by Mireille Bourgeois
I got a few discounted wooden baskets from the hardware store to make some outdoor planters for some easy-to-grab eats throughout the summer. The gardening experts I’ve read recommend having a few planters close to the kitchen so that you’re not running to the back yard all the time to get some basil, and lettuce, etc. Personally I don’t mind going through that trouble, it’s just an excuse to go look at the garden! But I do get the concept. Our entire property is built on an anthill, ants everywhere. I really don’t know if the garden will be infested or if it will fall under the acceptable ant level for veggie gardens. I’ve taken precautions already after seeing them take over my planters before I had a chance to water and plant them. They are impressive actually. When I’m digging down to set my planters in place, I often find ant oasis’ and feel kind of bad to rip right through. I’ve resolved to take as many precautions as I can, but not to resist the fact that there will be ants.
I’ve heard ants can steal the seeds that you plant (brilliant really, I probably laid out quite a feast for them!), and that they attract aphids. These are two things I’m not sure I can surpase. I bought Diatomaceous earth and sprinkled a good amount on the edges of my planter’s soil. This earth is apparently very irritating to crawl on, and helps scare off slugs and supposedly ants. I recently planted a planter full of carrots, lettuce, spinach, beets, green onions and leeks. These are the perfect little seeds to be carried off by ants. I hope the diatomaceous earth helps. Yesterday I noticed some ants actually carrying the little balls of the Dia earth through the bed. Sigh. But maybe I didn’t powder it enough. (PS: beware not to inhale this stuff, it can cause respiratory issues. However, it is pet and food safe). I also noticed a few little seedlings starting to poke through so I’m hopping the ants didn’t steal the lot!
Due to the ants, I wanted to create a few balcony planters to see if they have different type of resistance against pests. I accidentally left one in the grass and the ants took it over within 10 minutes. (I should never be responsible for controlled experiments). A couple of weeks on my balcony and I think “most” of the ants have left it.
For my planter, I got a garbage bag, some clothespins, garden gloves, a spray bottle and a watering can (and of course, my seeds). From what I’ve read on seed germination, I know that seeds like to be in the dark for the first few days. They also like to be very warm. I also know that there is a short window, where the seedling can get damping off symptoms like mould or rotted roots. It can be tricky to prevent, but here’s what I did.
Fill the planter with soil. I recommend a potting soil combination or using garden soil if it’s also mixed with peat moss and compost. I heard that just using gardening soil will be too heavy and start to pack down the planter as it’s watered. I used a garden soil combination with peat and compost. Water the soil evenly until the water starts coming out of the bottom of the basket. Lay your seeds down on the surface of the soil where you want them, but do not dig them in. I planted a salad planter: spinach, thai basil, cilantro, and chives. In a smaller one, I planted a bunch of red leaf lettuce. Sprinkle 1/4 inch of soil on the entire surface of the planter. Use the spray bottle to wet the surface so that you don’t drown your seeds (watering cans tend to pour the water in too large amounts). Spray it well, but do not soak. Cut the garbage bag in a circle, about two inches wider than the planter opening (you can trim afterwards like I did). Clothespin the bag on the planter opening and then cut out little aeration holes. I chose not to just put the whole thing in a bag, since I wanted the aeration of the holes on the sides of the planter. There you have it! A little greenhouse! I recommend leaving the planter in the full sun, letting it get nice and warm, and then storing it in the garage or indoors overnight (unless it’s a warm spring.). We had a cold spring, so I took them in at night.
Check your planter every day by lifting up one side of the plastic bag, making sure your soil isn’t moulding, and that the seeds haven’t outgrown the cover and are touching the plastic bag. Spray the surface with your spray bottle if the soil is dry. I took the bag off after the 4th day after I notice a tiny bit of mould. It’s been a couple of weeks now and the seeds have mostly survived! It has been VERY cold and windy and rainy for the last two weeks. The seedlings have been a bit stunted. In fact the large planter has nothing growing in the middle, I can’t remember what I planted there, but I think it was the chives. I’ll wait another week, and maybe I’ll replant something in that space. Also, I’m noticing that all my lettuces and spinach is growing long and spindly. If anyone has tips of how to get the perfect lettuce and spinach please comment below! I know I have to thin the lettuce, just waiting until they’re a bit bigger. Anyhow, I’m enjoying this process. Enjoy your planter planting!