It often seems that one of the greatest challenges to gardening with small people is finding that delicate balance between keeping them engaged while simultaneously making sure that busy little hands are in areas of the garden where they are more helpful than hindrance. Enter wooden crate theme gardens. Planted into plain wooden crates available at most craft supply stores (our local Michaels and JoAnn both carry a variation on these), these miniature theme-oriented gardens are a fantastic way to get children interested in some of the finer points of gardening, while still protecting larger family garden spaces from over zealous “weeding.” Wooden crates make ideal planters for vegetables and flowers alike, are accessible for smaller gardeners and can be placed anywhere that the gardener in charge deems appropriate. By planting crates according to fun and interesting themes, gardening becomes more than a backyard chore; it is a creative and educational adventure that can be extended in any number of literary and scientific directions you may choose. Read on to learn about the finer points of crate planting and to get some ideas for theme gardens to try at your house!
- plain wooden crate for planting
- a piece of landscape cloth big enough to line the inside of the box
- potting soil
- seeds or plants that fit the theme for your box garden (see the lists below for a few ideas)
To begin, you’ll want a plain wooden crate such as those used at apple orchards or sold in the wood painting sections of craft supply stores. Cut a piece of landscape cloth so that it is large enough to line the inside of the crate. Landscape cloth can be easily found at hardware and garden centers and is generally either black and a bit thicker, or white and thinner like the stuff in the above photo. The fabric will keep all your soil from leaking out when the crate gets watered or rained on. Line the crate with the fabric and begin filling it with soil.
When the crate is about ¾ full, trim the landscape fabric so that it just comes to the top of the crate, and then push it down around the edges of the crate, tucking it into the soil a bit. Finish filling the crate with soil, hiding the fabric in the process.
Now the good bit: planting! For our first crate, we decided to plant a salad garden. We used seeds for this, and planted carrots, lettuce and beets into the soil in the crate.
We also planted a second crate with plants for a salsa garden. We put in one tomato plant, one pepper plant and a cilantro plant. We have a very short growing season here, so we missed our chance to plant onions, but if you are somewhere warmer than Vermont, you might think about throwing in a couple of onion plants to round out your salsa ingredient selection.
Here are a few ideas of other theme gardens and the types of plants that might go nicely with the theme:
A Butterfly Garden
- Sweet Peas
A Fairy Garden
- Bachelor Buttons
An Edible Flower Garden
- Try a few different varieties of nasturtium and pansies, with a couple of sunflower plants thrown in (for the seeds).
- Bell pepper
- Look for plant varieties that do well in small spaces or containers. Dwarf varieties are good here. For a list of good vegetable varieties for container planting, visit here.
- Also, you’ll want to water your crate well and often since it doesn’t have the benefit of being in the actual garden ground and will have a harder time retaining moisture as a result.
Books to grow by…
Just in case you’d like to extend your garden adventures in the direction of your summer library visits, I’m also sharing a garden-themed book list with you all here today. It was originally published as a part of Alphabet Glue, Volume Six, and I think that you will all agree that the titles on this list provide perfect inspiration for gardeners of any age.