Gardening is a way of saying that you believe in tomorrow.
– just an old saying
YES, IT’S TRUE. YOU CAN GROW VEGETABLES IN YOUR BACKYARD WITHOUT DIGGING ONE HOLE. In this article, I’ll share with you four (4) ways to get the harvest you’ve always wanted without digging holes, tilling soil, or building raised beds. But first, let’s review the must haves for any garden. In the world of gardening, location matters. Your growing plants must be exposed to 6-8 hours of sunlight daily, and your garden will need to be located near an accessible water source, if only for your back’s sake.
Over the years, I’ve experimented with many growing techniques. I grew up in South Georgia, so having acres of in-ground planting beds was the norm. However, the clay-like soil in Atlanta was challenging so I installed raised beds in my backyard. To date, I have 8 raised beds, an herb garden, and am staking out an in-ground site for corn —sssh, don’t tell my neighbors. I hope I can win them over with the promise of a few ears of silver queen corn for the July 4th celebrations. This year, I plan to practice crop rotation and so will not plant my squash, tomatoes, okra, and peppers in my raised beds. Instead I’ll plant beans, peas, and green manure —- nitrogen-fixing plants that can add significant nutrients back to the soil. By rotating my crops (not planting the same vegetables in the same location every year) and planting vegetables that can serve the dual role of nutrition for me and my soil, I’ll lessen the likelihood that future plantings will succumb to soil borne diseases. So, given my planting situation this year, I’ll need to identify other locations for planting my tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and squash. My solution is to plant in containers, which actually can result in less work if done right.
I’ve experimented successfully with several options in the past. This article is written to convince you that there are multiple, non-time intensive ways to grow vegetables without having to dig up your backyard. They include growing your vegetables in milk crates, EarthBoxes®, 5-gallon buckets, or just in large bags of planting soil. Most vegetables (including herbs) need only about 6-8 inches of soil depth to develop really strong roots. Some root vegetables such as carrots and potatoes and tomatoes need more space, so providing them with 12-18 inches of growing depth is important.
1. Milk Crate Gardening
You will need a standard milk crate, landscaping fabric (available in the gardening section of most home improvement stores), a heavy-duty staple gun, potting and/or planting soil, and mulch. The landscaping fabric serves as a liner and is porous enough to let in air and not retain too much water. You can cut the fabric to size to fit the milk crate. This requires some measuring, cutting and sewing. Instructions on how to do this is available at www.instructables.com/id/Milk-Crate-Air-Pot-Square-Foot-Urban-Container-G/. The cutting and measuring was too much for me, so I just made a template using brown craft paper, noting both the width and depth of the crate and then laid the template on the landscaping fabric. Imagine the crate –which is really a cube— flattened out. I then cut, inserted, and stapled the fabric in key spots to secure it to the crate. Fill the crate with good quality potting soil, add your plant and top with 2 inches of mulch. Special note: Containers dry out rather quickly, so plan on watering them more frequently. Setting up a drip irrigation system with a timer would be ideal here. Oh – don’t forget to fertilize!
You will need to purchase an EarthBox® kit, available on-line through major internet-based retailers or directly from the company. The EarthBox® is moderately priced. However, in my opinion, it pays for itself in one growing season. The Earthbox® has a water reservoir which is the feature I like best. The EarthBox® will come with a planting guide and everything else you need to get started with the exception of soil. Special Note: I purchased my EarthBox® several years ago and the manufacturer highly recommended the buyer to purchase planting soil, not potting soil.
3. Five-Gallon Bucket
You will need a 5-gallon bucket, a ½ “diameter drill bit, and a drill. Turn the bucket upside down and drill four holes in the bottom for drainage. Space the holes evenly. Add an equal amount of planting mix and potting soil to fill the bucket to within 2 inches of the rim. Plant your seedling(s) and add mulch. Again, check often to make sure your soil stays moist. Special note:
Those white or orange buckets are not very attractive. You can dress up your buckets by wrapping them (from the bottom up) in burlap. Use a bungee cord to hold the fabric in place and to create a ‘poofed’ look at the top. I’ve seen pictures online and they do look pretty nice. Oh- don’t forget to fertilize!
4. Bags of Garden soil
You will need bags of garden soil, the larger the better. Purchase bags that are not too difficult for you to carry. Place the bags in the area you have selected for your garden.
To keep from fighting weeds around your planting area the entire growing season, place at least six layers of newspaper down first. Wet the newspaper and then place your bags of soil on top. If you do this right, you’ll actually have an ideal in-ground garden next year. Cut a ‘T’ in the bag and then plant your seedling. I did use this method one year. Because I do like a pretty garden, I did add landscaping bricks around the perimeter of the planting area and mulched. This created a more uniform look for me and it felt more like a garden. Again, it would benefit you greatly to add a soaker hose to aid your watering efforts. Also, this option would not work for tomatoes. I would plant herbs or trailing plants like cucumbers and cantaloupes.
Well, I hope these ideas encourage you to plant a garden this year. I’ve tried each of them with great success. Start small, plant what you will enjoy eating, have a watering plan, and give your plants plenty of sunlight. Good luck!