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Operation: Earth Box

My hubby and I live quietly in a two bedroom, upstairs apartment with our two cats, Sassy and Pixel.  It wasn’t necessarily my dwelling of choice, but one of needing to be close to my aging mother, so we settled here.  The apartment is cozy, has just about everything we need and is close to shopping, a hospital, banks and white sandy beaches. A few years ago, before the housing market exploded down here in Florida, we actually did make an offer on a pretty little house sold by the original owner, an unusual find here where there is more turnovers than you’ll find in a bakery.  Unfortunately, the seller had a cash offer and we were priced out of the market within four months.  So, here we are.

One thing I truly miss about not having my own home is having some room to plant things.  Back in Connecticut where I grew up, my Dad always had a few garden plots around our substantial back yard.  The yard was odd in that it was in two levels, the closest to the house was the lower level where Mom had a clothesline and Dad had the small garden plot.  He planted tomatoes and eggplant in alternating years in that spot.  On the upper “level” where a 15 foot pool once stood, green bell peppers, green beans, cucumbers, zucchini and whatever Dad felt like experimenting with grew in each quadrant, with the bean plants around the circumference of the pool.  The other garden plot directly up the steps and to the right, held whichever wasn’t growing in the lower plot, either tomatoes or eggplant.  My dad was known in the neighborhood as “Farmer John” and he took great pride in all his bounty, but especially the tomatoes.  He’d only share those with people who were close to the family.

When Mom and Dad relocated to Florida in the 90s and chose not to purchase a home, Dad lost his opportunity to garden like he once did in the “glory days.”  Sure, they tried to grow tomatoes in containers on the porch, but they never thrived in the harsh Florida summer heat like they did back home.  And so, this family tradition had been all but obliterated… until EarthBox moved into town.  I had already married and moved away when Mom and Dad discovered this little gardening treasure in a box, but I truly believe he was in a state of bliss when he realized he had a decent chance of growing some tomatoes.  For the first few times, Mom carted the box around back and forth to the EarthBox store to have it pre-planted for her, then Dad would tend it.  Unfortunately, the rats and mice that live around the retention pond had quite a tasty snack during those years, and they never saw a yield.  Ultimately, the EarthBox had fallen unattended after the death of my Dad in 2007, and grew the most beautiful weeds you’d ever seen.

In many ways, I’m truly my father’s daughter.  I have his love for Italian food, his temper, and his passion for gardening.  So it should come as no surprise that I have been passed the EarthBox “baton” so to speak.  Last week I dumped the contents, mostly weeds and two spent pineapple plants (those things bite, by the way!  Ouch!) and scrubbed all the parts and left them to dry.  Tonight I brought it home where it now sits, empty and waiting for another attempt at container gardening.  My EarthBox planting will be organic bush beans, aka green or string beans.  I wanted to start out with something that I know will grow easily and produce a good harvest the first time out, mostly because I need some confidence after so many failures in this box.  After the beans plants are done producing, I will attempt some of Dad’s favorites, eggplants.

Though I haven’t purchased the soil and fertilizers yet, I do have the seeds ready and raring to go.  Although the EarthBox store is still in town, I’m not planning on using their services this time around.  For now, I want to try things the “Wendy Way,” which may or may not be the best way but since this is my experiment, I’ll give my ideas a shot first.  I’ll be starting from seeds instead of seedlings, and I know that green beans grow exceptionally well from numerous grade school growing experiments.  From time to time, I’ll update and show pictures of how my little garden is fairing.  So with spring approaching most of the country, let me know how your garden grows this season.  What’s your favorite plant?  The most bountiful harvest?  Do you can or preserve the fruits of your labor?  I’m looking forward to the eggplants later on this summer and into the fall, and I have an excellent post coming in those days on one of my favorite things in the world.

Happy gardening, and happy Spring!

My "vintage" EarthBox, with Pixel ensuring everything is up to par.  What a good inspector!

My “vintage” EarthBox, with Pixel ensuring everything is up to par. What a good inspector!

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