Yes you can have a garden, even in an urban home. No yard is no excuse.
"Apartment Gardening: Plants, Projects, and Recipes for Growing Food in Your Urban Home
" is what every city-dweller with a green thumb needs.
Author Amy Pennington explains how to make recycled planters from everything -- wine boxes to milk crates. And she even provides recipes so we know what to do with our edible blossoms. Minted arugula salad, anyone?
Even if you're not living in an urban environment, you'll love the recipes and can easily use the project ideas for deck and indoor planting.
Luckily, Pennington and the crew behind "Apartment Gardening
" was kind enough to share a sneak peak of one of our favorite projects from the book. Check out this super creative filing cabinet planter!
My friend Matthew Parker is one of those people who has vision. Everything in his funky little colorful house lines up and is orderly, but is also backed by wacky wall treatments like I found in his hallway-purple and white zigzag. He is utterly creative, and I steal hundreds of ideas from him. We were chatting urban garden design ideas recently when he casually mentioned using an old file cabinet as a planter. A light bulb went off! Old metal file cabinets are a dime a dozen at secondhand stores everywhere.
They don't cost much-in the neighborhood of fifty bucks-and while they are ugly to look at, if you remove the drawers and turn them onto their backs, they make an awesome planter. File cabinets are deep, so you'll automatically have a deeper planter than you can buy retail without the hassle of making your own. Having a deep planter opens up your growing world quite a bit; you can start trying deep-rooted plants like tomatoes, kale, or rhubarb.
If you're into the whole shabby chic thing, drawers can be used for shallow planters, as well. Just give them a coat of paint and plant away. When repurposing any item, it is smart to consider possible pitfalls of what you are attempting. Or at least that's what my friend Patric is always telling me. He's awesome at identifying potential problems with all the crazy ideas I come up with. The looming obstacle for this project, so he says, is making sure the planter is structurally sound. Filing cabinets are made from thin sheet metal. You may have tried to stand on top of one at some point, to change a light bulb, only to feel the top buckle under your weight. Something similar will happen if you turn it on its back, and fill it with soil and then water. To address this, for this project we use a piece of blocking wood-a 2-by-4-inch piece of lumber cut to the width of the cabinet. The blocking wood both provides support and gives you a secure base to drill the casters into.
One file cabinet
Five or six locking and swiveling casters
Four 1 1/2-inch pan head screws appropriately sized for the holes in
Six to ten 1-inch pan head #8 screws
One 2-by-4-inch by 8-foot board
One small tube construction adhesive
Four cans nontoxic primer spray paint
Four cans nontoxic exterior gloss spray paint
Electric drill with 7/64-inch and 3/8-inch bits
Remove the drawers and any attached hardware from the inside of the cabinet. Measure its interior width. You will need to cut a few pieces of 2-by-4-inch boards to this length. The number of pieces depends on the size of the cabinet. A two- drawer cabinet will need three pieces: one on each end and one in the center. A three-drawer cabinet will need four pieces: one on each end and two evenly spaced across the center. This wood support is called the blocking wood.
Cut the blocking wood so it fits snugly across the floor of the cabinet and rests squarely against the sides. Do not make it
so tight that it causes the cabinet to bulge. (It is possible that the blocking wood pieces may have to vary slightly in size in
order to get them to fit precisely.)
Apply a few beads of construction adhesive to the blocking pieces and fit them into the cabinet. This is just to hold them in place-no need to go overboard with the glue. Allow them
to dry for at least an hour.
Turn the cabinet over so the top is facing down and the bot- tom is facing up. Place casters in the corners of the cabinet, lining them up with the blocking wood. With a marker, trace the caster screw hole locations onto the cabinet and set the casters aside. Using the drill, make pilot holes where you've marked your casters through the cabinet and into the wood.
Return the casters to the cabinet and screw them into place at the corners.
Now, add any supporting casters and place the casters along the middle of your cabinet. (For a two-drawer cabinet, you will also place a caster on the blocking in the center. For a three- drawer cabinet, you will need to place one caster on each
piece of blocking.) Drill pilot holes, then screw the casters into place.
To keep the bottom of the cabinet from sagging under the weight of soil and water, you need to add some support. For
support, you will add screws across the length of the center pieces of blocking wood. Adding screws in this manner effec-
tively transfers the load (that is, the weight) across the cabinet floor to the edges, which are the cabinet's strongest points.
Using a 7/64-inch drill bit, make pilot holes across the center pieces of blocking through the metal as you did for the cast-
ers. Start 1/2 inch from the edge of the cabinet. Drill pilot holes every three inches until you run into the casters. It's not criti-
cal that the spacing be totally even. Finally, go back and add the screws for support.
Next, you need to make some drainage holes. Change the bit in your drill to 3/8-inch and drill through the cabinet, avoiding the blocking. You will need two rows of holes spaced every four inches or so.
In well-ventilated area far removed from any objects you don't want subjected to drifting spray paint (such as your car or
your neighbor's car), spray paint the exterior of the cabinet with two coats of primer and two coats of your finish color.
You do not need to paint the entire interior of the cabinet, but make sure to get the first few inches around the edges, as soil will settle over time and expose the interior slightly. Also, be sure to let each coat dry completely before spray painting over. Finally, be sure to follow the instructions on the can, never holding the can too close. If you apply spray too thickly, it will run and create drip marks down your planter. (For specific instructions, see Spray Painting Containers on page 139.)
When the planter is completely dry, it is ready for soil and plants! Make sure to lock your casters once you start filling your cabinet planter, and remember to fill the soil to the tip top of the planter. This allows for full sun to hit the surface of your soil-a crucial step in germination.
(Patric's construction note: When someone is talking to you about building something and trying to intimidate you with big words like blocking, bracing, or transferring loads, you will now know what they are talking about.)
Looking for more inventive gardening ideas? Check out:
The Citrus Peel Planter
Cool Modern Planters
Polaroid Planter: A Picture of Creativity