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DIY: Succulent Frame

Top Billing verticle garden DIY

Cristiaan's Succulent Frame
This ‘living art’ is so simple to make, yet makes such a bold statement… Using reclaimed wooden floorboards, skirting, or window frames, this is a great example of up-cycling. Doubling as a vertical garden and feature décor element, a succulent frame simply consists of a box frame with a mesh lining, filled with soil and planted with an assortment of beautifully coloured and textured succulents. This can then be hung on the wall in a lightly shaded spot on your patio and is sure to be the centre of conversation at your next braai.

What you’ll need:
Wooden picture frame (without glass)
Plastic mesh with minimum aperture of 1cm (available from any hardware store)
Staple gun (and staples)
Square timber battons (40x40mm)
Waterproofing paint (Roof paint will do nicely)
2mm Drill bit (for leader holes)
45mm Screws
20mm Screws
Marine Plyboard (6mm)
Coconut husk
Bone meal
Selection of succulents (pots or cuttings)

Step 1:
Find your frame.
Loads of places are popping up selling reclaimed picture frames, from craft markets to street vendors, with a huge range of sizes and colours to choose from. You can make your own from some salvaged wooden flooring or even leftover skirting board. Alternatively, have a look through a builder’s scrap yard for some old windows – multi-paneled ones make for really interesting frames. However, don’t pick a frame larger than 600x700mm, otherwise the finished weight of the planted frame will be too heavy to hang.

Step 2:
Place your frame face down and cut a piece of mesh to fit. The mesh should extend over the hole inside the frame but not beyond the outer edge. Staple this in place with a staple gun every 5cm and trip off any excess.

Step 3:
Cut your pieces of timber to make a box frame on top of the mesh. Before you attach it to the frame, waterproof all the inside and underneath sides with roof paint. This will prevent the wood from rotting when you water your plants. Position your timber pieces so that they fit along the inside edge of the picture frame and do not stick out beyond the outside edge. Screw them in place with 45mm screws so that they go through the full width of the timber and into the picture frame itself. To make the process easier, drill leader holes first so that your screws don’t slip or veer off target. Use at least 3-4 screws per side but make sure that you don’t drill directly on top of a staple!

Step 4:
Cut a piece of ply-wood to fit to the outside edges of your box. This will be your backboard. Waterproof this too. Don’t attached until you have filled the box with your growing medium.

Step 5:
With your frame still face side down, spread a thin layer of coconut husk over the mesh. This will prevent the soil from falling through the front of the frame, and also give the plant roots something to grip.

Step 6:
Next fill the back of the box with soil. Use a good cactus mix, or even better keep the soil from the pots you bought your succulents in. To do this, you will need to remove the plants from their pots and shake all the soil from the roots into a
bucket – you will probably have more than you need. Keep the plants to one side for planting, while you fill up the frame. Mix in 1 (small) handful of bonemeal for strong root development, and press the soil in fairly tightly to prevent soil slump
when the frame is upright.

Step 7:
Now you can screw on the back-board. Remember to keep the waterproofed side face down. Use the shorter 20mm screws and try to avoid hitting the screws in the layer below. Don’t worry if there are small gaps between your timber pieces, as this is where the water will drain out.

Step 8:
Ready for planting. Flip your frame over, and gather your plants. It’s best to position them first so that you don’t need to rearrange them later. Start with your biggest and most striking specimens, as these will be the feature points of your
frame. Then fill in the areas around them leaving enough room for them to grow. Arrange your plants by colour or texture, make patterns, stripes or circles for maximum impact.

Step 9:
To plant your succulents, use the greatest multi-functional tool at your disposal – the humble Chopstick! Using the sharp end, poke a hole through the coco husk and swivel like crazy to widen the gap. Then take your selected plant, and vigorously stuff the roots into the hole. Succulent plants are incredibly hardy so don’t worry about breaking off a root or two. Make sure your plant is in as deep as it will go and then (using the blunt end of the chopstick) push the surrounding soil and husk back into place, snuggly embedding the plant. Continue until all your plants are secured.

Step 10:
If you have used cutting instead of already rooted plants, they will need to harden off for a few days before planting until the cut edge forms a scab, otherwise they will be prone to infection and rot. They will take much longer to root properly and
your frame should remain flat for 6-8 weeks to allow this. If you have used already rooted plants, your frame will still need to lay flat for 2-4 weeks to ensure the roots spread enough behind the mesh to prevent them from falling out. A gentle tug
will quickly indicate if they are ready or not.

Step 11:
When ready to hang, make sure your frame is properly secured. Your frame will need a lightly shaded position to stay healthy. Too dark a spot will weaken and stress the plants, whereas too much direct sunlight could scorch or dry out the plants too quickly. Although succulents are very hardy and low-maintenance plants, they do need an occasional watering. To do this, take your frame down from the wall and lay flat on the floor. Water and allow to drain well before re-hanging.
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