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Garden Design

Garden on the Cheap! How to Create a Palate Garden

Garden on the Cheap! How to Create a Palate Garden
I have a green thumb (well, at least when it comes to outdoor gardening, I can kill a houseplant faster than anyone I know). But this year, I have been limited by the inability to dig into the ground. Military housing will let us grow flowers, but not food. I know I want to grow food for ourselves. Gardening is a wonderful activity to share with my dirt-lovin’ kids. It is an important tool to teach. You know, the whole “Show them to fish” scenario. I started thinking about how I could build a garden, from the bottom up, without digging. It was on one trip to our local home improvement store that it hit me–wooden palates would be perfect!
Our local store has palates in the back. I asked an associate, and she said that they recycle them BUT if I ever saw some back there, that I was welcome to help myself. So, I stalked the store. Not really…the next time we went, there was a huge stack. So, we grabbed two. I also bought one roll of landscape fabric. I had a staple gun already, so I didn’t need anything else but soil. I got 4 bags of Miracle Grow garden soil, and I got some plants. I am in the deep south (military life–enables me to learn how the weather systems work in all parts of our great nation), so I was able to get all kinds of plants in early March. I started with some tomato, broccoli, peas, and swiss chard. I got seeds for lettuces, herbs, and green beans. And I got some marigold plants, because they are helpful to keep ants away & attract butterflies instead. We loaded up the minivan & headed home.
Once home, I took the palate and flipped it over. I unrolled the fabric (with the help of my 2 year old assistant) and measured enough to cover the bottom & wrap up each of the 2 end sides. I stapled it in 5 or 6 places on each end, until I felt it was secure. Then, I took it outside. I found a spot that got sunlight most of the day, but you need to place it specifically for the plants you choose (partial sun, full sun, etc). I emptied a bag of soil (1 cubic ft.) into the palate & spread it evenly. Then, I unpacked the plants and placed them where I wanted them to live (making sure to pay attention to how much space the plants needed) & then dug them into place. Some needed a little extra dirt to pack them in tight, so I opened bag #2 & filled in as necessary. I also did a quick web search to find beneficial companion plants for my selected veggies, and placed them together in the layout. A quick watering from the hose, and it was done.
From start to finish,each palate garden cost around $5 plus the cost of plants. I have created 3 so far, with a couple of palates waiting in the wings if I can convince my husband to lose a little more yard space. Gardening is good for my soul & that is a feeling I want to pass on to my kids, no matter the capacity.