Thursday, April 22, 2010

Try to Contain Yourself...

So...we didn't have such good luck with our full garden last year. And when I say "we," I really mean Jeremy. Bless his heart, I have to admit, I was stressed out at work last summer and the last thing I wanted to do when I got home was to brave the sweltering heat that we know so well here in the South. Even though I was all gung-ho to plant things at the beginning because...I love herbs! And tomatoes! And squash! And sunflowers! And I love cooking with them! Well, not the sunflowers, but you technically could. Now, the sunflowers did sprout up beautifully and I enjoyed them. A lot. See?

But the rest of the stuff didn't do so great. Man, I hate weeds. We did have a very few new potatoes that were quite delicious, but it was kind of pain to figure out when they were ready to be harvested. ("Are they still too small? Should we dig them up? Should we not? How can we TELL?") Those potatoes, they were tricky. But anyway, we had one teensy ear of corn that Jeremy brought to me. I cannot lie to you - the taste was sweet! But it was only a few inches long - and it was the only one! So disappointing!

So my husband made a stand. "No more gardens until I'm retired!" And I completely understood.

But I've always grown herbs...well, "always" is not quite correct...but for "several years" I have grown herbs in the summer. In pots. Basil, most particularly. Because it is quite ridiculous how much I adore basil. The smell makes me swoon! Sometimes...even at Lowe's, where I am not even the owner of it yet...I rub one of the leaves of a basil plant and then breathe it in. I'm pretty sure I close my eyes, too. I inherited my love of basil from my mother. She, too, swoons at just the smell of it wafting in the air.

Cooking with it is pretty marvelous, too. I have made pesto many times in my day and I will still want to order anything containing pesto when I eat at an Italian restaurant.

So, even though my husband has stated "No garden"...I automatically think that the herbs are not part of that. They're just not, O.K.?? But I had a difficult time growing the basil and mint last year in the containers I had. I'm not sure why, but I think it was a drainage issue. So...somehow...we started thinking about a container garden. Here are the reasons:

1. They are contained. This is obvious, but important. This is not a HUGE garden area that we will have to spend LOTS of HOURS weeding and watering and picking and caring for.

2. Speaking of weeds, a container garden is supposed to be superior about keeping out the weeds in the first place. And seeing as how we HATE weeds (the dandelions are the bane of Jeremy's existence right now), this was just sounding better and better.

3. This container garden can be reused every year without a lot of fuss and prep.

We went to Lowe's. This is not unusual. Jeremy loooves Lowe's. Oh, how he loves Lowe's! And I really enjoy it, too, especially when there are plants and containers and garden things to look at. Lowe's had a 4x4 container garden that you could purchase. We had looked at it in the sales circular and we looked at it in the store, cocking our heads from side to side, trying to make a decision. It was $69.00. Finally, my husband, aka "The Frugal One" (though I can be quite frugal a majority of the time, too) says,"I think we can make that for a lot cheaper." So we did. Of course, I had seen how to construct a container garden not too long ago on the Pioneer Woman's website, so that had sold me. =)

We decided to construct a 4x4 container much like the one Lowe's offered (but was sold out of - they're pretty popular) so that it would be easy to reach anything inside very easily. We chose cedar wood because treated lumber is a no-no for areas where you'll be eating the fruit of your labors. We weren't sure about that so we had to look it up...because Jeremy said, "I'd hate to be saying, 'This bell pepper tastes great! But suddenly I don't feel so good,'" as he doubled over in almost believable agony outside the treated lumber area at Lowe's.

We bought exterior screws, which won't rust (thank you, Pioneer Woman!). We bought potting soil- mostly the cheap stuff and then some of the better variety; it's apparently best to mix it. We chose sweet basil, cinnamon basil, mint, romaine lettuce, heirloom tomatoes, green and red bell peppers...and two lovely, lovely strawberry plants! I have never grown strawberries, but my friend Margaret always does, so I wanted to try. I buy them often at the store and they are usually stinkin' expensive, so I'm hoping this will stop me from having to spend so much money on strawberries!

Here's the kicker...we spent the same amount of money on EVERYTHING we needed that we would have spent on ONLY the 4x4 box container. We would have still had to buy the potting soil and the plants, so win-win. (Or win-win-win if you've seen The Office episode "Conflict Resolution." One of my favorite episodes.) We were pretty excited.

In the Pioneer Woman's tutorial, she spoke of the need to drill pilot holes. I had to ask Jeremy what those were...apparently, you have to drill a hole where you are going to put in a screw or else the wood will not have a place to go and the wood will split. Makes sense. I don't have any pictures of us actually putting this box container together...because I was the one drilling the pilot holes and screwing the whole thing together! Can you believe it?? It's the honest truth. I'm a girly girl, but my dad has always showed me how to do things and now Jeremy has taken over. I kinda like to learn new things like that, so this whole experience was so much fun for me! It was a little bit of hard work, but I loooved getting to spend the whole day with Jeremy working on our project. I mean, I really loved it. =) And then we went to Makin' Music that night. So now you know what a great day it was for me! ;)

Jeremy already had some weed prevention netting or whatever that we rolled out and tacked to the inside of the container. Then we dumped in the potting soils and got to planting. I did decide to plant the mint elsewhere because it would have taken over the whole area. It is now contained somewhere else.

Oh! And we also discovered some volunteer leaf lettuce that we had planted last year, but it never came up. So I transplanted it into the new space.

The finished project...

We had too many tomato and bell pepper plants to fit into the original container garden, so a few days later Jeremy started a new experiment. Some guys he works with always put huge sheets of cardboard on top of the ground in their garden. They cut holes in cardboard and the plants grow through it, but the weeds don't. Woo hoo, right? He staked it in the ground with pieces of wire coathangers so it wouldn't blow away. I gotta tell ya, this was one of the strangest ideas I'd ever heard, but I decided to roll with it. And the plants LOVE it. We had some really puny-looking pepper plants that immediately got really happy with their choice of location. It holds in the moisture super well.

That wasn't a pepper plant, lest you want to correct me. It's one of the tomato plants. But it's definitely happy, too!

I was calling the container garden, well, "the container garden" - and I was totally planning on calling the other one "the cardboard garden." But Jeremy had better ideas.

Meet the Cedar Garden:

And the Cardigarden:

I'm quite positive there will be more posts concerning these two plots of ground. And I'm pretty positive one of them (or more) may concern the lengths we'll have to go to to keep certain squirrels, birds, and rabbits out of them.

Happy Earth Day! To celebrate, I'll leave you with a few more pretty pictures of growing things in our yard...I love the fact that God chose to gift us humans with beautiful things to surround us. As someone who appreciates great design, I marvel at the variety of colors and shapes and scents of outdoorsy things. I like feeling that I'm a kid again when I discover some new flower or how much something has grown since last summer.

A new calla lily!

Our crazy tree...

Wild violets...they never last long enough in a vase, but I love them!

A lone, pale pink tulip...

...a home for a tiny spider.

Our plum trees that bloomed a few weeks ago - I'll planning to make plum jelly this year!

I just love phlox! Love it.

And vinca vine, too...

May you soon find yourself digging in the dirt, too. =)


  1. I want a container garden so I can be like The Pioneer Woman!!! By the way, when her movie comes out, we MUST go to the premier. How cool would that be???

  2. You really are The Pioneer Woman! Glad you found your own version of the Marlboro Man.

    I hope that your crop is good this year. (Sound like a pioneer myself..)

    I want some strawberries now.

    What a great way to come together with your husband. I like you two together. :)


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