Gardening the boxed way

There are a lot of good reasons to garden:

  1. You always know the quality of your veggies.
  2. It takes ZERO gasoline to transport them to your table
  3. Cost to product ratio for gardening: $1.67 for a packet of cucumber seeds = more cucumbers than I will be able to eat, all summer long. As opposed to seventy-five cents a week for cucumbers whose skin is so thick it hurts my teeth, and they are WAXED. (eewww…) You do need to add in the cost of things you’ll need- but don’t go thinking about expensive tillers and topsoil… just wait!
  4. You always know the quality of your veggies.
  5. It takes ZERO gasoline to get them to your table.
  6. Watering, weeding, planting, and picking all count towards your weekly exercise goals! 😀
  7. No pesticides to worry about.

For me it’s impractical to put out a full garden, especially since I’m renting and can’t turn up the yard. Although, if I were to plant a garden I wouldn’t buy a tiller- I’d go old fashioned with a hoe and shovel and work my butt off. Sure, it’s time consuming, but hard physical labor reminds us of how far we’ve come and a little sweat never hurt anyone.But- no full garden. So, instead I had to only pick plants with a high seed to yield, so no corn (only a couple of husks per plant, not worth it. I’d never get enough to keep me in corn all summer anyway) no melons (only a few melons per plant, I’ll still end up buying) and no novelty items like pumpkins or gourds- even though I’d only want one plant, they take several square feet for only one or two fruits per plant. Not in my plans- I’ll just buy them if I want them, but I’ll buy from the farmers market so I know they are fresh (and didn’t take 6 tanks of diesel to reach me).

I don’t have a yard I can tear up, but I DO have a large front porch that gets a full day’s worth of sun. If you’ve got eight or nine square feet of sun exposure (a porch, a deck, a flat cement roof you have access to) you can have a garden. All you need is some lumber and some soil. You don’t even need potting soil- just go to a local greenhouse where they sell soil by the shovel full. To build a box garden all you need to do is hammer boards A and C onto boards B and D, hammer plywood on the bottom and glue some garbage bags down so that the plywood doesn’t get wet and degrade. Easy as pie! (The eating, not the making.) Fill the bottom with a clay-rich soil (you can buy this bagged) and the rest with potting soil or soil from a local greenhouse.

It really is easy, and cheap. You may spend a hundred dollars total for all of your gardening supplies- but think of the cost of tomatoes per pound and how they come to you from CALIFORNIA, and you will be willing to spend this money so that you have fresh, yummy ones on your front porch. If the thought of building a box is overwhelming, then just buy a bunch of pots. You’ll want to look at the root dimensions of your plants- the back of the seed packets should have them.

Now, you seed. I put my tomatoes in peat pots which I then put in ice cream pails. My mint and sage are in clay pots and won’t need to be re-potted, and my Italian herbs will go in a window box. Here they are:

garden rack

Italian herb garden- just add water!

peat pot in ice cream pail

Planting your seeds is easy. For herbs, you just scatter them and cover them in a very thin layer of soil. You’ll have to weed out the tinier plants that won’t survive, but it’s not too complicated. Really! You can do this! For your tomatoes and other vegetables, poke a hole about an inch deep with your finger. Plant three to five seeds. You won’t get three to five plants. One or two may come up. Watch them for a few days to see which is thriving more, and pinch the other one. I know, I know, it feels like murder! But it’s for the good of your belly. Once the plant is tall and thriving, re-pot it in your box or in a much larger pot. There you go.
This summer I’ll have:

  1. Cherry tomatoes
  2. Roma tomatoes (two plants, which will yield enough for me to make spaghetti every week and have enough left over to store sauce for the winter)
  3. Big Beef tomatoes, which I will eat with salt. Mmm…
  4. Red and green bell peppers (heirloom, NOT hybrid. So much more tasty.)
  5. Sweet peas (hard to get fresh enough, even at the farmers market. I like mine about five minutes after being on the plant.)
  6. Green beans
  7. Sugar snap peas
  8. Cucumbers.

All of this will fit on my porch. I’ve spent about twenty dollars so far, and I may spend up to eighty more depending on the price of the lumber.

It’s worth it.

Some common misconceptions about potted gardening:

  1. It takes a lot of water. No- not really. As long as your plants are getting indirect sun in the late afternoons and evenings, you can water them then. The water will be absorbed into the soil instead of evaporated, and it’s really not consequential enough to hurt your wallet that badly.  Lining your dirt box with clay or planting in clay pots will also help conserver water, as the clay will act as an insulator.  Mulching will also help prevent evaporation.
  2. People who have never gardened can’t do it. Not really. Anyone can care for a plant. Make sure it gets direct sunlight- but not too much. Don’t drown it in water. If the water starts standing, turn off the hose. It’s better to water a little daily than too much weekly. Make sure it’s in a big enough pot. Bigger is better than too small. That’s all you need to know!
  3. You have to throw out the soil with the plant, so it’s like totally expensive to buy soil every year. No, no, no, no, no. Buy soil ONCE. When the plant dies, cut it off at the stem, don’t pull up the roots. Turn the soil with a shovel and break the root apart with a hoe. The old roots will nourish the new plant next year.
  4. You don’t get enough produce off one plant for it to be worth it. Um… enjoy eating tomatoes? One roma tomato plant will be more than you need unless you want to freeze sauce. Trust me on this.

So there you go. If you like fresh food and have a porch, deck, or flat cement roof (or even floor to ceiling windows)… go for it!


6 thoughts on “Gardening the boxed way

  1. Hi There

    I love what you are doing with your tomatoes in the pots, we are growing them in the garden and they are so much nicer than buying them in the shops! We just moved to the campo from a townhouse where we only had a terrace garden (still managed to grow toms though!) and now we have a proper garden I am so excited and enjoy seeing everything grow and even more enjoy picking them and eating it 🙂

    Keep up with the great blog you are doing

  2. Funny, I was thinking about doing the same thing with tomatos this year… they have tomatos that you can grow on teepee type devices. Tomatos are so damn expensive. The thing I wish I had the room for is avocados. Those things are worth fricking GOLD! I live amongst farmland where everything is grown in California, but still its rediculous! $3 for a Avocado? Give me a break! Im also thinking strawberries. I do have a large yard with a sprinkler system. I can put the plants in along the garden with no big hassle.

    There is NOTHING as good as pasta sauce made from good fresh tomatos. The stuff from the store just doesnt even attempt to cut it. No how, no way. Being a cook, I know the difference.

    I also like the way chives look… they are actually pretty grown in the garden. Basil and lemon grass are too.

  3. “You can’t get enough off of one plant for it to be worth it?”
    hmm. That’s a new one to me! Have these individuals actually seen how many tomatoes come off of one plant! We can’t keep up – even with caring some off to the food bank! In years past, we just let them fall off the vine and had a great time pulling ‘tomato weeds’ from all the seedlings that popped up the next year.

    Ah – so inspiring Shush! We had a great garden at our old place and had to convert the layers of pea gravel into a gardening space and I can’t wait to get going! Our manure (bought from a local fundraiser) should be here next week!

  4. Keep in mind if you have your cherry tomatoes next to your other tomatoes they will cross-polinate and you will get bigger cherries and smaller, bigger tomatoes.

    Try putting a plant in between them or seperate them some how.

    Also to help with the watering, try mulching, mulching, mulching.

    If you have a problem with slugs crawling up the stalks of your seedlings just cut a strip of sandpaper and creat a “sandpaper collar” around the plant. The slugs won’t crawl up the sandpaper.

    Although I’m in the burbs I’m blessed to have a 30X30 veggie garden, two very larg fig trees a pear tree, a plumb tree and this year the local “You Pick Blueberries” guy sold hip property so I bought some of the 7′ tall blue berry bushes for $10 each! Can’t wait until June!!

    Happy gardening!

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