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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. 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!