If you haven’t taught your teen to make, do and fix, you’ve failed them, says mum of three teens Maria Honey.
Recently it dawned on me that my teens are at a loss in the “make, do, and fix” department. I’d like to blame it on this generation and all the tech they use, but honestly, I think I’m just not putting in the time and energy to help them learn this stuff. So if I want them to have good life DIY skills, I realised that I’m going to have to create a home environment with projects happening, and then give them the chance to step in and have a go.
Making a plan
I enlisted my 15-year-old to build six large planter boxes to help me develop the vege garden I have always dreamed of. No, in case you’re wondering, he didn’t do it for free ? I decided to pay him for his labour in order to give the project an enthusiastic kick start (and because I would have paid cold, hard cash for these planter boxes anyway). As a parent, I feel great about the ongoing enjoyment and satisfaction my son is getting out of this project. It’s a changing feast of vegetables that’s always fun to watch.
In today’s digital age, it’s always great to see teenagers picking up tools, learning valuable DIY skills, and making things they can be proud of.
Garden planter boxes are super simple to make, and it’s not too much of a problem if a few little mistakes are made in the process.
Setting up for success
A word to the wise: Now is not the time to be a total control freak. Look at this project as an opportunity for your teen to get their hands dirty, practise some new skills, and learn from their mistakes. Here’s how we got the project underway.
1. Choose an easy project that will survive a few mistakes for first time DIYers (think rustic outdoor planter boxes rather than perfect indoor coffee table).
2. Give your teen room to figure things out without hovering too closely.
3. Give them a written list of tips (after doing a little online research) and provide a few inspo photos from Pinterest to give them some direction.
4. Suggest they watch a DIY video (my son watched this video about building raised garden beds and tailored these ideas to our project)
5. Ask the timber experts at your local DIY shop for any tips about screws versus nails, galvanised versus stainless , supports for the corners, and wood type to suit our budget. They are really helpful with information on how to make the corners strong and how to keep the cost down.
6. We also asked the staff at our local plant shop about what we need to know about planting them out, including height suggestion, how much soil will be required, protecting the soil from any chemicals in the wood, and a watering system.
Getting down to details
If you like the simplicity of our project, here’s what we did:
• We built six 1800mm by 800 mm planter boxes that were designed as a frame only (so had no bottom). They sit directly on the ground.
• We used 150mm by 20mm pine fence posts , three posts in height, and lined them with black polythene to ensure no chemicals leached into the soil. We used 5cm square posts in the corners for strength.
•We asked the timber merchant to cut our pieces to size so we didn’t need to do this at home. There is a small cost for this but it is totally worth it.
• We alternated the edge joints to make them stronger.
• We used stainless steel screws to protect from the corrosive effects of the sea air.
On the first planter box, my son forgot to alternate the edges, and we made a version that was one plank too high. He figured this out through trial and error, and I relaxed and let him work it out for himself.
Creating our garden
• We decided on a Hugelkultur garten , as this was a great way to use up old branches lying around, and filled up at least half the boxes with these. It’s also a great system for keeping the garden healthy and thriving.
• We used bags of garden soil which were great value and easy to tip into the boxes. We already had a tonne of compost from our garden cuttings, and topped it up with a few extra bags.
• We used pea straw for mulch , which goes a really long way and is terrific for keeping the garden moist and the weeds down.
• We installed an irrigation drip system so we could do a deep watering less often without standing over the garden with a hose (although the Hugelkutur garden hardly needs any watering at all).
• We added bark around the ground area to keep the weeds down, make it cleaner to walk on, and it looks great.
The first step with our hugelkultur garden was to fill up half the planter box with dead tree trunk and sticks (including a few that were charred that he saved from the burn pile)
On top of the branches and sticks was a layer of compost, topped with soil and then pea straw (top left). We also spread bark around the ground area of the garden (top right).
Perfect D.I.Y. projects for your teen
1. Build a study nook
2. Easy DIY cube storage unit
3. Kid love their own wooden storage bench
4. Wire mesh memo board for their room