My Tiny Portable Garden

As part of working up the ambition to re-start the back yard garden, I sprouted some seeds a while back. Now it’s time to “pot them on”. Here’s the result. A tiny garden, one that is also portable…

Started 24 days ago, or a bit over 3 weeks, I’d put the sprouted seeds into small plastic “six packs” for about 2 weeks. Then the beans were “potted on” into larger pint sized plastic pots. Yesterday the beans (that had been “2 to a pot” were separated and placed 2 per large square pot while the largest squash were put “one in the middle”.

Of the 12 original beans, all survived. Of the 12 original squash seeds, only 8 made it to the “true leaf” stage. One or two of the others still might sprout, but I doubt it. Usually if the seed swells and looks like it is starting to push out a root, but doesn’t, that means it was just hydration pressure, not life. Still, a 2/3 germination rate for self saved seeds from a decade back under good but not ideal conditions (refrigerated not frozen) isn’t at all bad.

So here’s the original ‘6 pack’ trays. I’ve moved a few of the smallest squash up the larger round pots and had started some garlic cloves in a tray of shallow dirt, so moved them to the bigger 6 pack (foreground), while the smaller one still has the 4 squash seeds that looked like they were going to sprout, but didn’t..

Tiny Garden 6-pack trays

Tiny Garden 6-pack trays

Here’s the round pots:

Tiny Garden round sprouting pots

Tiny Garden round sprouting pots

In the background you can see the 9 inch x 11 inch glass baking dish used to start the garlic. I kept the soil fairly wet in the bottom 1/4; as sprouts, and especially onions and garlic, don’t like to dry out. In the plastic tray I have the 6 plastic pots that had been used for 2 beans / pot straight from the sprouting tray. In the front left is one little bean that had a rough start. One of the bean halves broke off as it was stuck getting out of the skin. The other got knocked off when I split it from the bigger bean sharing the pot (to plant out that one). So now he’s got the whole pot to himself and can try to catch up. We’ll see if it’s “stunted for life” or now, in the sun, makes a big recovery.

The three squash that were smallest and not ready yet for the Big Pot got potted on to the round pots around it. Then in the far back are a couple of the biggest garlic sprouts. They are the survivors of 2 heads of garlic that sat in a bowl in the kitchen for about a year+ and slowly desiccated. These were THE most stubborn of the cloves (the ones that survived) so I decided they deserved a shot at life in Darwin’s Garden ™.

Next up, the Big Pots. These have a dirt area one foot on a side and about a foot deep. This means you can do the “square foot garden” plan in them directly. They are also small enough to be easily portable. I’m not planning on taking them anywhere just yet, but I am practicing for what might be done with a motor home / coach. Maybe a “Garden Trailer” ;-)

Tiny Garden square foot pots

Tiny Garden square foot pots

In the background you can see the Kingsford BBQ that I reviewed about a year ago. While it has survived the winter out doors, it is also now growing a good bit of rust on the outside. The inside is still fine. While I’d complained about the prior reviewer saying it turned to rust immediately, it clearly isn’t able to survive long outdoors even in California. In a salt air or high humidity location it is likely a “use one summer” or clean and store dry after each use only. I’ll be tossing it a bit later this spring. My Pile Of Bricks BBQ, meanwhile, is still going strong. I’ll reuse the grill wires from the Kingsford for another POB-BBQ.

In the foreground you can see the squash in the center of each pot, and then 2 bean plants on each side. This ought to be a bit crowded, but not too bad. The beans are a small bush type with a recommended 4 to 6 inch final spacing. The squash in an “8-ball” small round type. It would likely be happy with the pot all to itself, OTOH, sharing with a nitrogen fixer is traditionally a good thing. We’ll see.

Since just 2 of these plants give enough squash to make even a regular squash lover “over supplied”, having 8 started is serious over-supply. I’ll likely end up with just 4 pots being the main garden and then one or two “run to seed”. I have no idea what 12 bean plants will provide as I usually grow pole beans. OTOH, I’ve occasionally had ‘some critter” top a whole row of young beans (which is what started me on the path of sprouting in a tray, planing in small pots indoors, and only planting out when larger) so no sense counting my beans before they pod…

Were I seriously in need of a food supply, I’d have planted radishes and greens early. They would be approaching “first harvest” already. There are old folks stories about the “first radishes of spring” as folks (finally!) got to eat something fresh instead of living on root cellar (that often ran out end of winter) and dry goods. Root crops don’t transplant well, though, so are not well suited to my tray to pot to container approach here. For them, I’d likely just plant a large container of radishes and carrots as soon as frost kill was past. (Or put them under light indoors until the weather was good enough to set them out.) I once grew a whole flat of radishes in my bedroom ( I was 12 at the time) and was thrilled to watch them reaching for the window / light… until they all got way too long, fell over and bent their stems, and died. Many plants, including radishes, need some UV light to know they have gotten above ground and can stop extending. Note to self: Buy UV bulb for indoor sprouting / growing… Sold in pet stores for lizards. About 1/2 hour / day ought to be enough, but the seedling will let you know by stopping the extension, putting out more leaves, and greening up.

The “soil” in each pot a bit “odd”. I have about 4 inches (compressed) of whatever I mowed off the front lawn in the bottom. It will compost / rot before the roots get to it. Above that is about 4 inches of cheap “garden soil” that is really just wood chips 1/2 composted and bagged. 3 cu. ft. for $8.47 at Home Depot. Not very good soil, lacking in minerals, and not composted well enough. Then the top layer where most of the roots will be is a very nice “bio-char” potting soil. I’ll be using Miracle Grow fertilizer to help with this whole thing. Normally I mix bagged compost (or my own) in with 1/2 dug dirt from the yard / garden; but as I still have not reached the dirt out back, this is an alternative. IF it doesn’t do well enough, then should that manifest, I’ll just dig a hole in the garden square and de-pot the whole root ball into it. Water in, and move on. But I’ve used this pattern before and it did well. I’ve even used broken up twigs in the bottom 3 inches. Eventually some mold or other breaks them down.

When the dry season comes, I set pots in a Builders Tub. These are about 6 inches deep and a couple of feet by 3 ish feet. Sold for things like mixing plaster and such at the hardware store. Then I keep water in the bottom just about 1 inch above the bottom hole of the pots. This lets them keep the soil moist without a lot of tending by me and without a lot of wasted water. Any water in excess gets caught in the tub and soaks back up into the pots over time. VERY useful in a dry climate like here. Probably a mistake in places with summer rains.

So there you have it. My Tiny Garden. Portable & Efficient. IF the packages can be believed, I ought to have some harvest from these plans in about the last 2 weeks of April. Or I’ll have some very happy yard critters ;-) I don’t believe squirrels eat squash… then again, I didn’t know they liked Tangelos until I saw them hauling one off to eat on the fence. These pots are right next to Squirrel Highway (the fence) so “we’ll see” ;-)

Subscribe to feed


About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
This entry was posted in Emergency Preparation and Risks, Food, Plants - Seeds - Gardening and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to My Tiny Portable Garden

  1. H.R. says:

    The pictures accompanying your update are very much appreciated, E.M. +10

    All that seed and gardening talk a few weeks ago got me interested in starting my garden from seed this year. I was raised planting direct in the garden from seed (except tomato plants) but time and lack of space for potting my own seeds had me buying the potted starters from the garden store.
    This year I’m going to start my garden from seed, so next up is germinating and then potting week. Our historical guaranteed frost-free date is May 20th, so back that up 6 weeks and… hey! That’s next week!
    Grills – Cleaning out the upstairs office, I ran across the receipt for my Ducane Stainless Steel 5-burner natural gas grill, Model 401907. I bought it in May of 2007 for $827, so it will be celebrating its 12th birthday in two months.

    Other than some grease and burger/steak char, it’s still like new. The only items that weren’t stainless steel on that grill were the burner knobs and the center part of the handle for the lid. I do need to replace the innards this year. There’s an OEM replacement kit for the 3-piece SS wire grill racks, 5 burner tubes, and 5 heat/drip plates that will set me back a whole $73 dollars, shipping is included. I could clean and reuse the grill sections, but I think I’ll recycle the old racks to the fire pit.

    I’ll pressure wash the whole grill, pop in the replacement parts and it should be good to go until my son inherits it along with the rest of my estate ;o)

  2. Larry Ledwick says:

    My “average” last frost date is May 21-31 but then again I have seen several inches of new snow on the ground the first week of June so, you watch the forecast and make your best guess.

    I still haven’t decided for sure if I want to mess with it this year – we will have to see if the apartment complex drawing for a garden plot works out.

    I have some led grow lights so I can carry the sprouts a week or so indoors beyond when you would normally put them outside if the weather is being difficult.

  3. E.M.Smith says:

    @Larry L:

    So, you have 2 square feet of space on your balcony? That’s enough for a squash, 2 green beans, a carrot bed and some salad greens…. just sayin’.,, about $20 all up.

  4. Larry Ledwick says:

    The space is not the issue – I have no windows that face east, south or west and my balcony is fully shaded 90% of the day, only gets sun in the summer for an hour or so after sunrise. It faces due north not exactly the ideal location for plants that need full sun or even partial shade.

  5. Bill in Oz says:

    And here am I getting the garden beds ready for our Autumn/Winter sowings & plantings. I’ve got 4 diferent types of broad beans, 3 types of radish, 4-5 types of peas, tat soi and bok choi, Mizuna, plus lots of garlics.

    The days are cool to cold here but so far zip rain. so still very dry. …Most years we have a few week s of warm to hot weather in March but not this year. It feels like a cold Winter is coming on… I wonder what that Antarctic polar vortex is doing ?

  6. Paul, Somerset says:

    For the really old folks, I think the first crop of spring would have been dandelions. There’s a good reason the passengers brought dandelion seeds with them on the Mayflower.

    They’re certainly an acquired taste to the modern palate, but for at least eight or nine months of the year here in England my usual lunch involves strolling out to the lawn, digging up a couple of dandelions, roots and all, and including them with whatever else goes in my sandwich. The great thing is that before long the same plant will have grown back for another sandwich – it’s impossible to remove all of those deep taproots.

    I sometimes wonder how much the sudden, almost universal removal of dandelions from the modern diet contributes to certain aspects of ill health. We must have evolved in some ways to depend on a vegetable that seems to be almost unique in its ready availability.

  7. E.M.Smith says:

    I have been known to munch a few dandylions while picking them for the bunnies – who just love them…

  8. Simon Derricutt says:

    The French name for dandelion is pissenlit. Literally urinate in the bed. Maybe has some undesirable effects if you eat too much at the wrong time….

  9. H.R. says:

    @Larry L. – Since you’re short on acreage [grin] and it seems getting one of the complex’s garden plots might be iffy, here’s a link to a vertical garden system that should fit on your patio.

    It seems a bit pricey to me, but the idea is there and the carpentry is simple. If you still have a friend willing to lend you some garage space for a weekend and you have a circular saw, you could build one to suit your patio.

    I’m considering making one for my patio and using it for an herb garden. I have the 8′ x 8′ raised bed that I’m going to plant veggies in, but I don’t want to take up space with herbs. I used to have herbs scattered here and there in the flower beds, but Mrs. H.R. wants flowers in the beds.

    I’m also thinking of making a narrow one for an indoor year ’round herb garden. We have a South-facing wall-o-windows that keeps our other plants happy over the winter. I’ve got room for a narrow vertical planter and I like the idea of an automatic watering system (see bottom of that link) so when we’re snowbirding, our son only has to fill a water reservoir from time to time.

    Anyhow, it’s something worth considering for the acreage-challenged.

  10. E.M.Smith says:


    I think Larry’s point was that he is NOT area challenged so much as DARK challenged with a North facing patio.

    My Old College Roomie has a minor forest of plants in his living room (picture window facing south) but nothing on the north wall outside…

    While I once did a “grow” of M.J. in my living room using only a 4 foot fluorescent “shop light” over pots (3 stacked cinder blocks at each end with shelves in between for starting and full grow in the back row. Wall covered in aluminum foil…) you won’t get a whole lot of “crop” that way.

    Would be nice for herbs, but not much more.

    Then again, with LED bulbs being so efficient, there are full on indoors greenhouses…. So I would guess it all depends on motivation ;-) …. Or ought I say fixation ;-)

  11. H.R. says:

    Re Larry in the Great Frozen North ;o)

    I forgot about the North-facing patio. That was a bit upthread, I believe or maybe on the cold garden thread; recent, but I forgot.

    I still like the design of that vertical unit, particularly for an herb garden.

    Oh, E.M… I ran across that vertical garden while searching Home Depot for those 12″ x 12″ square pots in your photo. I’ve seen those many times, and I think I only bought them once or twice but that was years ago. I was thinking of using a row of those along the outside edge of my garden to keep the alligators* out ;o) or maybe use them for leafy greens, which I didn’t want to put in the 8′ x 8′ garden.

    *I have never had alligators in the backyard, so whatever it is I’m doing, it seems to work. ossqss, OTOH, does have alligators in his back yard.

  12. Larry Ledwick says:

    I have enough LED panels to grow a fair amount indoors if I had too (and had power – one of the reasons for now accumulating 1 kw of solar panels) but in my current location all that would only be a viable option in a total shtf situation. I could also use small planters that I could carry out and place in the sun during the day if I had to. The garden plot drawing was just yesterday but I do not know if I won a plot – will check later in the day. The garden plot down the street has better size growing beds any way, but you have to pay a small membership fee to participate in the community garden.

    I am now buying secondary parts for the solar system (switches, wire, circuit breakers etc.) the last two things I will buy are the actual batteries (since they have a relatively short service life), and the MPPT solar controller. I have some cheaper controllers but as in all technology, buy the high end technology as late in the production cycle as possible to benefit from moore’s law effects.

  13. Pingback: Spuds, Buckets, Ruth Stout, Arbors, & Winter Greens | Musings from the Chiefio

  14. Pingback: Gardening In Construction Tubs & Pots | Musings from the Chiefio

Comments are closed.