Over the last few weeks

Over the last few weeks I’ve been plotting my deck garden, researching my options and acquiring an eclectic collection of containers. As you may have read in one of my earlier posts, I’ve dabbled with the idea of making my own high-tech self-watering containers. I’ve wandered the aisles of Home Depot, trying to figure out what I’d need to do the job. I bought six very large plastic bins, perfect candidates for the high-yield, low maintenance contraptions I envisioned making. Then one night I let my very practical friend, Marian, in on my home-made container fantasies. She gave me that sideways “look”. You know, the “look”. The “you’re not really going to do that, are you?” look. She burst my bubble with a few well chosen, devastatingly practical words:

“Good grief Sandy…forget that. I’LL come over and water your plants when you’re away.”

So easy. Suddenly, building high-tech high-yield self-watering organic containers just seemed like way too much work.

Meanwhile, bags of planting medium (soil-less mix), manure, and organic topsoil have been piling up beside the stacked bins in a corner of the deck. Assorted wooden vegetable boxes and bushel baskets have been stacking up beside them, pilfered from the corner green grocer’s garbage. The “found” containers weren’t exactly ready for prime time planting when I brought them home, so over the past week I bought construction grade garbage bags from the hardware store, cut them to fit and stapled them inside to line the boxes and baskets and hold in the soil. Finally, I poked small holes in the bottom for water to run through to create found objets that are fully modified for a second life as very interesting plant pots. Not as interesting as my friend Meegan’s idea of planting flowers in old cowboy boots, but not bad nonetheless. I’ve acquired a pile of seed packets, and I’m ready to go. Except for one thing. I couldn’t figure out what to put in the bottom of these voluminous as well as numerous containers for drainage. It would take an awful lot of smashed clay pots. I immediately rejected the idea of lugging bags of gravel or stones up two flights of stairs. So I turned to the internet, and the wise folks on the Garden Web forums didn’t let me down. They suggested styrofoam peanuts, the kind that are the scourge of the shipping and packing industry. The kind that are actually made of styrofoam, not starch — which would dissolve into a gooey mess at the bottom of a wet pot.

So I went on a hunt for styrofoam peanuts. A treasure hunt, as it turned out, because it took many visits to many stores to finally track some down at a shipping service at the corner of Adelaide and University. Tonight after work I lured the long-suffering Laird downtown with the car, and he waited patiently for me outside the store while horns blared all around him. Meanwhile, inside the store, I paced anxiously while the store clerk very methodically and slowly filled one bag after another with peanuts. Seven bags, in total.

Once I got them home and up on the deck, I had everything I needed to start filling the containers. I had the containers, many containers; I had the peanuts for drainage at the bottom of the containers; I had landscape fabric to add as a layer between the peanuts and the soil; I had the soil; and I had chicken wire to lay on top of the soil so that my darling cat doesn’t turn my vegetable garden into a giant kitty litterbox. How could I not start work immediately???? The only problem was that a gale was in progress, with gusts of wind that sent planters toppling over, and peanuts flying. I would not be deterred. An hour and many missing peanuts later, I finished putting together the first four containers complete with plantings of peas, carrots and spinach seeds, and some straggly looking dwarf nasturtiums that I had started way too early indoors. By the time I was finished I was covered in a fine layer of dirt from head to toe, thanks to my attempts to transfer soil-less mix from bags to containers in the middle of a windstorm.
A satisfying evening, all round. Winter is finally over, let the gardening begin!