Thursday, March 17, 2016

Thinking Inside the Box

           As spring approaches, most gardeners pour over seed catalogs, dreaming about new plants to add to their landscapes. I am no exception, but while it’s still too cold to get outside and get my hands in the dirt, I like to use the time to treasure hunt for unusual vintage pieces to use in our garden and on the porch.  One of my favorite staples is wooden crates.  Sturdy, colorful boxes serve multiple uses, and they pair well with herbs and flowers.

            Large crates can be placed on the patio and filled with any combination of plants.  Arrange a variety of sizes of crates on a step or in a corner to make a lovely vignette.  You can also turn a crate upside down as a display base to create height for a potted plant.  Boxes with dividers such as soda crates are great for displaying individual, small pots or starting seedlings.  They also make handy carriers for multiple small vases.

            If you turn a crate on its side and attach the bottom end to a fence or wall, you will have an instant display shelf for potted plants, garden statuary, or birdhouses.  

They are also handy receptacles for garden gloves, hand tools, and seed packets.   If you take your veggies or flowers to the farmer’s market, crates make sturdy carriers and appealing staging backdrops once you arrive at the market.

            When looking for crates at antique stores or shows, make sure the crates aren’t stained with grease or other hard-to-remove substances, and test their construction for sturdiness.  Look for boxes with colorful fruit labels or graphics that pop.  Make sure the depth of the crate is appropriate if you plan to add plants.  Deeper crates are better for full season plants, while shallow depths are appropriate for short season crops like lettuce or spinach.

Once you get your crate home, protect it from soil and water by lining the inside with a black, plastic bag cut to fit.  Add about an inch of pebbles and horticultural charcoal in the bottom before pouring in soil to filter water and keep the crate from staining or retaining odor.  When the season is over, be sure to give your crates a good cleaning and store them inside for protection from the weather.

            As you get ready to plant this year, “think inside the box” for a fun and functional vintage touch in your garden.