One of the joys of having a garden is enjoying fresh salads from your own garden every day. What makes it less of a joy is having to drive a couple miles to the community garden to pick the lettuce and herbs. Last fall I decided that this year I would use a self-watering planter on the deck to grow lettuces and herbs. What I purchased last year was a system called Citypickers from Home Depot. If you wait until the end of the season as I did, you can often pick these up at clearance for a discount. Lowes has the same system under a different name.
The box is made of sturdy plastic and comes with casters. It has a water reservoir at the bottom of about 5 gallons capacity and a perforated base for the soil. A filler tube on one corner is used to replenish water in the reservoir. The box holds 1.5 cubic feet of planting mix.
I used a standard sterile planting mix consisting of peat moss and perlite. The tedious part is wetting the plating mix in batches and packing it in the box. When you get it filled a couple of inches below the top of the box, dolomitic lime is spread around on the planting mix.
The lime is covered with more planting mix, up to the top edge. Next you add a granulated garden fertilizer. I used Espoma Garden-tone, a 3-4-4 organic vegetable fertilizer. Where this is added depends on what you are planting. Since this box was going to host lettuce plants, I chose to add the fertilizer n a trench dug down the longitudinal center of the box. The lettuce plants will be inserted on either side of the fertilizer strip.
The boxes are supposed to come with an elasticized plastic cover, but both boxes I purchased were missing the cover. So I substituted plastic cut from compost bags, held on the edges of the box with binder clips. Since the covers need to be replaced every year and no one sells the replacements, this is a far more practical and economical solution. To plant, you cut holes in the plastic cover and insert the plants.
This is what container lettuce looks like. These are New Red Fire and Merlot lettuces, with a glimpse of Jericho at the top. The area top left was destined for Green Ice but I killed the starts. Even without it, I get enough lettuce for a luncheon salad every day, and I dropped off a big bag for the food pantry this morning.
The second box was intended for herbs such as basil, parsley, cilantro, dill and rosemary, but I never had the time to fill the box. Next year I will definitely use the box for herbs. Just like lettuce, it would be nice to go on the back deck and snip some fresh basil or a little cilantro rather than drive a couple miles to fetch it.
Overall the salad planter has been a real success and I will be using it again next year along with the herb planter.