Boxes and Bounty

As a gardening experiment last month, I made a few wicking boxes for my front balcony. It faces east, across the River Derwent and while the view is lovely, it gets all the morning sun and can be quite windy. This time of year, we can’t walk on the concrete in bare feet before 2pm! I’ve grown salad greens in containers out there since I moved in, over six years ago but it’s a lot of work and difficult keeping water up to them with baking sun and drying winds.

IMG_20151215_102432I started out buying two food grade plastic crates from my local hardware store (I think they were 23 litre size), the kind that are often used as recycling boxes. All other materials were either recycled or things I had on hand.

Old hose was spiked with holes and laid in the bottom, with the refill end slotted into a length of larger diameter poly pipe to make it easier to pour water into. It looks pretty ugly but it works!

Next, I put a layer of gravel over the hose, making sure the refill end IMG_20151215_102947didn’t get buried as you can see in the photo. By the way, this gravel wouldn’t be my ideal but it was sitting in a pile begging to be used up and there was just enough to do all the boxes 🙂

At the top of the gravel, I carefully drilled a small overflow hole diagonally opposite the refill hose. This means water won’t build up and start getting smelly and the plants won’t rot in overly wet soil.

IMG_20151215_103048Next, I covered the gravel with some old tea towels that weren’t really wonderful for wiping dishes anymore. They allow the water to pass through but not the soil. Eventually, they will rot away and I’ll have to replace them but it was good to recycle them. Old shade cloth would be ideal if you have it.

At this stage, I put a thin layer of good quality potting mix over the top, and I recommend not cutting any corners with this. The better the soil, the better the plants! I mixed well rotted sheep poo and plenty of mushroom compost in large bucket and worked this through layers of potting mix until the box was fairly full. The result was a friable, rich mix, perfect for quick growing summer salad veggies.

I made sure the soil was damp before planting out the first seedlings and watered them overhead for the first couple of days, until the water reservoir started to do its thing. I ended up doing eight boxes in total and crammed in fast growing Pak Choi, Portulaca, Red Amaranth, Grumolo Verde Chicory, Garland Chrysanthemum and even Silverbeet. The results have been fabulous


The pic above was taken 15th December 2015 and the pic below a month later, the 14th January 2016. The results have been incredibly successful and I’m only having to refill the reservoir about once every three or four days instead of overhead watering morning and night. Despite the fact salad is my favourite meal of the day, I can barely keep up with the amount of food these boxes are producing!


Do you grow vegetables in containers? What are your top tips? Please leave a comment below – I love to hear from you all! 

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. narf77
    Jan 23, 2016 @ 12:40:25

    A fantastic example of thinking smarter, not harder. Cheers for the excellent share. We water wicked a small dinghy for our strawberries and they flowered and fruited right through last winter so this obviously works well. I just read that this El Nino is going to be with us till Autumn 2017 and so we are going to convert as many of our veggie garden beds to water wicking beds as possible over winter so that we can conserve water (and energy watering). Again, thank you for the excellent back-up to my research. I forgot, completely, about the chilli seeds till today so will get that stamped addressed envelope into the mail ASAP. Cheers again for your generosity 🙂

    Liked by 1 person


    • Debra Manskey
      Jan 23, 2016 @ 13:18:42

      Thanks for your lovely words 🙂 Yes, I got the idea from a friend who converted a claw foot bath tub for her strawberries.
      I’m just starting to crop chillies so seeds will be a while yet. Leave it another month and I’ll have more than Cayenne and Jalapeño for you 😀

      Liked by 1 person


      • narf77
        Jan 23, 2016 @ 13:28:06

        Cheers Debra. I am most inspired by your salad choices. Do you source your seed locally? I am going to head out and get as many old fridges and freezers as I can from the local tips and am going to convert them to wicking beds as well. I have a really old fashioned rounded fridge that I turned into half pond and half mint bed. My Vietnamese mint swallowed everything else whole but the frogs love it and it really works. Anything that will conserve water and make it easier to garden is a HUGE plus :). I had better write down that I need to send you an S.A.E. or I will completely forget again! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      • narf77
        Jan 23, 2016 @ 13:29:12

        I forgot to mention, I hope you don’t mind that I shared your blog post on my Facebook page? I figured it was pertinent to everyone and made food gardening a possibility for all.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Debra Manskey
        Jan 23, 2016 @ 14:00:41

        I wasn’t aware you had shared it 😀 But no problem at all, in fact thank you! One of the reasons I write this blog is a way of sharing knowledge – not just about gardening and food but also writing, music, performance, photography. All the different forms of creativity I’m involved in. Hoping to expand as opportunities arise 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • narf77
        Jan 23, 2016 @ 14:01:59

        I shared it on my personal Facebook page. I have a motley collective of gardening permies that would appreciate reading your post. Glad you didn’t mind me sharing it 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Trackback: Boxes and Bounty | Debra Manskey – WORLD ORGANIC NEWS
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