Building A Plant Propagation Bed Part 1 – A How To

Building A Plant Propagation Bed Part 1 - A Propagation Bed

Building A Plant Propagation Bed Part 1 – Maryland Propagation Bed

Click on this link for: Building A Plant Propagation Bed Part 2

Click on this link for: Building A Plant Propagation Bed – Pt3

This is part 1 of a 3 part series.  This post covers most of the framing out of the propagation bed.  Part 2 will cover the remaining framing out and shade cloth attachment.  Part 3 will cover the plumbing and how to program the automatic sprinkler system.  In addition to the blog, there are 7 YouTube videos at the bottom of this post that show videos of the system being put together.

Building A Plant Propagation Bed Part 1

This post is somewhat of a “how-to” or at least “how I did it” with regard to building my first plant propagation bed on the farm.  I do have a plant propagation bed at my residence in Maryland.  I put it in last fall and had cuttings planted in the winter and through the summer and fall.  I learned from several of my mistakes and will share those lessons with you.

My plant propagation bed from Maryland is shown in the picture labeled “Maryland Propagation Bed”.  The picture was taken after the winter plants were removed and before the summer plants went in.  I had mixed success over the winter with this bed.  It was more of an experiment as to what grows well from hardwood cuttings.  Elderberry and dappled willow did very well.  This summer I had great success with most plants.  The only surprises to me were the blackberry and raspberries that did not take root as well as I thought they would from soft wood cuttings.  I’ll have to study this a little more.

Building A Plant Propagation Bed Part 1

Anyhow, back to building a propagation bed.  First some of the lessons learned from the Maryland bed.

  • Building A Plant Propagation Bed Part 1 - Cardboard Down

    Building A Plant Propagation Bed Part 1 – Cardboard Down

    Sand for mixing with concrete is a great rooting medium.

  • Plan to provide shade upfront, instead of after the fact.
  • Don’t plant different plants too close together.  It gets tough to tell what is what with 1″ spacing.
  • Weed regularly.
  • Even with 8″ walls, organic materials such as grass clippings manage to find there way into the bed.
  • Lots of plumbing lessons learned that I will cover in another post.

The propagation bed I’m building here can be used on the farm in the winter or in the summer.  During the winter I don’t have to worry about a shade cloth, but I do have to worry about deer browse.  During the summer I will have to worry about preventing direct sunlight and keeping rabbits out.  The design I’m going to show you over this 3 part series will address all of these issues as well as some of the other functional features mentioned in the list above.

Building A Plant Propagation Bed Part 1

One of the things I did right in the propagation bed in Maryland was to put a thick layer of cardboard down on top of the grass and weeds before I put the sand in the propagation bed.  As shown in the picture titled “Cardboard Down”, I laid several cardboard boxes down on the ground before the mulch went in at the farm.  Be sure to remove any plastic tape or any other material that will not break down over time.  The cardboard itself will break down over time, but in the short run will be thick enough to prevent any of the tough weeds from breaking through.


Building A Plant Propagation Bed Part 1 - Mulch

Building A Plant Propagation Bed Part 1 – Mulch

As shown in the picture titled “Mulch” I received the first load of 12 yards of mulch.  I have a hoe with four tines like a pitch fork.  It was great for spreading the mulch out.  I spread the mulch about a foot thick.  There is a bit of a slope with the higher end toward the garage.  I spread the mulch out as level as I could.  The slope of the ground is still there to take the excess water away from the garage, but the top of the mulch is level enough to put the grow beds on.  I ended up putting 24 yards of mulch down and still need another 12 mulch to complete the area I want to do.

And more….

Once the mulch was level I started with the base of the propagation bed as depicted in the picture titled “Base”.  I used 2×8 pressure treated lumber.  It is 12′ long and 7′ wide.  It was made 7′ vs. 8′ so the hoops are high enough to allow for a door and allow us to walk in without ducking.  I leveled all sides of the frame and made sure it was square.  Making the frame square is done by measuring from one corner to the caddy-corner and then doing the same with the adjacent corner and comparing the measurements.  If it is off, you adjust until the measurements are the same.

Building A Plant Propagation Bed Part 1 - Base

Building A Plant Propagation Bed Part 1 – Base

Next I added two additional 2x8s going longways as shown in the picture called “2 Beds and A Walkway”.  As the name implies, this gives us a walkway in the center and a bed on each side of the walkway.  Each bed measures 2 and 1/2 feet or 30 inches.  This is plenty of room to reach from the walkway to the back wall, without stepping in the beds.

Building A Plant Propagation Bed Part 1

The beds will have thick cardboard laid at the bottom and then they will be filled with coarse sand as a growing medium.  The walkway is 21 inches wide and is enough room to maneuver around.  The walkway will not have sand or mulch (not much anyhow) added.  If you fill the walkway up with mulch it makes for more bending over and when you walk you will fling the mulch into to growing medium in the beds.

And More…

Building A Plant Propagation Bed Part 1 - 2 Beds and A Walkway

Building A Plant Propagation Bed Part 1 – 2 Beds and A Walkway

The next step is to add the cattle panel and form hoops.  This is depicted in the picture called “Cattle Panel Hoops”.  They make hog panels and cattle panels.  Make sure you get cattle panels as they are wider and give you the correct measurements.  The cattle panels are 50″ wide and they are 16 foot long.

I cut a the corner of my cattle panel that buts up against the corner of the base.  The cut size was 4″ x 1″ removed.  See the video for a better explanation.  What you do with the cattle panel is to put one end on the inside of the 12′ long 2×8.  Then grab the other end and and walk toward the base while lifting up on the center of the cattle panel.  The idea is to form a hoop as shown in the diagram.   This would likely be easier with two people, but it was just me this weekend, so it can be done with one person.

Building A Plant Propagation Bed Part 1

Building A Plant Propagation Bed Part 1 – Cattle Panel Hoop

The cattle panel is held on with fence staples.  I used one about every six inches.  The first rung in of the cattle panel is about 4-1/2 inches above the wood.  See the video for more details on how this was done as well as the shims holding the panel straight while nailing.

After the first panel is secure, add a second panel.  This will be the middle panel.  Like before, shim the panel and nail it in.

And More….

The last panel will have a little overlap.  Make the end flush with the end of the base and let the end overlap the middle cattle panel.  Nail it in and it should look like the picture “Cattle Panel Hoop”.

Building A Plant Propagation Bed Part 1 – Door Frame

Please take note on the next couple of steps.  I have accompanying videos posted on YouTube that do a pretty good job of helping to explain what I’m talking about here.  I recommend if you are building one of these, you use both this text as well as the videos.  Also, please note that the measurements were not exact for me.  The calculated measurements were too long in most cases and needed to be trimmed up a little.  Don’t stress if something doesn’t fit perfect.  And always remember the saying: “Measure twice, cut once”.

And More

The next step is to frame out the doorway, shown in the picture called “Door Frame”.  The header for the door is 36″ wide. The vertical pieces are cut at an angle.  The long side is 68″ and the shorter side is 66″.  The angle is to keep the angle of the hoop house.  After I cut the three pieces mentioned above, I screwed them together and then put them in place. It is a tight fit and you will have to push on the cattle panel a little to get the door frame in.

Building A Plant Propagation Bed Part 1

Building A Plant Propagation Bed Part 1 – Tack it Down

Next, measure out the bottom of the door frame.  Use a small hammer to tap on the bottom of the long sides to get them to measure exactly 36″.  Then screw them in place.  Next, cut the side braces.  They are angled with the measurements of 14″ on the long end and 13″ on the short end.

The bottom of the side braces sit 43″ above the base.  Drill a pilot hole half way through the 2×4 on the long side of the door frame.  This will allow you to put the screw two inches into the wood so it will reach the other side and secure the side braces.  This is one area you would definitely want to watch the videos to see what I’m talking about.  Go ahead and secure both of the side braces on with the screws.

Repeat all of the steps and measurements above for the back wall.  Then add an additional 36″ sill in the center of the back wall.  This will be used for tacking the back wall down, so exact placement is not important.  Just somewhere near the center.  Make sure you do this only on one end, the end you want to be the back wall.

Building A Plant Propagation Bed Part 1

The next step is to attach the cattle panel hoops to the door frame.  See the picture “Tack it Down”.  We will attach the horse panel to the side braces and the top of the side braces.  We will attach the horse panel with fence staples.

Building A Plant Propagation Bed Part 1 – Bed Support

The next step is to secure the walls of the base.  Because we are going to be adding 8″ of sand that will be wet and heavy most of the time, we don’t wan the walls to bow out on us.

To secure the aisle way walls and the base walls, add braces between the two aisle ways and between the aisle way and the base.  I used a 30″ 2×8 to attach right in the center of each bed between the base and the aisle way.  I used 21″ 2×4 pieces in 3 spots between the aisle way boards.  See the picture “Bed Support” for a better idea.

And More…

After all of the braces were put in, I added some mulch to the center aisle so I wouldn’t trip over the 3-2x4s in the aisle way.  I know I said not to do this because the mulch could end up in the growing medium, but I’m too big a klutz to not cover the wood up.

More to come

That’s it for part 1.  Be sure to check back for Part 2 and Part 3 of this series.  I will link all of the parts together when they are completed.

YouTube Videos

I have not had time to figure out video editing, so you are being served a bunch of small videos I made as I went along.  You can view the videos below or you can go directly to my YouTube channel and watch them there: Great Escape Farms YouTube. Please feel free to subscribe to the YouTube channel.

Video 1

Video 2

Video 3

Video 4

Video 5

Video 6

Video 7

Check out our other videos at the Great Escape Farms YouTube Channel.

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