3.30.2011

Details Of Our First-Ever Garden

Considering the way we eat, it makes sense that we would enjoy growing our own food, but I didn't know just how much until now. My whole family is enthralled with our new garden! We can't stop admiring it!


The best part: we all worked together!

I read several books and talked about a vegetable garden for years, but my list of excuses was long until my husband said, "Let's do this thing!" {When he's in the mood, I've learned to take him up on it. He's a great helper!}

So when I saw these great looking plants at Whole Foods last week, I brought them home.


The beginnings of a perfect salad garden: mixed lettuces, radicchio, spinach, ping pong radishes and cupid tomatoes.

But where to plant them? We have a few "problems" in our back yard.

Problem 1: Our back "yard" is more like a courtyard. {We live in the heart of the city.} No grass. Just a deck stone pavers surrounded by greenery to make things cozy. A die hard gardener might rip out the landscaping for veggies, but I didn't want to give up our existing plants.

Problem 2: Not enough sunlight. Houstonians love their trees. We're desperate for beauty and shade in these parts! Finding a spot that would get the recommended six hours would be tricky.

Problem 3: We have a tailored, tidy landscape style {and interior design style...who am I kidding?}. Haphazard isn't my thing, so throwing lettuces in with boxwoods, red tip photinias, begonias and confederate jasmine just wasn't going to work for me visually.

Behold the neat and tidy garden!


{An aerial view of our new garden.}

Looks like we solved all of our "problems!" That's my husband's specialty. He's a fixer...of the human body {here} and now a garden! {I love that men are born fixers! A perfect balance to all of our over-thinking as women!}

And not only does my man love to fix things, but he's LOVES taking them apart! Good bye steps! We need your sunny spot for our garden!


The bottom step was rotting anyway. {Good thing we have another set of steps outside our back door!} And is it just me, or is there something extra admirable and attractive about a hard-working, hammer-swinging husband?

{I'm blushing!}

Back to the details of the garden! So we decided on containers, but you know me: the containers had to look good. The visual appeal of a garden is as inspiring to me as the taste!


Bordeaux wine boxes are perfect for this
French speaking wine lover!

Here's where I skipped a step for the sake of instant gratification: I should've weatherproofed the boxes. {You don't want to use chemicals on your food containers, so no polyurethane. One of my books suggested three coats of Danish oil and metal brackets to brace the corners.}

But this first attempt at gardening was meant to be a one-day, just do it kind of project. {Otherwise I'd still be reading, planning and giving up as I've done in years past.} I'll seal the next round of wine crates for sure.

Here's where we were really blessed: my sister made this platform for my husband's clinic years ago. He no longer needs it at the office, so he thought to bring it home for our garden project.

The perfect height!

I still need to seal the table and would love to line the top with a thin sheet metal. (Wouldn't weathered zinc be cool?!?!} My husband drilled holes in the table and in the bottom of the crates for drainage, and to lift the crates off the table just a bit, he cut wine corks in half and placed them underneath. Brilliant!

Enough tips from this amateur. I'll let the photos do the talking!














{Tip from Real Simple: use a bowl to amplify your phone speakers.}

If a vegetable or salad garden overwhelms you, try herbs.


Talk about a simple, fresh way to cook!
{See a sample dinner here.}

Rome wasn't built in a day, and I'm sure great gardens aren't either, but a one-day garden project was the perfect start for our family. Sure we had to skip a few steps to accomplish this in a day, but it was worth it for us. A little instant gratification goes a long way...especially with children. Now they're hooked!

As our patience and confidence increases, we'll try a few things from seeds {peas, arugula and more mixed greens sound good}.

If you've been thinking about a garden for a long time, here's your gentle nudge: GO FOR IT! Don't over think it.

And don't get too stuck on what to plant. My brain works best when things are organized, so it helped me to pick a theme {salad...because I heard lettuces are easy to grow}. Bottom line: plant what you love to eat! 

I still have lots to learn...like when to cut the lettuce? How many times will it grow back? Can I replant new lettuce in the same box or do I have to switch to something else? {Is that what "crop rotation" means? Or does that only apply to next season?}

I'm sure I'll learn most of these things by trial and error {messing up is good therapy for a recovering perfectionist}, but please feel free to share your successes, failures, tips and tricks! 

Hugs to you from a happy new gardener,

**UPDATE**
Read HERE for an update on year two
and lessons learned about protecting the wine boxes.

P.S. My favorite book during the preparation phase was Garden Anywhere. Now that the plants are in the ground, Grow Your Own Food is straight forward and simple. My oldest daughter loves Soil Mates.  {We flipped through it at Anthropologie. Cute, funny and practical.}

61 comments:

  1. It looks beautiful Lins and what a fun family project. Was the watering system hard to install? Did you already have the wine crates or did you purchase?
    xo~
    T

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  2. Strawberries! We're in our second season over here at McC farms...they survived the freeze too and they're back and bigger and more plentiful this year. Loved your post as usual! Have a great day! LTM P.S. yes, your hubby looked quite hunky in that photo!! hee hee!

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  3. Good questions, T.

    1. We installed a drip line for some potted plants last year, so we're using that for half of the crates. We need to extend it for the other half. (JD grew up working summers for his dad's landscape business, so he can install. Very helpful!)

    2. We buy a good bit of wine and have good relationships with the people we buy from, so I told them what I was doing and asked if they had crates to spare. Each place kindly gave me 2. Specs will sell them to you upon request.

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  4. Look at that geometry, I love it! We need to do this at Casa Johnson, think it's too late this year???

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  5. Not too late! We just did this four days ago. You can do it!!!

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  6. I have been working on our container garden as well! We have a very similar paved patio and have struggled to get plants to take off. I am using a mix of different planters but love your idea of using wine crates! We tried installing our first drip line off our sprinklers a couple weeks ago but are still having problems. I may need to drop by and see your garden in action for some tips!!

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  7. I love the idea of using wine crates! I'm definitely going to start searching for them to build my first garden. Thanks for the inspiration!

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  8. this looks SO great!!! i love the thrill of growing your own.
    AND, about men being "born fixers"--i once told MG that one of the reasons i love him is that he fixes the house, and cooks a mean steak--and it stuck! it rings true so often :)

    love to you, and i am trying to squeeze in a visit to houston sometime soon. i would die to hang out with my TX girls!!!

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  9. This is such a beautiful look! I love the wine crates - they add so much character!

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  10. This looks great. We used to have a small vegetable garden in our yard until we replaced it with grass so wee one could run around. We moved to large terracotta planters on our deck and that worked well. I hope you'll do a follow-up. What's the depth of the wine crates?

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  11. this is going to be so awesome! Love the boxes! they're gorgeous.

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  12. Well isn't that the most fabulous garden I have ever seen! Where on earth did you get your wine crates? Wanted you to now I shared your links on Food Dye & Feingold with a friend of mine. She has ADD and 2 growing boys, I'm hoping she'll agree to try it with me. I have a feeling I will benefit from no dyes the most but my kids may improve as well! Thank you for continuing to inspire me in the most amazing ways

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  13. I found your garden via Pinterest - your wine box idea is so creative and beautiful! I'm also wondering where you got your boxes - can you share your source? Thanks!

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  14. Kira - We asked for boxes from two local wine merchants. We are regular wine buyers, so they were happy to give what they had to us, but some places charge for them.

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  15. I just found your blog and I'm loving it! I'm totally stealing this fantastic idea! I've been looking for a way to NOT have to do raised beds at my LA house and you've just helped me find it. Thanks so much for sharing! :)

    ♥ sécia
    please take a moment to check out my giveaway:
    www.petiteinsanities.blogspot.com

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  16. j'aime cette idée de jardin potager miniature ;-)

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  17. Merci! Et merci d'écrire en français!

    Xo,
    Linsey

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  18. This post is incredible. I am so impressed and I din't realize it was you who had done this fantastic project. I have raised beds in my garden but this is a great way to do it in a smaller scale. AND it looks so good with those wine boxes!!!
    Awesome Linsey!!! xo

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  19. What a wonderful project! If you think the wine boxes might come apart, you could always fasten some copper wire (will look cool) or strapping around each box. It could look really neat! It'll also keep slugs or snails away from your plants' tasty leaves, as they can't cross a copper border due to the metal's natural conductivity!

    Love what you've done... it's great that you also got it completed, and not just started!!

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  20. Copper wire...what a great thing to know! Thanks for all the garden love everyone!

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  21. Great family project! What type of soil did you use? Thanks

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  22. I used a soil I found at a local store, but have completely forgotten what it was. I need to learn more about soil for sure!

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  23. I think this is a fantastic idea!! I'd love to do the same on our (large) balcony. Though we don't have much sun on it... **ponders**
    Esther.

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  24. I love your garden!

    We have the land and area to garden, but not the soil (just red clay). We built raised garden beds and its perfect!

    I also love your wine boxes you used!

    Sarah
    bloomsbows.blogspot.com

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  25. Now I need to go asking for wine crates!or just by wine by the crate!

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  26. A rain barrel and kitchen composter are the only other things you might want to add! Great job!

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  27. Thanks, Barb. I'd love both. I need some composting inspiration!

    And Nathalie...too funny! Wine by the crate would be perfect! :)

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  28. Found this post through a pin on Pinterest. You've inspired me. We have similar garden conditions to you and you've described me perfectly -- research to death and perfectionistic tendancies. Maybe I'dd actually grow something this year.

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  29. Beth, if I can do it, ANYONE can do it. Truly! Go for it!

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  30. I love the wine crate garden. I also always recommend weatherproofing the crates for gardens, but was unaware that Danish oil was the most "eco-friendly" sealer. I thought Linseed Oil was more effective there, but I think Danish Oil is spot on. Thank you for sharing.

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  31. I read about Danish Oil in one of my gardening books. I've oiled my new crates well in advance. Last year's crates didn't hold up well. We'll see how the new ones do.

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  32. I love love love this! I happen to have four wine crates just sitting around wandering what to do! Maybe I should copy you:) so you do suggest prepping them first? I would love to know and see how they are doing! I sent you a reply to your comment on my blog! I was wondering if you got it?!

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  33. Love this idea. Looking at starting my own herb garden but I have an unrelated question. What kind of seat is the girl setting on in the picture where is she is putting water in the bucket? I ask because i have a special needs daughter and i think i could use that in her therapy. Thanks

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  34. Love it! Going to get going on this idea this summer - also put it off for years! Lorna B in UK

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  35. Argh this is so brilliant! I have been wavering over what to do with our (much maltreated by a previous tenant) back yard...I'd really like to just pave/gravel it all over, but I also want to grow veg and herbs, BUT I don't know if I'm motivated to actually build raised beds. This is perfect, and about the level of power tool usage I can handle. Thanks for the inspiration!

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  36. Do you have to coat the entire crate with Danish oil?

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    Replies
    1. I did this year...inside and out. I can't tell yet how well it's working. We'll see!

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  37. This is so neat. Even better is the fact that you guys enjoyed doing it as a family. Great job!

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  38. I'll be going to the lumber store to get the material for this wonderful table. I have two wine boxes but I will be getting more. You just don't know what your idea means to me. I am in a wheel chair and can't get to the ground any more. I will built my table to the height I need, fill my boxes with dirt, and veggie's or flowers . Thank you, thank you, for sharing this on your blog. Do you by any chance know the measurments of your table. Love your blog. Kathy

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  39. Curious......is there a reason for lining the top of the table with metal or is it purely aesthetic? Thanks......love your idea. I have some feelers out for wine crates. Have had no luck getting them from local wine distributors. Apparently, they are not willing to part with them. I do have an old Drambue crate I am planning to use until I can collect enough wine crates!
    Suzi

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    1. Hi Suzi, I used the sheet metal for both aesthetic and protective purposes. If anything, I would've liked to have a flat surface across the top so the sheet metal could wrap neatly around the edges. I drilled holes through the sheet metal and table top for water drainage. Good luck finding wine crates! I'm sure something else creative will find it's way into your path!

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  40. Loved your idea and made my own garden today. I got the wine crates from Total Wine for $5. Hope it turns out well, I didn't do anything to treat the wood. *fingers crossed*

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    1. That's awesome! Rubbing my boxes down with Danish Oil this year seems to be helping. I've also tried lining one box with a black plastic bag as a test. Verdict is still out on that one. The step I should have added: bracing the corners with metal brackets. But you know what, better to give gardening a try imperfectly than to not garden at all because you're so afraid you won't get it all right! :)

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  41. can you say how you got your wine boxes? we are not wine drinkers -- any ideas?

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    Replies
    1. Some wine shops will sell them to you; some may give them if they have plenty of extras.

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  42. I love your wine boxes! They make awesome planters, and your garden looks amazing!!!

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  43. Very nice garden in the making, everyone looks so happy too! Thanks for sharing.

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  44. I love how you used wine boxes! They look amazing. I found your blog from the planting link party, now following!

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  45. Aesthetically pleasing, and it's great that the whole family was involved. The wine boxes are lovely, and in our experience, plants from Whole Foods are worth it! We hope your gardening project inspires many of our readers...

    We featured your post at our summer fun 101 series: gardening round-up.

    Hope you have a lovely week!
    Nicolette & Karen
    editors of The Classroom Creative.

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  46. Oh, What a great idea. I want to try this. Thanks for sharing.....

    Paige

    I would love permission to share your post at http://titus2eight.blogspot.com/2012/06/teaching-biblical-womanhood-to-our.html

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  47. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  48. Where does a person find these type of wine boxes inexpensively, or is that not even possible lol. I love this idea, pretty much exactly what I didn't know I was looking for. Thanks :)

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    Replies
    1. Hi Lori. I collected mine a few at a time from the wine shops where we are frequent buyers. I wrote a lot more about the boxes in my update here:

      http://www.llhdesignsblog.com/2012/07/wine-box-garden-year-two.html

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  49. Hooray! A fellow Houston container gardening friend! We just might be kindred spirits... I get you on the over-researched, yet never begun perfectionism quirk.

    However, I have decided that tomorrow is THE day that I will give birth to my very own container garden. I've been spending this evening prowling google & Pinterest & such for tips & ideas-- especially about the actual containers. Aesthetically pleasing planters don't come cheap. I'm so jealous of your wine boxes! Looks like I might have to do some sweet talkin' around town tomorrow. ;)

    I'm looking forward to exploring your blog more. And I just might come begging for tips & resources from another Houston dweller.

    Your garden is LOVELY as is your family!

    Warm regards,
    Ashley

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  50. Your blog has been so insightful I cannot wait to try this in my garden. We are in a similar situation as you with a limited space garden due to inner city living. We are also renting so do not want to make a mess or plant anything to beautiful that we can’t take with us! This is such an efficient away of planting your one vegetables. I would never have thought about the using wine corks for a bit of height. I will now just have to start sourcing wine crates! Thanks so much for the ideas.

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  51. This is a great idea. We started a greenhouse this year and have all different types of containers. I'm a little unhappy cuz looks disorganized. I will be visiting my Total Wine store soon. Thx

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  52. You sound just like me... love the garden...

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  53. Hi What size are the wine boxes? Thanks

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