The discussion around inexpensive containers for indeterminate tomato plants in a recent post has brought up a good point regarding how to conceal the clinical blandness of food industry buckets. The conversation in that post reminded me of a brilliant camouflage technique I discovered on a Saturday walk through my own neighbourhood a few years ago. I have shown this image during several presentations yet it did not occur to me to share it here. I’m not sure who the gardener/designer is although I’m fairly certain it is connected to the small restaurant that is located at this intersection. Whomever they are, what they have done to transform this corner with very little money is brilliant. The tomato plants seen in the foreground are growing in your average industrial food industry bucket but has been concealed using cheap bamboo blinds.
Putting something like this together is incredibly easy and very nearly free. The blinds are cut to size, wrapped around the container, and secured in place by wrapping string around everything and tying a knot. Try securing with wire first and then covering it up with string if you’re concerned the twine won’t hold on its own. Jute is a very affordable but weak string. It can be replaced with a stronger twine made of cotton or sisal. All kinds of decorative options are available in abundance in the curbside economy. Replace bamboo curtains with wood curtains, grass beach mats or any combination of discarded natural fibre rugs, mats, or blinds.
These materials will probably only last a year outdoors but at least you have given them another year of life out of the landfill. By the end of the year they may even be weathered enough to break into bits and put into the compost bin.
Another trick I employ when I can’t find anything to disguise ugly containers is to surround them with prettier pots. Organize larger, utilitarian buckets and garbage bins at the back of the arrangement, placing smaller, decorative pots with attractive plantings of pretty flowers and brightly coloured heirloom veggies in front. If the smaller pots are too short raise them up using larger decorative pots turned upside down as props. Make shelves out of bricks and discarded pieces of wood and then disguise that layer behind a lower tier comprised of smaller pots that sit on the ground. This tactic can be a little bit labour-intensive over the course of a growing season since it requires rearranging as the plants expand and grow. But containers generally require rearrangement for this reason regardless.
The fluidity and possibility for change that comes with container gardening is a positive that big money designers use to their advantage. While most of us can’t afford to swap out expensive containers for new expensive containers on a whim, with a little ingenuity and creativity any of us can fancify ugly buckets or simply rearrange pots to improve the overall look of our container gardeners.
Photo by Davin Risk
Sigh. This view of my roof garden from the door feels a million miles away today.
Remember summer? Yeah, me neither. If not for photographic evidence I would have to assume these so-called memories are in fact only beautiful delusions. I know many of you in the Southern Hemisphere are in the midst of it so you will have to excuse my mid-winter pity party. Over the last few days the temperature has plummeted to an unbearable, and therefore unacceptable bone-chilling cold. Unbearable I tell you!! I held out for two full days hunkering down indoors without stepping foot outside until today when I had no choice but to suck it up, put on as many layers as possible and face it. Even worse, our Taste of Summer life-sustaining preserves are rapidly depleting: the red pepper katsup is no more (good-bye delicious sauce!) and I just opened the final jar of Blackened Salsa Ranchera.
Not to be dramatic, but people are dying over here!
See you in 5 months July, wherein you can expect to find me complaining about the heat.
I desperately need to clean up my rooftop garden. Desperately. Double desperately. It’s horrible how long I’ve let it got this year really. The warmer Fall temperatures were wonderfully evil and I just went with it pretending that Fall would continue forever. I rewarded myself for cleaning up at the community garden so early this year. I can put it off a little longer, I said. It will be just like last year, I said. There will not be snow until January and by then everyone will be freaking out and talking about the blooming crocus and dandelion flowers and how the end of the world is neigh and it won’t matter that some of the pots weren’t empty or that the strawberries never did get replanted from the big pot into the ground.
And now I am in this dilemma. It has already snowed. The ground is probably frozen. I say probably because I haven’t had the courage to check. I would take a picture and post it here for you to see what I am talking about but that would mean having to look and I can’t bear it. I avoid looking out there entirely preferring to pretend it doesn’t exist. From memory and the occasional tiny peek I do seem to recall an assortment of clay pots that are usually emptied, washed and put away by this time every year prior to this one. I’m pretty sure that tender Echeveria I’ve been over-wintering indoors for years is now dead. The shiso was never harvested. Lifeless bean stalks cling to string and a few remaining lantern-like tomatillos hang from leafless branches.
Today would be the perfect day to get out there and do it already. The sun is shining, the temperatures are above zero, and anything that was recently frozen is probably melted after yesterday’s torrential downpours. I could cut back the plants, remove and wash the terra cotta and be done with it. And I would be totally on it too, I really would, except that I have come down with a terrible cold complete with body aches and a nose that runs like a faucet. So instead I will go back to bed with a pile of hankies and a warm tea, putting those self-preserving powers of denial to work for one more day.
Panoramic of the Roof Garden July 21, 2007.
The following was found in my archives and is dated for July 14.
The rooftop garden is coming along beautifully this year. I do believe it is my best year yet. I was shocked to discover that on final count I am growing 14 tomato plants and 2 tomatillos. Most of the tomatoes are mid-sized determinants and 3 are indeterminants. I am growing the same number of tomatoes at my community garden plot with a grand total that far surpasses the total number of tomatoes I have ever been able to grow at one time. Thrilling! And yet it still doesn’t feel like enough. When I think of how hard it was to narrow things down to these varieties, I pine for all of the varieties I could grow at one time if given more space. Sigh. And yet I have so much more than most gardening, apartment-dwelling city-slickers. The more I garden, the more I want to garden and the grander my ideas grow. It is hard to be satiated with limitations. After all of these years there is still so much that the process of gardening is teaching me about patience and feeling satisfied with accomplishments within any given moment.
I had a TV crew here for about 2 hours one scorching hot and humid afternoon in August shooting a segment on heirloom vegetables for a show called “Living in Toronto.” There are other “Living ins” across Canada however the first is set to air tomorrow afternoon.
Details: CBC “Living in Toronto”, 1pm – 1:30pm.
My rooftop garden as seen from underneath the tent.
Here I am with the segment producer Myrocia preparing for a tomato-tasting bit. Did I mention the unbearable heat and humidity? By the time this picture was taken I had completely given up on any attempt to look TV-ready. I had to dab my face with a towel between takes. Good times!