Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Planting a planter box

In previous posts I’ve alluded to some construction going on around here. We have a garage and patio that will be finished soon. After almost a year of building, I am so ready to do some landscaping in the construction site formerly known as the back garden.

First project up: the planter box. The box is formed by the patio’s banco seating and the steps to the garage apartment. It is 36” deep and 5 feet long. The interior masonry is covered with a sheet of rubber tucked under the coping, pond liner-style. There is a scupper at the bottom for drainage.
(I tried to eliminate the construction-related mess from the photos, reminiscent of Cultivating Paradise’s comments on photographing her garden amidst a building site.)

What is that wooden contraption? Why, it’s the railing that was to keep the hapless from tripping ass over elbow into the open planter box. The building couldn’t pass the final inspection without some railing around the planter, but I didn’t want to start moving dirt and plants until the permit was closed. So up went this temporary bit of carpentry. Anyway, it was accepted and the 2x4s can come down any day now. Any day.

So we passed the final, and then the planter box has been planted. The first step was to put a bit of mesh over the drain slot. (It makes an unimpressive view, so no photo.)
Step 2: Rocks were tipped in to provide a drainage layer deep enough to cover the drain slot. I chose this red volcanic rock because it is the lightest rock I found. I don’t anticipate needing to scoop it back out but I never want to be sorry if I do.

Step 3: Spun poly filter fabric goes over the drainage layer of rocks. It’s there to keep the rocks and soil from merging.
Step 4: Potting soil gets added. There are some very light soil-less planting media out there, developed for greenroofs and gardens over parking garages, etc. Nevermind. I just looked for the lightest bagged mix that I could find at Lowe’s hardware, which seemed to be Miracle Gro vegetable mix. Normally I want humus-y, wormy homemade loam, but in the planter box it might be too heavy, pack down, and sour.

Step 5: The plants go in. On the ends we have wooly stemodia / Stemodia tormentosa, a Texas native which likes the well-drained condition it should find in this planter. Beside those, purple heart / Setcreasea pallida which were started from potted plants in the front garden. The puny lemon grass in the center came from a community plant sale. I would like to stick in Manfreda variagata next to the purple heart, which made an appealing combo in Digging’s container gardens. I see Manfreda from time to time in the nurseries here, but now that I am shopping for them, I haven't been able to find them. I guess the lemon grass will go into the (currently non-existant) vegetable beds when the Manfreda is good enough to turn up. That makes it a place-holder plant.

Coming soon: a follow up showing the whole completed patio and planter box...minus the 2x4s.


Phil The Gardener said...

Great job on describing the construction of the planter and planting it. I was trying to figure out if the drainage hole came out on top of the gray concrete or below it. If to drains across you will have to figure out a way to keep the water from staining the concrete and becoming unsightly. Again good job.

Muddy Mary said...

Phil, It drains through a slot way down at the bottom on the far back side. We had a hard rain several days ago, and after that I could see that the drainage was working because some red dust off the lava rocks was washing out. Thanks for stopping by and taking a close look.

compost in my shoe said...

Great location for a planter. You might want to check out The Jewel Box Garden by Thomas Hobbs. Visited this garden a few years back at a Garden Writers Association conference. He has super ideas with lots of drama in his wall planters.

Muddy Mary said...

Thanks for the reference. With all the garden blogs out there, I had begun to forget about garden books.

Nancy said...

One warning about the lemon grass... it can grow to 5 feet tall and as big around unless you work at keeping it under control. So, don't let it be a place holder too long!

Muddy Mary said...

Nancy, I'm not sure I can eat it fast enough so I will just have to move the lemon grass some day.