A few weeks ago, I was talking to one of the villagers about the gardening club and how it would be nice to get some more growing space, maybe through the use of planters, strategically placed around the school. Not only would this serve to increase the growing capacity of the school, albeit by a relatively small amount but it would also demonstrate that you don’t actually need acres of space to be able to grow at least a small amount of food. Unfortunately lack of available funds meant that this was a distant dream, unless I could find and apply for grants and awards which would be interested in this type of project.
“What about wooden vegetable crates?” the villager asked, “Would you be able to use those as containers because I can get you some, free of charge if you want.”
Well obviously I jumped at the chance and after clearing my plans with the Headteacher, I waited for my boxes to become available. Then finally last Saturday, 25th May, Annie and I went to collect them and there were a lot of them. Annies load bed was full to bursting with the boxes secured with a stretchy cargo net and some bungee cords and the passenger seat and foot well held a few as well.
Mud had kindly offered me the last of the Protek fence stain, as it was water based and non-toxic so safe for use around vegetables. There wasn’t much of either colour left to be useful around the garden but I was very happy to accept what there was, as this would add both colour and protection to the crates, although I accept that the nature of the boxes means that it is extremely unlikely they will last more than one growing season, despite the protective stain. That said, one season is enough to see how they work out and if they’re successful then next year we could look at getting some more.
With rain a regular visitor last week, it was actually Sunday before I could start painting and so 9.30 am saw me in the garden, armed with paint brush, the pot of Beaumont Blue, a tub of water and dressed in old clothes , ready to start on the first of 15 suitable boxes, I had selected from the huge pile I’d collected.
Fast forward 2.5 hours and I had painted both the inside and outside of eight boxes in the blue which left me a further seven which I intended to paint with the Protek Pale Sage. At this point I thought I’d better get some lunch on the go, as the Mudlets were making more than their usual ‘I’m hungry’ noises that they seem to make every hour, on the hour from the moment they get up …. but then it was midday and so I guess they had a point.
A hot dog and a coffee later and I was back outside ready to tackle the remaining boxes.
Just under 2 hours later and I had completed the remaining boxes and the Gardening Club Container Garden was starting to take shape with all 15 boxes painted and drying in the sunshine. Only 7 of the finished boxes will actually be used as planters. The remaining 8 are to be the platform upon which the planters will sit.
How to achieve some height for trailing plants whilst adding visual interest, using the boxes available, had been at the back of my mind when I had selected which boxes to use. Of course you don’t have to be an engineer to work out that once filled with compost and plants, these planters are going to be quite heavy and so all these factors needed to be taken into account. Having raked them all out of the coal shed I quickly separated them into ‘planter’ and ‘platform’ quality boxes and then worked out how best to strengthen the boxes which were to be used in the platform.
The solution to this dilemma was, as is often the case, quite simple. I quickly realised that by upending a slightly smaller box so that its’ bottom struts were upper most and covering it with an upended larger and slightly taller one, I could effectively create a double layer platform, with the bottom struts of the smaller boxes reinforcing those of the larger ones, enabling them to carry the weight of the filled planter boxes. The finished platform now consists of 4 pairs of boxes, one of each pair painted blue and the other green to add yet more visual interest – I hope. Time will tell how effective this ‘doubling up’ will be but I do hope that having two boxes per section will help dissipate the load.
Carting all 15 boxes around to the school was a job in itself but I finally had them all in the courtyard, about an hour before the first of this weeks Gardening Club sessions was due to start. First job was to arrange them into a nice looking display. Next I made several mad dashes to the polytunnel to bring back plants, empty compost bags (to act as liners for the planters), the three plastic Mushroom trays that we had also been given and which fitted nicely into the boxes (creating an instant liner), compost, gardening gloves and trowels for the children and assorted miscellanea.
With just minutes to spare, three of the ‘planters’ were lined and filled with compost ready for planting up.
By the end of lunch time, three of the planter boxes on the main display had been planted up with:
Back row, left hand green box – Nasturtium and Swan River Daisy;
Front row, left hand blue box – Cos Lettuce;
Front row, right hand green box – Spicy Salad Mixed Leaf.
The remaining 3 boxes will be planted by the remainder of the Gardening Club on either Wednesday or Friday. A single blue planter has been planted up with a runner bean and placed against a leg of the Courtyard pagoda where, we hope, in due course it will grow up and over the beams.
I have to say that I am really pleased with how this little project has turned out and can’t wait to see it fully planted up and with all the plants matured in a couple of months.