I’ve taken the message on the side of this recycling bin quite literally and am recycling it by turning it into a salad greens garden.
This house came chock-a-block full of junk, especially the backyard. Not that I’m complaining — we’ve found new uses for a great deal of the items and have saved some money in the process.
First up are the recycling bins: there were several, but we have no traditional use for them as living in a house means we are able to keep a large-sized recycling bin that suits most of our recycling needs. It was practically impossible to keep one recycling bin for any length of time while living in an apartment — someone was always stealing them off of the curb! And now, here, we have too many. Go figure.
Fortunately, recycling bins make great planters, if you can get past the ugly. We’re still in a yard renovation holding pattern as we now realize that a tiller is required if we’re going to manage the back breaking work of levelling it out. I originally thought we could do the work by hand because I’m not a big fan of tillers and may have also been overly optimistic when the snow was still on the ground, and the backyard garden was just a dream. Levelling out a bumpy, slopped garden requires time, something I don’t have right now as we are in a crunch to layout book #3 (due out in Spring 2012!). I also have some stray photos to take. As a result, I can’t get my raised beds in place, which means I can’t plant spring greens or peas. GAH! One of our big goals this year is to become completely self-sufficient in salad fixings. Starting next month (or so), I don’t want to buy a single head of lettuce ever again, if I can help it. This should be easy enough to achieve over the long term as I intend to dedicate a rather large bed to greens alone. So exciting! Obviously, this goal is unachievable if I can’t plant….
So for now, while we get through book deadlines and other insanity, the spare recycling bins are going to be my salad garden. Growing in them is simple work and requires no prep time as they already have drainage holes in the bottom. All I did was fill them up with potting soil and sow seeds. And done.
- Planting: In this bin I sowed Botanical Interests all-red Valentine Mesclun Mix topped up with a few red lettuce, beet, and radicchio varieties that I had on hand because I didn’t have enough left in the packet to cover the surface of the bin. I am growing this as cut-and-come again lettuce so I needed to sow thickly.
- Design: I went with a red mix with the hope that it creates a shocking contrast of colours against the video blue bin. My strategy here is to work with the ugly rather than attempt to cover it up.
- Pest Prevention: A family of eager squirrels frequent the yard and they’re currently in an early spring digging frenzy, so I have covered the bin with a piece of plastic chicken wire that we happened to have on hand from another project. I clipped it in place with clothes pins, more leftover junk salvaged from the yard. The mesh should keep the squirrels from digging up the seeds and seedlings until they are big enough to survive a frenzied squirrel assault.
- Added Drainage: I propped the bin onto cinder blocks (more yard salvage) to increase drainage out of the bottom holes. Aesthetically, propping the bin also lines it up with the porch steps. I may be using ugly recycling bins as my garden, but I still care about aesthetics!
Since chances are great that we won’t be able to plant up the yard anytime soon, I’m planning to fill up the remaining bins with kale, Swiss chard, and Spigarello. I’ve already got the seedlings going inside, but have to pick up some new potting soil. Oh, and build a cold frame so I can harden them off. That’s my next task….
p.s. For more of my tips and tricks on growing salad greens in small spaces, I have a piece in the print version of the latest issue of Yoga Journal. And of course, there’s tons of info in my book, Grow Great Grub: Organic Food from Small Spaces