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A box is a box is a box.

One of the dreams Seth and I showed up with at our new place was to have a planting box filled with herbs we could use for the kitchen. As our lives became consumed with other responsibilities, that desire for a small garden box fell by the wayside. Last weekend, I got around to poking at gardenening stores online and bought, after deliberating between a variety of much pricier options, a couple of EarthBoxes. I've never heard of these things before, but the science, based primarily on years of observing my mother's gardening habits, seems about right. For $59.99 per full growing kit, including the box, soil, fertilizer and bonus dolomite, this is also well within our budget. A nice fiberglass or wood planter alone is in the range of $100 - $300, and this enables me to spend money on the plants and things potted plants need over time, with change to spare for other necessities. I also liked the idea of a long-lasting weatherproof planter (the site and reviews suggest a box can last up to about 15 years) with some self-watering mechanisms built in, that would also require less fertilizers than a normal planting scenario.

I was deeply excited all weekend considering the idea we might finally have herbs growing on our deck. Real life crafting! I can just see the progress bars happening in my head! I have a wee bag of heirloom tomato seeds I got free from buying my last batch of diatomaceous earth, and I'm keen to see what they do. I also chomped my way through a mail order seed bank and got heirloom basil, shiso leaf, Vietnamese mint and Chinese snow vegetables. The last of these plants was a real surprise for me, as snow vegetables are not something I would expect to see on an American mail order list, but the Baker Creek Seed Store website has a surprising number of Asian heirlooms in general -- the number of Asian basils alone were equivalent to the European ones. The only honest complaint I would have is the pervasive lift music at the site.

Of course, with shipments under way, I am now vaguely panicking about growing stuff instead. I mean, my entire experience with gardening, vis-a-vis my mother, who is the gardener in the family and comes from a long line on both sides of people who compulsively plant things, usually involved large compounds that eventually became untenable over time. In Malaysia, where I grew up, the large compound garden was almost workable. Even hardcore urbanites in KL with landed property would usually try to grow a fruit tree or kitchen herbs -- the ones with more mettle might go so far as to attempt keeping chickens, possibly contributing to our native monitor lizard and urban snake population. I've seen cobras and monitor lizards crawl up the monsoon drains into people's backyards. My mom's personally killed at least one cobra in her lifetime by dousing a soup pot of boiling water on it. She also chops down beehives with the help of a small bonfire and a large cleaver, and trims the roses with it. Did I mention she was the family gardener? My mom's amazing, and I'm not her.

Then I called up my mom, and she was filled with sage gardening knowledge and impractical ideas. Firstly, she pointed out (correctly) that I could probably rig some good, rustic planters from a few wash tubs, a bit of paint, imagination and some effort for under $10, just like Mom did. But Mom also spends incredible amounts of money on fertilizers, potting mixes, plants and paraphernalia for every cent she saves using a cleaver and her imagination. It's her hobby, like the way building very different boxes out of expensive computer parts makes me happy. Afterwards, Mom lectured me long and hard on the merits of purchasing seeds vs. seedlings and how I can save myself change and heartache in future by rooting my own favourite fresh Asian herbs that I've bought from the supermarket. She's also planning to send me garlic chive seeds from her garden, which I look forward to. The chives are nice, but the seeds and flowers are a decidedly more delicious salad topping.

Provided there is some space in the EarthBox, I might actually try to root some lemongrass according to Mom's methods, and possibly even drop in a few spring onion cuttings to extend their useability (cost-saving measure I learned from a rude manga). It's all very exciting and perplexing.


Jan. 24th, 2012 09:34 pm (UTC)
My mom's garden in Perth was around 75% seedlings, that I remember. I wouldn't have used seeds, but there are things I figured I couldn't find cuttings for offhand, like the snow veggies and shiso. And I didn't realize I could just root supermarket Vietnamese mint in a little water. :/

Planning to sprout the seeds in some egg cartons first, as it's pretty cold and rainy for the next few weeks outside.

The gardening box in your link does look bigger, and the stand sturdier than the EarthBox. The deal I got at EarthBox was $59 for the box, the soil, fertilizer and dolomite thrown, so for me, it kind of handled everything in a single option. I also got one of their growing frames, which was somewhat pricy. I think altogether, EarthBox + frame + dirt = $90+

I'm looking forward to at least saving on some fresh herbs I use often. Not terribly sure about the tomatoes.
Jan. 25th, 2012 01:55 am (UTC)
For what it's worth, tomatoes have been one of my most reliable crops - and I'm *not* a great gardener - more of a throw it in the ground and see! (To be fair all of my tomatoes come up as cherry size, even if the plant I'm growing was not, but I'm slowly getting better at fertilizer and placement of the pots, so that may improve with time :-)
Jan. 25th, 2012 03:45 am (UTC)
yes, this. I highly recommend using cages btw! we were too lazy last summer and a lot of the tomatoes didn't get enough sunlight to change color.
Jan. 25th, 2012 05:08 am (UTC)
I do remember my mom's staking and caging, yeah. Hrm. I'm thinking that if the plants start threatening to go giant, and Brandywine, the variety I'm going to grow is apparently a huge plant, I might want to buy extra bamboo stakes. I don't know if a cage could fit in or over the EarthBox. Will need to research!
Jan. 25th, 2012 05:09 am (UTC)
I vaguely remember that in the right weather, tomatoes could grow out of seeds that got thrown away by accident in the compost heap. They are an unusually easy sprouter! Fingers crossed out here, we will both have a harvest worth saucing. :)
Jan. 25th, 2012 05:14 am (UTC)
A *lot* of my tomato plants are renegades - initially (i presume) spruting from compost application, and now also from tomatoes I let fall to the ground (in particulalr if a bird has got to them before me!)
Jan. 25th, 2012 06:14 am (UTC)
Isn't it kind of wonderful when that happens? My very first vegetable, that I got to take care of as a child, was a renegade tomato that sprouted out of nowhere in a pile of potting mix Mom had left in the backyard. :)

It does make me miss having a yard to myself, simply because the array of new edible things that show up is always fun.