What do you think of when you picture a garden? For years the word conjured up memories of my mom’s amazing garden that she kept full of rhubarb, raspberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans and more. It was a big garden with its own compost and eventually a deer fence; the peak of my dad’s romance with DIY. On shimmering hot summer days we could escape to the garden where raspberries became chapeaux for our fingers as mom gathered the remaining inventory for jam.
For a long time I thought of gardens as an overwhelming tangle of plants in need of constant weeding and tending that my mom and her friends wrangled with year after year. Gardens weren’t for city folk. I now know that this couldn’t be farther from the truth! After years of success with potted plants, we finally upgraded to our very first planter box. Turns out you don’t need a big backyard for a garden, just a few square feet!
Before building your planter box, I recommend taking a look at Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Garden. I got a big kick out of his book, but this helpful PDF gives you the basic concept for free. He takes the daunting out of the garden and transformed this project into something manageable and attainable for me.
Building a Planter Box
What you will need:
- Sturdy wood – Mel recommends getting free wood from a construction site. This is not something I was willing to try in Philly, but if you try this please let me know how it goes. We got pressure treated wood from Lowe’s, and had them cut our board into four pieces that would fit into my car. Bring your exact measurements to the store and they can cut the board to your exact specifications. If you can afford it, buy cedar. This will last the longest.
- Long Screws – the best kind!
- Circular Saw – only needed if you are going to cut the wood yourself
- Landscape fabric
- Mel’s Mix: 1/3 Vermiculite, 1/3 Peat Moss, 1/3 Compost
- Vermiculite and Peat Moss can be found at any hardware store.
- Compost – In Philadelphia, you can get FREE compost at the Recycling Center in Fairmount Park. Bring your own container. They provide the shovel. Also bring your id. Do not go on the way to work. You will get dirty! Clearly I found this out the hard way. If you don’t live in Philly, good luck!
You can get fancy and nail your wood into four corner posts. Check Sunset.com’s post if you want to go in that direction. Ours were as simple as you can get:
- Buy wood and get it home – in a small two door hatch back this was the toughest part of the whole project. We bought one very wide and long board for under $30. We had them cut it into four pieces so it would fit in our car
- Use circular saw to cut wood to correct lengths
- Drill pilot holes into the ends of each board where it will attach to another board. For more info on pilot holes see here.
- Screw boards together using extra long screws with the help of a friend, or maybe even your blogging partner if she happens to be in town!!!!
- Cut two pieces of landscaping fabric to size
- Place two layers on the ground, and then place the planter box directly on top.
- Fill box with Mel’s mix and mix!
This one was obvious and rewarding. According to the Charleston City Paper, the recipe for Planter’s Punch can be traced back as far as the September 1878 edition of the London based magazine Fun. The recipe hails from Jamaica, and oddly enough, its recipe often inspires verse. For example, in 1908 The New York Times ran an edition featuring the following recipe:
Take two of sour (lime let it be)
To one and a half of sweet.
Of Old Jamaica pour three strong,
And add four parts of weak.
The version I made comes from an excellent book called Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh AKA Dr. Cocktail. Haigh gives new life to Jasper’s Jamaican Planter’s Punch. Once kept secret, the recipe for this concoction makes an even tastier beverage if you make Jasper’s secret mix in advance and let the flavors meld before mixing it with rum. Jasper’s mix makes an entire bottle’s worth of liquid. I adapted the recipe for my needs.
Ingredients for one bottle of Jasper’s Secret Mix:
- Juice of 12 limes
- 1.5 cups of sugar (or agave nectar if you are anti sugar)
- 1.25 oz Angostura Bitters
- 1/2 whole nutmeg, grated
Ingredients for one drink:
- 1.5-2 oz dark Jamaican Rum depending on how strong you want your drink to be
- 2 oz lime juice
- 1 oz agave nectar
- several hearty shakes of Angostura Bitters
- dash of nutmeg
- If making a bottle, mix all ingredients and refrigerate for at least two hours. If making individual drink stir the lime juice, agave nectar, bitters and nutmeg until mixed. Let sit for a few hours if you have the patience or foresight.
- Fill a highball glass with crushed or cracked ice.
- If you’ve made a bottle of it, add 1.5 oz of Jasper’s mix to glass. If not, add your individual mix to glass.
- Add 1.5 oz of rum.
- Stir and add more ice if necessary to fill glass.
- Garnish with cocktail cherry, citrus slice, fresh fruit like mango or pineapple, and mint.