Bin Gardening

Bin Gardening

Monday, March 5, 2012

First-time Blogger; Long-time Gardener

Thank you so much for visiting my first blog post. I adore gardening and have experimented with various growing methods over the years, including building a greenhouse (with plenty of help from friends), tilling a large plot for fenced row gardening, square foot gardening, lasagna gardening, no-till raised bed gardening, bird and butterfly gardening, hydroponic and modified aquaponic gardening, and container gardening.

Neither my husband nor I grew up on a farm, so we have quite a learning curve when it comes to living in the country (to the probable amusement of our wonderful neighbors who are the real deal when it comes to navigating all aspects of country life). We are blessed to look out the window and see their horses, cows, cornfields, and barns. We love it here and continue to experiment with what we fondly refer to as our “no-tractor" gardening techniques.

Pictures of our previous projects: Greenhouse, raised beds, fenced rows, square foot garden.
greenhouse 1a
greenhouse 2a
greenhouse 4agreenhouse 3a
Raised beds 1araised beds 2a
fenced garden 1afenced garden 2a

My earliest memories of being fascinated with gardens came from visiting both sets of grandparents when I was very young. My step great-grandfather was born and raised in Italy, and had an amazing garden in a small backyard in a crowded Connecticut neighborhood. He grew heirloom tomatoes that provided spaghetti sauce for a year, and all the grapes he needed for his homemade wine. Everything was perfectly staked, mostly growing vertically to make room for all the vegetables and herbs. Oh, the smell of sweet basil in that garden!! I grew more intrigued with his frugal masterpiece with every passing summer visit.

I also had a grandmother in upstate NY who designed a lovely cottage garden in her side yard with many types of roses, peonies, and anything with a large, fragrant bloom. She placed a reflective garden ball on a stand at the center of the garden and I wanted to just linger there all afternoon, appreciating every flower and fragrance.

My parents never gardened in the traditional sense, though my dad enjoyed doing landscape projects. My mother loved flowers, but was raised in the city, and enjoyed her flowers from the window or in a bouquet on our table. When I was around age five, I recall her pointing out the lilacs, violets, peonies, tulips, and daffodils in our yard. I was thrilled to have these treasures for a season.

During my elementary and high school years, the love and calling of music overshadowed the interest in growing things, but as soon as I had my first apartment in college, I started collecting houseplants. I ended up with a shelf full of indoor plants in my tiny living space. I loved caring for those plants - shining their leaves, dividing and repotting, and making sure they were healthy. This was my first container gardening experience. The hobby evolved, and plants were in every room of every college dwelling I had after that.

One year while living in PA, I attended the Philadelphia Spring Flower Show and fell in love with the scent of freesias (still my favorite flower scent!). I brought back armfuls of flowers and plants to decorate my apartment, and had become thoroughly addicted to all things horticultural.

I later lived in south Florida where my husband and I bought our first home and I learned to garden and landscape on a fifth of an acre in Tropical Zone 10. Because of our small space, I decided to grow culinary herbs hydroponically and set up a system using shallow bins and rock wool in our garage. It was a wonderful diversion and relaxation activity while finishing some rigorous course work and doctoral recitals.

A few years ago, my pre-teen daughter helped me with a deck garden and we were both so pleased with the results that we became container-plant converts. Even with the land space we have (which we will still use for corn, sunflowers, and pumpkins), we loved not having to deal with weeds, red clay soil, deer, fire ants, and a higher water bill for irrigation. Gardening was much more enjoyable and less time-consuming with containers. We did not use self-watering containers, but kept goldfish and koi, and used their effluent water, along with collected rain water, for irrigation. My husband said the tomatoes we grew in containers that summer were the best he'd ever had. The success and low maintenance of that growing season led me to conclude that container gardening is the best fit for my family and me, and we are excited to share some of our experiences as we create self-watering containers out of storage bins to grow our spring and summer vegetables, herbs, and flowers.

Until next time, happy spring gardening!


  1. Karen ~ wonderful blog! I'm subscribing so I can keep up with your blogging journey through Reader.

    I've had such a love/hate relationship with gardening myself (I grew up on a farm, but have never myself had a successful garden), but every year I tell myself that "this will be the year" that my garden will yield at least 1 zucchini! So I'll be on the lookout for tips from you!

    Good luck!!!

    1. Thank you, Lauralee! Maybe we'll try to do a zucchini bin to see if they'll grow in bins! :-)