World’s Greatest Landlord

Last fall my kindly Italian landlord built us a huge deck off our back mudroom. He and his elderly uncle appeared one day unannounced with tools and supplies, and started building. The weather turned cold and after I got over my astonishment that a landlord would actually volunteer to do something like this, I kept them plied with coffee and hot chocolate to try to keep them warm, keep them working. Every day they would break for lunch, huddling on the back stairs with their brown-bag lunches and bottle of home-made red wine, refusing my offers (pleas, really) to come inside and sit in the warm kitchen, at the table. They shook their heads, pointing at their dirty clothes. I shook my head in wonder at their old world manners.
Highly unusual and suspicious behaviour for a landlord. Not least because he didn’t jack up our rent.

Today, looking out at a winter’s worth of detritus on this magnificent new deck, I started laying plans for a container garden. But first, I ran a mental inventory of current conditions. In the centre lay four big bags of recyclable bottles and cans, and three bags of wet newspapers and cardboard. We missed several recycling pick-ups this winter…all of them, actually. The snow piled up, and it didn’t seem worth chopping them out from under the ice.

These were not the only things liberated by spring thaw. Dog poo. Yes, I confess. During those long stretches of 20 below weather, I sent Jake on to the deck and quickly closed the sliding door behind him. I couldn’t face standing at the back door in my pyjamas, calling for him and waiting while he reluctantly jogged back down the lane, and climbed every ice-caked steel stair one by agonizing one. Other gifts of the spring thaw: Wet cat litter, a neat pyramid where a racoon-nibbled garbage bag broke open. An old Christmas wreath. A kiddie pool, now full of leaves and brown water. Half rotted wet leaves, everywhere. A cooler with a broken lid, set aside for its container gardening possibilities.

I did say it’s a large deck? It won’t take long to clean. Then, the serious work of planning my garden begins. But first, I need containers….for my plants, for my plans. Containers that don’t cost a fortune (after all, it IS a rental apartment), but are big enough and deep enough to grow vegetables.

I turned to Garden Web for suggestions, and the container gardening forum. Jackpot!! (pardon the pun) Great ideas on how to build self-watering containers out of old buckets.
Now. Where do I find free (or cheap) 5 gallon buckets???