Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Gardening for Greenhorns

When The Husband and I moved from the East to the West coast we were prepared for a lot of differences.  What I am continuing to be struck by is the small ways in which these differences make themselves known.  I knew that if you wanted to plant anything in a garden in Virginia you should aim for after the last frost but still pretty early say April/Mayish.  (You shouldn't actually take my word on this as I was never actually the one to do the planting.)  When it got around to late May/June here in Washington and I wanted to plant some sort of herb/vegetable garden I was sure it was too late.  I can't remember the last time we had a frost and even though it's been raining the temperature has been picking up, so I assumed the growing season started much sooner.  What I then learned is that if you don't care about growing things from seed (and let's face it I couldn't keep a pot of grass alive in college so herbs/vegetables were going to be a stretch regardless of what stage they started in) you could start a garden pretty much anytime between May and early July.  Thus, a couple of weekends ago The Husband and I found ourselves creating this:

Knowing that I wanted to try my hand at some sort of garden, but also recognizing that it needed to work well either indoors or on our balcony I had been doing a lot of research into vertical gardens.  One of the first ones I found was this idea but in the original post they were able to drive the re-bar into the ground and so I was stumped.  Until I found this alternate idea.  These people went about putting cement in the bottom pot and planting the re-bar into that.  Genius!  This meant that it was totally transportable and could easily be done on our little balcony.  After a trip to Home Depot, Goodwill, and Fred Meyer we had everything we needed to make our little garden come together.

We picked up Basil, Parsley, Oregano, and Mint as our research had pointed to them as easy herbs to grow and they were ones we use with some frequency.

We selected the pot to use for the base and started mixing the cement.

The instructions on the bag were pretty straightforward and using the re-bar to mix it together meant that we didn't have to clean anything extra.

Once the cement was mixed we centered the re-bar and using cardboard and duct tape were able to keep it straight while the cement hardened.

Now to begin, we placed a mound of potting soil over the cement so as to make it look nicer while also giving us a good base for the second pot to sit at the angle we wanted.

We found that my putting cable ties around the re-bar, the large knob parts of them helped the pots to stay angled the way we wanted them to.  Otherwise they defaulted to sitting inside the previous pot.

All said and done this is what we ended up with, granted they need a bit of water and sunlight but they're alive.

We were sure to leave about an inch between the top of the dirt and the top of the pot so that water isn't wasted over the edge.

Completed balcony!
We absolutely love the way that this turned out and while it ended up being a little pricier than we anticipated (approximately $75) the only thing we'll need to bring it back next season is new plants and maybe some additional potting soil.

What would you plant in your ideal garden?

3+ pots depending on how tall you want it to be (be sure that each pot, with the exception of the one used for the base, has a hole in the bottom)
1 piece of re-bar slightly shorter than the height of all your pots stacked on top of each other
1 small bag of quick dry cement (we only used half of the bag)
5-7 cubic ft of potting soil
At least one plant for each pot with the exception of the base, if you use larger plants, or ones that won't spread considering mingling a couple together.

  • Place the bottom pot on a paper bag or cardboard and fill 3/4 or so full of cement
  • Mix cement together according to the directions
  • Place re-bar in the center of the pot and anchor to a nearby wall so that it remains straight
  • Allow cement to dry
  • Place re-bar through the hole of the second pot and determine the angle you want it to sit at
  • Place potting soil on top of the cement in the base pot and create a small hill to allow the second pot to stand on
  • Fill the second pot with soil and any plants
  • Place the re-bar through the hole of the third pot and determine the angle you want it to sit at
  • Have one person hold the pot in place while a second person places 3 cable/zip ties directly under the base of the third pot so that it sits at the correct angle when not being held
  • Fill the third pot with soil and any plants
  • Repeat the last 3 steps for any remaining pots
  • Water your plants starting at the top so that any excess water may drain down 
  • Enjoy!
Tips & Tricks:
  • Pay attention to where the sun hits prior to building your garden, we have had to move ours a couple of times so that each pot is hit somewhat evenly with sunlight.
  • This is much easier and faster to do with two people so try and get some help.
  • Goodwill is a great place to look for pots as would be Target or Wal-Mart, they will all be cheaper than a garden center.
  • Select larger pots than you think you might want, we ended up making a second trip out as we'd picked up a couple that weren't large enough for the plants once they were angled on the re-bar.

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