picture, but it is a close up of one of the screws. Once completed turn the panel back over so that the pegboard is facing up.

Step Five – using the spacing you desire for the planting jig, place a big dollop of carpenters wood glue in each pegboard hole and place a ¼ inch fluted dowel pegs, tapping it firmly in using a plastic headed hammer. I am making a 2-inch spacing planting jig so the pegs are spaced every other hole from one another. The pegboard holes are spaced 1 inch apart which makes setting up the grid very easy to do. Once they are all in place, let this sit over night to let the glue set up and dry completely.

Step Six – the next day, carefully turn the peg board section over and place it on some lengths of scrap lumber (thin enough to fit between the rows of protruding pegs) such that the board is supported without putting pressure directly on the glued in pegs. The next two pictures show this – including the last picture which shows the clearance maintained between the pegs and the surface of the work table.

Step Seven – measure five inches in from each side and make a mark with a pencil. Do this twice on each side to establish two points from which a straight line can then be drawn. Similarly, measure nine inches from the top of the panel and make a mark with a pencil – doing it twice to facilitate drawing a straight line from point to point.

Step Eight – use a carpenter’s straight edge square and line it up with the pencil marks and then draw a straight line using your pencil. Do this for a vertical line on each side (spaced 5 inches in from the edges), and one horizontal line spaced 9 inches from the top.

Step Nine (last one!) – center the door pulls over the vertical lines and abutting the top edge against the horizontal lines and screw them into place. 

That’s all there is to it for the construction. Here’s how it works. Holding it using the door handles, lower it over a section of prepared garden bed soil and lay it flat on the surface of the soil so that the pegs are facing the soil. For shallow holes, just set it in place and do not press down – the weight of the board is sufficient for a shallow hole. For a deeper hole, press down on the board with your hands.

Works nicely! Too early to actually plant anything to really try it out, but I think this will make closely spaced planting much quicker and easier to do. Having a 3 inch, 4 inch, and 6 inch jig as well will give me good options for the coming planting season. I have all the materials I need to complete the remaining three jigs with the exception that I need to purchase more dowels. This is a really fast little project to put together so I should be able to finish them all up very quickly - once I purchase the rest of the dowels that I need.
Constructing A Planting Jig - The Modern Victory Garden

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