"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Tippler's Garden

Sometime last summer, while I was helplessly searching for the edible plants I had planted among the waist-high weeds, I decided that next year (this year), I would go to an all-container garden. Three years in a row, the weeds (burdock, amaranth, clover, nine kinds of thistle, pigweed, shotweed, plantain, dandelion, tansy, mustard, milkweed, etc, etc...) had totally and completely kicked my ass. I decided that digging straight into the ground was a fool's game, and began to collect containers.

I collected many diverse types of containers, from half-barrels to abandoned nursery pots to old clawfoot bathtubs. But I just didn't have enough space. As many containers as I could collect, it just didn't approach the sheer square footage available by tilling straight into the weed-seed-saturated earth.

Then I had a brainwave. In the back of the old falling-down shed we ironically call the "Parthenon" there was a five-foot-high tangle of old milk-crates. Who knows where they came from - it was apparently inexaughstable. I had already dipped into the pile to create egg-laying nests for the chickens. They worked great - chickens love milk crates. Just fill them with clean straw and chickens go to town.

I had recently been reading a book called the "square foot gardener" which is all about planning a garden based on the number of square feet you have available. Apparently you can plant a certain number of each type of garden plant per square foot - like six pole beans per square foot, or two tomatoes, or one pumpkin. This is supposedly a very intensive method of raising maximum food in minimum space.

It occurred to me that one milk crate full of fertile compost and dirt would be a little over a single square foot. It would be very easy to follow the book's plan and plant a garden if I could use the milk crates. But milk crates are full of holes. Dirt won't stay in them. What to do?

Well, look around. What else is lying around in abundance? Why, cardboard boxes that used to each hold a half-rack of beer. Also stacked to the rafters. Through my beer-addled brain it occurred to me that each cardboard box was roughly the right size to fit inside of a milk crate. Just pop the seams and fluff the sides a little - plop each sprung box into a milk crate and fill halfway with compost and the rest of the way with topsoil, and wallah!

Today I filled three. I didn't plant them yet - I have to consult the book when I'm a bit less tipsy. I know I have no shortage of cardboard but I may need a few more milkcrates.


Olive said...

Old car tyres are great for potatoes, but you probably know this already? Stack a new one on top when the green begins to show through the soil, fill it up with new soil and so on until it reaches a height that still wont topple over. Allow the greens to flower and die down. Remove one layer at a time to harvest however many spuds are needed. The rest have a perfect storeage spot until required.

AnyEdge said...

A couple of questions: first, since when are amaranth and plantain weeds? I'd have to pay a lot of money for either here. Although, I primarily buy amaranth as either cereal or flour, and I doubt you get enough to do either of those.

Second: "inexaughstable"? "wallah"? You are tipsy.

polly's path said...

Olive already mentioned old tires-we used those for potatoes as well.
I also used old wooden crates last year for some of my veggies, lined with several layers of old weed cloth-it worked.
But, according to your book, it sounds like you have found the perfect size solution with your milk crates.
p.s. I will have enough milk tomorrow morning for our first quart of goat-gurt. How long can you keep unprocessed milk in the fridge? Like, as you are storing it until you have enough to make something? I chill it immediately after milking...

Aimee said...

Bro - I can't spell "inexaughstable" dead sober. And "wallah" was on purpose. Amaranth is aterrible weed. It is edible and the young leaves are actually quite tasty but it grows in such thick mats that it crowds out everything else. And I've never heard of anyone eating plantain though it is medicinal. Haven't you heard the saying "even a rose is a weed in a cornfield"?
Polly if you strain and chill the milk quickly it should keep four days in the fridge. Longer if you pasteurize it before storage . If I'm going to make anything out of the milk I like to do it as soon as possible so the milk is very fresh. It will keep longer as yogurt than as milk!

AnyEdge said...

You eat plantains!!

The Idiot Gardener said...

I applaud you; I currently have a bunch of old crap I'm filling with soil. I'll reveal all when I next get a camera to the killing fields!!!