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A garden is possible, even within limited space

Do you long to have your own flower and vegetable gardens to tend, but have limited lawn space in which to put them?

That was the dilemma faced by Dick Erickson, who lives in a trailer home, on a narrow lot at Oak Grove Trailer Court in rural Detroit Lakes.

Erickson, who once lived in rural Vergas, on the property now occupied by Beautiful Leaf Gardens, has loved gardening since he was "a little tot."

But since moving from his property in rural Vergas, where he once had "a yard full of flowers," Erickson has been fairly limited in what he could do with so little green space.

"There's nowhere I can dig a garden here," he said.

But then, this past November, he happened upon a book on container gardening. Though the earth boxes used in the book were a little more expensive than he would have liked, at $37 apiece, Erickson began thinking about how he might build similar containers for his own garden, at a more affordable price.

Over the next few months, he found a way to do just that, designing his own gardening container using a couple of 15x10 inch plastic totes and some four-inch, thin wall plastic sewer pipe cut into four, 3.5-inch segments. In addition, he purchased some potting soil with fertilizer pre-mixed into it.

First, he cut notches into the sewer pipe at the top and bottom of one side, to allow water to pass through; then, he set one of the four pipe segments inside each corner of one of the plastic totes. Next he drilled a one-inch hole in the side of the tote, 3.5 inches from the bottom, and filled the bottom of the tote with potting soil, up to the top of the pipe segments.

The next step was to take the second tote and place it inside the first, on top of the pipe segments and the potting soil, then filled the second container with more soil, and planted his favorite flowers in the container.

The next step was to run water into the bottom container until it started coming back out the side of the container.

'That means it's full," Erickson said. Once the soil in the bottom container is saturated with water, it doesn't need to be re-filled for several days.

"The smnaller the plant, the longer you can wait (between waterings)," he said. "I never have to water any of them more than once or twice a month."

Erickson has used his custom-built garden containers to brighten up the exterior of his trailer home with flowers in a variety of sizes and colors (after first obtaining the blessing of the trailer court's owner). In addition, he has used the containers to plant vegetables including peppers, tomatoes, radishes and finger carrots.

"Next year, I'm going to have more vegetables, and fewer flowers," he said, noting how much he enjoys the taste of freshly-grown tomatoes, carrots and other vegetables. "I'm going to plant potatoes next year."

"A guy can do an awful lot with this if he wants to," Erickson said. "The containers don't take up much space, and it makes your surroundings look a lot more interesting... especially in small lots like these where you don't have a lot of room."

And there's one advantage that a container garden has over one that's dug into the soil: it's portable.

For instance, when a plant is getting too much sun, it can be moved to a shadier spot; or conversely, if it's not getting enough, it can be moved to a spot with less shade. And, when the temperatures start to drop as winter approaches, some of the containers can even be taken inside to allow the plants to thrive year-round.

And of course, there's the cost savings. With the earth boxes that Erickson had seen in the container gardening books he looked at, the cost after adding soil and fertilizer would be approximately $75 per box -- and that's before the plants were added.

With Erickson's custom-built containers, however, the cost is a little more reasonable, at about $20 each -- which means he can plant a lot more vegetables, and flowers too.

With these containers, Erickson said, "I can grow pretty much whatever I want."

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454