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A Communal Food Garden

By Marcus Busby, Dave Cotterall,

Tessa Nicol and Ed Scudamore
Pen-y-Bwr Farm
Copyright Marcus Busby, 2011

Design and Build an Easy Access, Low Maintenance Communal Food Garden

Bring mathematics and geometry to life! Use Pythagoras equations; calculate areas, and
circumferences; quantify materials and prices; learn how to mark out a garden! Use practical skills to
build it, work in a group and teams. Build a communal garden! Grow lots of tasty food; fruit, herbs
and vegetables; then cook them and sit on benches together and eat in the middle of your garden -
in the circle of life!

This instruction book takes you through how to do all of this, so in one season you and your team
can build and grow a garden, then enjoy tasty meals at the end of the season. The garden can
continue to grow and flourish, providing more and more food. It is a great learning process and
leaves you with an equally valuable learning and growing resource.
A Communal Food Garden

This is a design layout suitable for a teaching space, for meetings, and can also make a good
herbal/medicinal garden.

By constructing it using sheet mulch and woodchips it can be very low maintenance, whilst building
fertile soil, trapping moisture and keeping weeds at bay.

The low maintenance of the design can make it a useful asset for schools and other learning settings
where time and budget are concerns regarding maintaining an outdoor learning space.

It is a great space to work in - for a teacher to communicate easily to everyone and be able to walk
around and help the students. The students can equally well converse with the teacher.

Its fun to mark out and construct with a group, and the beds can be constructed simultaneously by
teams, as they all follow the same construction process.

The plan above is drawn to scale so you can print it off, adapt it, or use it directly. You can locate the
entrance gate/s wherever is convenient, and position trees bearing in mind where the sun shines. In
hot climates shade can be good to shelter the garden; in cooler climates its best to avoid shading
the garden so it gets as much sun as possible.

The pathways are all wide enough for one wheel barrow, whilst the entrance path (from a gate to
the centre, at the southern end in this example) is wide enough for two wheelbarrows to pass.

There is a deer fence around the whole garden and this has chicken wire around the bottom to
prevent rabbits and other small herbivores getting in and eating the plants.

The beds are designed so you can reach all of the soil without having to walk on it. Which means
that on the whole the gardening an be done without concerns about muddy feet.

It should possible to prepare, plant, maintain and harvest, all without having to walk on the soil. Its
best if you can avoid this anyway, as it compacts the soil and this can hinder plant growth.

Copyright Marcus Busby, 2011
A Communal Food Garden

Copyright Marcus Busby, 2011

If you are working with younger or smaller people; for any area you cant reach easily, think how you
can use that space. You can always use a plank to access it, to avoid compacting the soil, or you can
plant a plant which is only visited once a season such as a cauliflower or cabbage, or you may decide
to plant a perennial companion plant, this may be a good opportunity to illustrate the difference
between annual and perennial plants to your students. Perennial plants such as lavender, thyme,
rosemary, day lily, sedum, broom, or any other plant that attracts pollinators, and/or fixes nitrogen,
have pretty flowers or any other reason its beneficial or attractive to pollinators are all good plants
to choose. Alternatively, you may choose to install a wire composting bin in these spots so you can
compost in situ. This helps keeps the whole area tidy-as-you-go and maintenance is further reduced.
These compost bins can directly feed each bed and you can even grow beans up them! Use chicken
wire and some upright supports to create a bin into which you can throw garden waste, avoid roots
which may grow back including potatoes, cooked food, or anything with seeds that you dont want
to spread into the bed.


There is a central area for gathering which can seat 16 people comfortably on benches, but it would
be possible for up to 30 people to gather such as a full school class. The central area is a great
sharing point for information and ideas, plants and seeds to plant-out, materials, such as compost
and tools and to bring together your harvests. It can also be an ideal place for a water collection
point. You can install a tap here, or if the central area is covered, this canopy can be used to collect
and direct rainwater into a central water butt.
A Communal Food Garden

Central area with benches

Bringing seedlings into the central area of the garden ready for planting out (this photo was taken before the
sheet mulching with cardboard and wood chips was completed)

In the garden in the photos, the area around the outer edge of the garden is planted with perennial
fruit bushes, fruit trees and herbs. The eight beds in the centre are used for annual vegetables.

Copyright Marcus Busby, 2011
A Communal Food Garden

Calculating circumference and area of a circle

Radius (r) = 7.5 metres

Diameter (D) = 15 metres

Circumference (C) = 2r


= 2 x 3.142 x 7.5metres

= 47.13metres

Area (A) = r

= 3.142 x 7.5 x 7.5metres

= 176.73 metres

Perimeter Fence A Wooden Korrall

Copyright Marcus Busby, 2011

Split Chestnut Korrall by Morgan Allen of WholeWood Designs

The fence marks the boundary of the garden and acts to keep grazing animals out, preventing them
from eating the produce grown inside. It can also be used to train and grow plants up.

The type of fence you install depends a lot on the site.

If you are unsure which type of fence to install specific to your site, generally you should consider
the following questions:

What is the purpose/function(s) of the fence?

Which animals does it need to keep in/out?
How essential is the fence?
A Communal Food Garden

How exposed is the site? (if its windy for instance, dont try and build a solid board fence, it
will get blown over, or if its in a residential area, razor wire may create a hazard)
What materials are appropriate (cost/time/impact)
What are the best materials the budget can afford/are available?
Getting materials to site

Its always good if you are still unsure to ask someone with experience; you can ask your materials
supplier, or call a craftsperson or fencing contractor to have a look and give you some advice or a

This gardens diameter is 15metres, it has a circumference of 47.13metres therefore the perimeter
fence is 46.13metres plus one gateway at 1metre wide.


The fence in this example was constructed from split Ash and Sweet Chestnut by Wholewood
Designs in Herefordshire, UK. Chestnut is often locally available in temperate Northern European
countries, widely introduced by the Romans. The materials supplier for this fence was Sustainable
Woodland Services in Herefordshire, UK.

Chestnut is a sustainable source of timber properly managed; it grows back in coppice stools on
rotation. Chestnut lasts a long time outdoors because it contains natural tannins (preservatives). You
can further increase the longevity of the posts by scorching the ends black on hot coals, which are to
go in the ground.

This fence is a split chestnut post and rail construction, with batons (uprights) nailed to the rails.
The rails are attached to the round posts with a rustic mortise and tenon joint through the centre of
the post, pinned with 4 nails. The batons are nailed top and bottom to the rails on the outside of
the perimeter. The batons alternate in height 6ft/1.8m and 8ft/2.4m.

Should split chestnut not be available, you can buy post and rail fencing from timber suppliers,
agricultural supplies store, or most builders merchants can offer the same, or similar. You will need
treated wood to increase longevity. Often post and rail comes in half round timber removing the
need to cut joints.

The agricultural stores usually do the best prices and offer the best quality all round, particularly
with tools, fencing, gate hinges and latches, in fact, all their products and prices are generally better
than domestic suppliers.

If you are making this garden for a school, charity or community project and using a commercial
supplier for the materials, its worth having a chat for a trade discount if you explain who, and what
its for. You can also credit the suppliers in any local press releases. If they are keen and offer some
sponsorship they may have a company placard you can attach to the entrance of the garden.

Fence Specifications

Refer to the bullet points above.

Copyright Marcus Busby, 2011

The height and strength of the fence depends on which animals you intend to keep in/out. This
fence was designed to keep rabbits, badger, deer and horses out; hence it is tall at 8ft/2.4m and has
a fine chicken mesh around the bottom. If the site is not likely to be visited by deer or other large
herbivores, then you can make the fence lower, saving materials and time.

For pigs and cattle you need the strongest types of fence, but not necessarily the tallest, as they do
not jump high like deer. If its deer, and pigs and cattle, you need the tallest strongest fence!

The circular design and type of joint construction of the fence in this example means that it actually
tightens if animals lean against it, although a pig could possibly pull off the uprights if its hungry. To
prevent this you would attach a run of pig wire mesh around the bottom on the outside and fix it
firmly with galvanized fencing staples. To keep animals off you can use an electric fence or barbed
wire. Alternatively you could plant a hedge around it, such as blackthorn and hawthorn as used in
traditional laid hedges. This will need to be protected until it has grown mature though.

Deer can jump a very high fence even 8ft/2.4m. The builder of this fence advises that if deer see an
obstacle with a straight edge, they will attempt to jump it. In this design, the heights of the uprights
are alternating, 6tf/1.8m and 8ft/2.4m giving a varying height. This deters the deer from attempting
to jump it and to date, three years on, no animal has gained access, except a pheasant which was a
good addition to the protein count!

As a guide, the main posts are 7 feet/2.1m long, dug into the ground 2 feet/60cm, and placed at
84/2.5metre intervals. There are a total of twenty posts in this example. If you add more gateways
you will need to add more posts to your materials list.

In this example there is just one gateway at the southerly end of the garden.

The posts are in roundwood cords, with the rails (from split roundwood) wedged and pinned (with
nails) into mortices cut into the centre of the posts with a chainsaw, you can also use a drill and
chisels if you have time/dont have a chainsaw. The alternating uprights are all from split chestnut,
nailed top and bottom to the rails.
A Communal Food Garden

Entrance to Split Chestnut Korrall by Morgan Allen (WholeWood Designs, Herefordshire, UK)

Copyright Marcus Busby, 2011

Guide Materials List for a 47m Wooden Deer and Rabbit Fence

You can use this materials list as a guide for split chestnut, or at the timber suppliers.

Qty. Description Guide UK Price Guide

Dimensions GBP (inc tax)
20 Posts 150mm x 1.8m (4x6) 200.00
40 Rails 47x150x2.4m (2x6x8) 300.00
200 Batons/Uprights 47x75x1.8m (2x4x6) 700.00
200 Batons/Uprights 47x75x2.4m (2x4x8) 700.00
750/7kg Galvanized Round Wire Nails 4/100mmx4.5mm 20.00
1 Roll 13mm Chicken Wire Mesh 900mm/3ft x 50m 40.00
1 Roll of wire for connecting chicken mesh 2mm x20m 7.00
1000kg Rocks/Ballast/Road Stone (MOT Type 1) 1 x Bulk Bag 50.00
2 Heavy Duty Zinc Plated Thread and Bolt 18.00
Adjustable Hinge Sets (see picture below)
Materials Total: 2035.00


Trenching shovel
Spade & Shovel
Large Sledge Hammer
Lump Hammer
Standard Hammer
20m Measuring tape
6m Tape measure
90 Square
Wood Saw/Chainsaw (depending on type of fencing)
Drill and Flat Wood Bits
Spray marker/Rope
Round steel bar/Reinforcing bar
Spirit Level/Post level
Wood splitting wedges*
Bill Hook*

*For Split Wood construction.

A Communal Food Garden

Marking-out: The Garden Boundary

Lawn mower (or equivalent).
White marking out spray/50m Rope
Fluorescent cycling band/vest or red and white hazard ribbon
60-90cm/2-3ft long Round metal rod/Reinforcing bar (re-bar)
20m Measuring Tape

To make life easier with the marking out, its not a bad idea to mow the grass or reduce any tall
vegetation which will obstruct your marking out. If there are existing shrubs in the garden, it may be
an idea to dig them up and heel-them-in outside the area of the garden. They can always be
replanted in the garden later.

Once the site has been identified, you will need to find the centre of the proposed garden. If
necessary, experiment with where the centre is to make sure the perimeter is not going run over any
obstacles. Do this by extending the measuring tape to the radius of the garden (7.5metres) and, if
you are on your own pushing the re-bar rod into the ground by hand, looping over your measuring
tape and walking round the perimeter. If the garden is not in the position (e.g. central) to the area
you have or you need to shift it over, pull out the re-bar and try again. If there are two of you its
easier the other person can hold the rebar in place whilst you test the perimeter.

When you have found the centre for sure, drive the re-bar in with the lump hammer, leaving a
minimum of a foot protruding. This will now remain in position until the entire marking-out job is
finished. If you need to remove it (perhaps whilst away from site if in a public place) mark it with a
sturdy stick or spray of your marker.

To be doubly safe, for any dangerous protruding metal anywhere on any job, spray the protruding
bar white with your spray marker and/or attach some hazard tape/fluorescent vest/ribbon round
the top so it flaps in the wind - to make sure everybody can see this. Its also an idea, if the re-bar
has not been bent over, but cut off, to use something like a tennis ball or wooden block with a hole
drilled in it, to cap the re-bar. People often visit during construction, and invariably find something to
trip over which can really change the mood of the situation! At least this way, hopefully nobody is
hurt and you can have a laugh without any victims!

Copyright Marcus Busby, 2011

Now use your measuring tape, with the loop over the centre pin, and locked at 7.5metres to mark
the perimeter of the garden. Either spray- mark or lay the rope to mark the entire perimeter. If using
rope you may wish to pin it in place using sections of wire coat hangers bent over.

Instead of marking the perimeter, you can of course make a measurement for each post from the
centre, but this takes longer and involves two measurements every time. Plus its not as fun as
marking out the boundary of the new garden!

And voila! You have the garden marked out by the most
primordial symbol of the sun a circle with a point at its
centre. In the Egyptian hieroglyphics writing system, this
symbol means sun or Ra. This symbol was adopted as
an astronomical symbol, as the symbol for the sun during
the renaissance period.

Installing the boundary fence

Install the posts and rails in the

order shown in the diagram,
left. If you are working as a
team, install the gateway posts
(1. and 2.) together, after this
one team can do posts 3-11,
whilst the other team installs

The reason for installing the

posts in this order is that the
last section, between post 20
and post 11 will likely be
different to the rest of the gaps,
depending on the materials you
have used it will be longer or
shorter. If its longer you will
need to install an extra post.
A Communal Food Garden

Now you have the post and rail fence in place!

One team can start nailing on the upright baton
on the outside of the perimeter, making sure you
count out the batons first and lay the appropriate
amount next to each run. There should be ten of
each length so 20 per run, and they should be
nailed on, with one nail through the baton into
the top rail, and one nail through the baton into
the bottom rail. The batons should alternate in
heights long, short, long, short.

Another team can start the marking-out on the

inside of the fence.

Copyright Marcus Busby, 2011

Marking Out the Garden

Dividing the Garden into Eight Segments

Because there are eight garden beds you need to divide the garden into eight. Begin by marking out
a cross, dividing the garden into four quarters, then
add another cross creating eight segments.

First mark the line running South to North. Extend

the measuring tape and run it from the middle of
the gate at the southern end, to the middle of the
rails running between the last two posts you
installed. The tape must run exactly over the centre.
Pull the measuring tape taught, and mark the line
with your spray marker.

Next, mark the line that runs East to West. It is very important that this is at 90 - right angles to the
North South line. You can find the 90 angle, using a right-angled triangle. A right angle triangle is
formed with three sides with a value of 3, 4 and 5. We will use 3m, 4m and 5m.

The longest length - found opposite the right angle, is called the hypotenuse and in our example, it is
5m long. The two shorter lengths (3m and 4m), are called the legs or catheti of the triangle (singular:

Begin by marking the North-South line, 3m

north of the centre mark, as shown in the
picture on the left. Its a good idea to use
another piece of re-bar here so you can hook
your measuring tape over it in the next stage.

Remember to mark the steel peg clearly so

nobody will trip over it.
A Communal Food Garden

Next you need to hook the end of one measuring

tape over the centre peg, pull the measure out 4m.

Attach the end of another measuring tape, or

someone should hold the end on the peg you marked
at 3m north of the centre line.

Now you will have two tapes extending from the

North-South centre line. One tape at 4m connected
to the centre point of the circle, and the other tape
at 5m extending from your new peg.

Pull the two tapes tight and bring them together,

where the 5m on one tape overlays the 4m mark
on the other. This forms your right angle triangle
as shown in the picture on the left.

As you can see in the diagram, the 4m line,

extending from the centre point is at exactly 90
to your North-South line.

Mark this point clearly, either with another peg or

with a dot made with your spray marker. This
marks exactly your Easterly point and will allow
you to mark your line in a moment.

Copyright Marcus Busby, 2011

Swing the tapes over to the Westerly side and

repeat the same process, with the tape
extending 4m from the centre of the circle and
5m from the other peg, as shown in the
diagram to the left.

Now you can mark your Western point, also at

exactly 90 from the North-South centre line.

Run your measuring tap the full width of the

garden enclosure, pull it taught and line it up with
the western and eastern marks, the line will
naturally fall over the center point of the garden.

Now you can mark your East-West line at exactly

90 right angles to the North-South line.
A Communal Food Garden

Now we have the North-to-South and East-to-

West lines in place, and the area is divided into
four quarters.

This is another ancient symbol, called the sun

cross or solar wheel. It can represent the four
seasons. In astronomy this symbol represents

Now we need to divide the garden into eighths.

To do this, mark the central points between the


This is most easily done by taking a measurement

between two of the four quarter points, such as
12oclock and 3oclock, and find the half-way point.

Mark the halfway clearly with the spray marker.

Do the same in the opposite quarter; find the

halfway point between 6oclock and 9oclock.

Mark the halfway point with the spray marker.

Copyright Marcus Busby, 2011

Extend the measuring tape from one side of the

garden to the other so that it lays over both these
new marks. The line must cross the centre point

Pull the measuring tape taught and mark the line

with the spray marker.

A dashed line is fine and this will save spray paint.

Repeat the process on the opposite side by

marking the halfway points between 3oclock
and 6oclock and also between 9oclock and

Mark this line too with a dashed line.

Now the area inside the fence is divided exactly

into eight segments.

This symbol is known as the sun cross; a circle

divided into eight.
A Communal Food Garden

Marking-out the Pathways

Start by spray marking a line 30cm to the North of

the East-West line, as shown in the diagram.

To do this use a tape measure extended to 30cm

at each of the East-West line, and extend the
Measuring Tape the length of the line, pulling it

Mark the line with the spray marker. You can use
a dashed line to save paint.

Now do the same 30cm to the South of the East-

West line, as shown in the diagram.

This marks your East-West path, which is 60cm

wide and perfectly central to the area of the

60cm is wide enough for any wheel barrows to

be able to access the whole garden.

Repeat the process for all of the pathways,

marking a line 30cm either side of the existing
lines, except any pathways which have a

In this example there is one gate entrance to

the South. This pathway shall be marked next.

Copyright Marcus Busby, 2011
A Communal Food Garden

Now mark the entrance path running from the

gate to the centre.

This path is 1metre wide, to allow for two wheel

barrows to pass, measure 50cm either side of
the central line, and mark with the spray marker,
using a dashed line.

Next, mark out the central area of the garden.

This is a circle with a 2m radius, measuring 4m

across in total.

Extend your measuring tape 2m, connect one end

to the center peg, and mark the circle by working
your way around holding the spray marker at 2m,
marking as you go.

Mark with a dashed line.

The next line to mark is another circle, with a

radius of 6m; this marks the inside of the outer
path and its helps to mark this now as a guide
for the next stage marking out the beds.

Extend the measuring tape 6m, keep one end

hooked over the center peg and work your way
around the circumference of the circle.

Mark with a dashed line.

Copyright Marcus Busby, 2011

This is how your garden will be looking by now. It can be confusing because there are lots of lines
and dashes, but the next step will clarify the markings.

The next step is to mark out the garden beds.

The beds have been designed to use complete measurements such as 60cm, 1m and 2m lengths,
and simple angles such as 90. They are easy to mark out and this is the final stage in marking-out.
A Communal Food Garden

Marking-out the Beds

By following this step-by-step approach, it keeps the marking out simple and easy to follow. In this
design there are two sizes of garden bed, marked as A and B on the diagram below. There are two
type A beds and six type B beds.

The two beds either side of the entrance path (both marked A) are 20cm thinner than the other six
beds. This is because the pathway was widened by 40cm to accommodate for two wheel barrows
passing, instead of the path being 60cm wide here, it is 1m wide.

If you are working in a group, you can mark the beds out at the same time in teams. Mark out all the
type B beds first. Then do the two type B beds. There are

The step-by-step process used for marking out the beds is also used when you come to construct
the beds out of wood build them using the same process. The diagram below also shows the
completed marking out, with the dimensions of the different sides for reference. You can see the
bed marked a, one marked AA and six that are marked B.

Copyright Marcus Busby, 2011
A Communal Food Garden

Copyright Marcus Busby, 2011
A Communal Food Garden

When marking out the beds, use a solid line with your spray marker (unless you are running low on
paint). This is because these lines are your final marks and the need to be the clearest. The lines
marking out the beds determine where the paths are and also where the beds are and will be used
in the next stage which is cutting the turf.

The first LINE already has both

ends marked; where the inner
circle crosses the sides of the
pathways between the beds.

For B-Beds this line is 1m across.

For A-Beds and AA-Beds, this line

is 80cm.

Here is the mark on a full garden plan:

Copyright Marcus Busby, 2011

Next, measure 2m along the side of the bed; this

extends along the dashed line you marked the
path with. Mark the side of the bed with a solid

See the diagram, left.

Mark the next line as shown in the diagram. This

line is 60cm long. Use a right angle to mark it at

Mark with a solid line with your spray marker.

Mark the next line, 60cm long at 90 with the

spray marker.
A Communal Food Garden

Now mark another 60cm line at 90 right angles,

this line will return to the dashed line marking
the edge of the path.

Make a solid line with your spray marker as

shown in the diagram.

The next line is 1m long, and runs at 90 to the

previous mark, along the dashed line you
marked for the path earlier.

Mark with a solid spray-marker line.

Take a 90 right angle to the previous line, and

measure 2m as shown in the diagram.

The line should extend just past the dashed

circular line you marked earlier which
indicates the outer path. (See diagram below)

Spray-mark with a solid line.

Copyright Marcus Busby, 2011

You can see in the diagram above that the line extends just past the dashed circular line you marked
the outer path with.
A Communal Food Garden

The next mark runs along the dashed line of the

path marked earlier.

This line extends for 2m

Mark with a solid spray line.

As before, the next line extends at 90 from the

line you just marked.

This line extends 60cm into the area of the bed

as shown on the diagram.

Mark with a solid spray-mark.

Mark the next line at 90 as shown in the


This line is 60cm long and runs parallel to the


Mark with a solid spray mark.

Copyright Marcus Busby, 2011

The next line is 60cm, at 90 right angles to the

previous line you marked, and rejoins the dashed
line marked for the path.

Mark with a solid line as shown in the diagram,


Now measure 1m along the dashed pathway

line you marked earlier, from where you
previous line meets it. This should be at 90
right angles.

Mark with a solid line as shown in the diagram.

Now mark the final line for your new garden

bed. This line extends at 90 right angles to the
previous mark, and should meet the opposite

Mark this line with a solid spray-mark.

Congratulations the first bed is marked out!

Now repeat the process for the other beds,

A Communal Food Garden

using the appropriate measurements for bed type A, AA and B.

If the beds look a bit wonky or dont line up properly, then go round and check all the 90 angles
with your set square and check all the measurements are correct according to those indicated on the
plans for A, AA and B beds.

If the final two lines do not meet, on the outermost part of the bed, follow the instructions below:

Copyright Marcus Busby, 2011

Finding the positions for the outside edge of the beds

It may be that you are having difficulty

matching up the outer two sides of one of the
beds, Left.

The easiest way around this is to draw two

arcs, and where they cross, this should be the
meeting point for the outer edges.

Start by rubbing out the lines which didnt

match up. If you are working on grass just use
your foot to wipe away the spray mark. If you
are on soil just scuffle the soil over.

Next you will need to extend a tape measure

the appropriate distance from the axis point
marked on the diagram, left. For instance,
this will be 2m, or perhaps 1.9m if its on one
of the A or AA beds. Refer to the plans above.
A Communal Food Garden

In this example the line is 2m long. Extend the

tape measure and mark an arc as shown, 2m
from the axis point.

Repeat the same process for the other side.

Now you can mark the meeting point!

This is the central point where the two ends

will meet.

Copyright Marcus Busby, 2011

Mark one side with a solid spray


And do the same for the other side.

Now you have completed marking

out the bed!
A Communal Food Garden

Whether working alone, in a pair, or in groups, its probably easiest to start with marking out all the
type B beds first, as below:

Then, mark out bed A and bed AA, as below. If you are working in groups you can print off the plans
and give each group the appropriate plan to work from. Make sure each group gets the right plan to
work from.

Copyright Marcus Busby, 2011

There is just one more

line to mark; this is the
outer path.

Hook your measuring

tape over the centre
post and extend it out
to the perimeter fence.

Measure 1m in from
the perimeter fence,
and mark a line round
the whole garden,
except for leaving a gap
by the entrance; as
shown in the diagram

The gap is so you can mark

a nice curve going in to the
entrance, as shown in the
diagram left.

Mark this whole line with a

solid line if you have
enough paint, else use a
dashed line.
A Communal Food Garden

Congratulations! The marking out is complete. The illustration above is what you should be left with.

If you are marking this out full-size outdoors, and using spray marker, you must be sure not to leave
it too long before starting work on making the garden the spray marker can fade or be washed
away by rain. So to avoid losing your work, bring in the workforce and keep the ball rolling!

Copyright Marcus Busby, 2011

Classroom Preparation work

If you are going to be doing the marking out as a team, its a good idea to sit down and draw the
garden out on a piece of paper first, using a scale of 1:10. So every meter = 1cm on your drawing.

By drawing the design out on paper first, you can get used to the marking out process, and work
together, so that when you come to do it in the field, everybody has a god idea of the process and
can be equally involved.

It can also be a good class room activity, because you are using a compass, a ruler, scale drawing,
geometry and Pythagorean equations.

Another option, if you have larger sheets of paper such as A3 available to your class is to draw the
garden out at 1:50 scale, so every 1m = 2cm on the drawing. Then you can use the drawings to
create planting plans and other plans such as work rotas etc. The 1:100 drawing may be a little bit
too small for annotation, but working at 1:100 scale is easier for the children to grasp because 1m =

You can ask the children to colour in or paint the plans; they can stick these in their project books
too along with photos.
A Communal Food Garden

Making the Garden

Now the garden is all marked out, are you ready for some graft?

Begin constructing the garden by cutting out the beds, illustrated in the photograph above. Plunge
the spade directly downwards on the line marking the outline of the bed. Dig out sods of earth that
are one spit (full depth of the spade) deep.

Turn the sods into the centre of the outlined raised bed, laid grass down as shown in the
photograph above.

Cutting out the bed like this serves two functions. One is to permanently mark the locations of the
beds so if it rains your marking-out is not lost. And two; to clear the way for installing the raised
beds so there is no earth in the way of where you want to nail your boards.

Sometimes people make the mistake of building raised bed straight on top of the soil. This works
okay to begin with, but its not long until the boards start bowing and soil starts washing out from
under the bottom board. Its best to embed raised beds into the ground a little by building them
slightly submerged into the ground. This makes them stronger and less likely to leak soil or bow.

You can get a good rhythm going working your way round the bed. By laying the turves soil up you
are effectively blocking out the grass underneath. This will die and rot away adding a little bit of
humus to the soil.

Copyright Marcus Busby, 2011

Endeavour to cut clean, straight edges to define the beds, cut accurately along the spray lines. This
helps to keep the layout neat and makes it much easier if, or when you come to build the raised
beds as you will not to do any extra measuring or alignment.

Once all the beds have been cut out, its easy to get a feel for the garden!
A Communal Food Garden

Depending on the budget and how it is intended to use the garden, it is possible to now work the soil
in the beds and keep them as standard garden beds. By cutting a good edge on the beds they can be
maintained as any normal garden bed with regular mowing. But we dont want to be mowing as it is
a waste of time and energy.


Once all the edges of the beds are marked out, the next job is to dig the holes for the posts. You can
either do this as you go along; digging all 13 holes, one bed at a time. Or if you prefer, or are working
in a group, do all of them in one hit 114 in total.

There are 13 posts per bed, therefore thirteen holes that need digging per bed! A border spade, or
small gardening spade with a 5/125mm blade does a good job. It is possible to cut a good square
hole for the square posts with one of these. You can also use a trenching spade to speed things up
and so as not to make the holes too wide.

In the example in the photographs 4x4/100x100mm posts were used that are 60cm/2ft long. Thus
the small spade cut a 5x5 (125x125mm) square hole. We planned to raise the beds 40cm/16 so
there would be 20cm/8 of the post in the ground and 40cm/16 protruding. This garden was built
on sloping land so we dug the holes 20cm deep. If the posts are buried and then back filled with the
post in place, they have more structural support.

Different people have different methods and may decide to construct their beds differently. This one
works, has survived numerous adults and children climbing over it and is still working today without
any breakages, bowing or rotting posts or walls. We used untreated Western Red Cedar because it
was what was available, and because of its properties such as being resistant to rotting and
containing oils which are reputed to keep away insects.

Its important to choose a wood that is not going to deteriorate before you have made good use of
the raised beds. In general we can list timbers by their longevity as follows: Oak, Chestnut, Cedar and
then treated soft woods, followed by untreated softwoods or other woods not containing natural
tannins or oils. Most builders and timber merchants will stock treated softwoods for construction.
You can source other woods from smaller milling firms and local saw millers.

The posts need to be a good diameter so they dont rot too quickly or break. The posts support the
walls of the raised beds and they need to be sufficiently wide enough and strong enough so the
boards can rest flat against them and so that it is possible to nail or screw the boards on securely.

Once all the post holes are dug out to the desired depth, in all thirteen positions as indicated on the
diagram below, you should pop a post in each hole so that they are in place when you come to
nail/screw the boards on.

Please refer to diagram overleaf for post positions, this diagram indicates where to dig the holes for
your posts.

Copyright Marcus Busby, 2011
A Communal Food Garden

As can be seen in the photograph above, off-cut timber was used for the bed walls. This is what we
had available at the time of construction and cost only a small amount for loading and delivery, as it
is considered by some saw mills to be a waste product.

Below is a cutting list for all the lengths you will need to make this garden, although if you are
working with recycled, up-cycled, re-used or waste timber it can be an idea to cut your lengths as
you go because the dimensions can vary.

Cutting List

Timber for 13 raised beds, 40-45cm/ 16 in height:

104 Posts; 100x100mm x0.6m

96 lengths of 47x225mm x0.6m

2 lengths of 47x225mm x 0.8m

44 lengths of 47x225mm x 1m

4 lengths of 47x225mm x 1.9m

60 lengths of 47x225mm x 2m

You may source recycled timber and off-cuts from local building firms, carpentry firms, saw mills and
timber recycling projects such as Bristol Wood Recycling Project. If you decide to re-use scaffold
boards for instance, you may choose to treat them with preservative, although they will last a few
years untreated. www.scaffold-direct.co.uk

If you are unable to source recycled/waste timber, below is a materials list as a guide with full retail
prices for the UK.

Qty. Description Guide Retail Price

( GBP) ex.VAT
26x 100x100mm x 2.4m Treated Fence Posts FSC 232.70

Carcassing Min C16 Treated FSC:

24x 2.4m 47x225mm 244.80

16x 3.0m 47x225mm 204.00
32x 4.2m 47x225mm 571.20

10kg 100x4.5mm Round Wire Nails 21.00

Sub Total: 1273.70

VAT 254.74

Total inc. VAT 1528.44

Copyright Marcus Busby, 2011

One you have constructed a raised bed to the desired height, you can begin filling it with soil. This is
the most labour intensive part of making a raised bed. Its good to have the help from as many
people as possible! The little ones love being involved and keep everything running smoothly!

If you choose to raise the beds you will need extra soil, however there are other option available too.