By Mike Thayer
If you're into gardening, live in an apartment and like saving money growing your own veggies, keep reading.
That's exactly what my situation is. I love to garden, but live in an apartment. I don't let that stop me from gardening though because I value the ability to just walk out my door and harvest a few veggies for a salad or pick something for a fantastic side dish. Food just doesn't get any fresher than that! The bonus? Saving a few bucks from what you would buy in a grocery store.
My apartment has a small patio, ground level, fenced in, it's asphalt. Can you say "Container Garden?" Yes, yes you can. Container gardens can work in just about any small space that gets at least 6-8 hours of sunlight a day, whether it's a ground level place like mine, a 3rd floor balcony or an entryway stoop.
In my case, the fortune of having a fence means I can "Grow Up." I've taken advantage of the fence and put up a trellis. A trellis easily accommodates vine type veggies like tomatoes, pole beans and cucumbers in tight spaces, ergo, 'grow up' the trellis. It maximizes what little 'garden area' you have to work with.
I call my patio the "Asphalt Garden."
Last year, the first year in my apartment, I put up my trellis, but simply placed my containers directly on the asphalt. It was fine and growing great in the spring and early summer months, but once the three-digit temps of hot summer hit in July, my container garden started to suffer. Extra watering helped, but it still wasn't enough to compensate for hot container bottoms sitting directly on the asphalt. When temperatures go over the 100 degree mark, asphalt can get up to 140 degrees! This makes for unhappy plant roots.
Pallets are an easy and inexpensive way to elevate the containers on your hard surface. Pallets are readily available just about anywhere a truck delivers something. Go to a grocery store, lumber yard, flower shop, a mall. Just about any of those kind of places would have no problem letting you have a pallet or two, or three, free for the taking! All you need is a little time and a saw to break the pallets down and it sure beats going to a place like Lowe's or Home Depot and shelling out money for bricks or concrete blocks!
Pallets are even better than bricks you might buy at a place like Lowe's because bricks, being solid, don't dissipate heat coming from the asphalt nearly as efficiently as wood pallets do! Pallets allow for air movement between boards, bricks don't.... The result is a far lower temp at the container bottom with pallets, which means less watering and happier plant roots.
You can break down pallets fairly simply with a saw, splitting them down the middle creating 'half pallets'. No re-nailing necessary, 'half pallets' allow you to elevate your containers off the hard surface without taking up additional patio/balcony space. The result is happier plants.
Having fresh veggies growing just outside your door is a simple pleasure. Harvesting some greens for a salad or picking some green beans to go with that chicken dish, not only puts a smile of productive satisfaction on my face, but it saves me a trip and a few bucks to the grocery store to boot!
If you container garden, get some pallets!