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Bringing the Garden to the Back Porch: A Quarantine Project

Author: Brittny Leenknegt, DBN Fellow

These past few months, though nothing short of dreadful, have provided me with a little extra time on my hands. With the state of the nation, DBN Fellows Lee, Dimitri and I haven’t been able to work directly in DBN’s garden spaces or greenhouse since quarantine began. No worries, however, since I am using this opportunity to bring my own personal garden to you! Living in an apartment complex doesn’t always provide the best opportunities for gardening. However, I was lucky enough to land in a spot with back porch space that receives roughly 8-10 hours of sunlight per day, and I've decided to put it to good use! In this blog post, I will summarize the construction process, discuss my designs, and share the progress of my very own back porch garden. Perhaps you can build one, too!

Not knowing too much about construction at the start of this project, my first step was to research. While window gardens and garden boxes for railings on porches and balconies aren’t a new concept, for the project I had in mind, we were going to have to think a little bit outside of the box (get it?). (NOTE: For those of you wishing to skip the DIY design and construction process altogether, I have attached some links at the end of this blog for porch planters that are already constructed and ready to go). The design I finally landed on after thoughtful consideration was modeled after saddle bags for horses or motorcycles.

The supporting beam (as seen in the figure above as the 6” piece) was laid directly on top and parallel to the railing itself with just a small overhang on either side. The “saddles” were then screwed into the overhanging sections of the supporting beam on either side of the railing using 2.5” inch screws that I already possessed. All the rest of our materials were purchased from Home Depot. We spent about $20 on soil and fertilizer, and $80 on lumber which purchased 8 ft of 2"x 6" wood for the supporting beam and 24 ft of 2"x 12" wood. Construction for the entire garden bed took around an hour, however if you are trying this project on your own at home know that we did use power tools (saw and drill) so if you don’t have access to these tools then things may move a little slower. Happy building!!

To support this year's Flower Day at Detroit's Eastern Market, I ended up buying a plethora of herbs to grow in our back porch planter this summer. Overall, the cost of the plants came out to around $30 and I was able to pick up the following: lavender, eucalyptus, mint, cilantro, cat nip, chives, cinnamon basil, rosemary, dill, oregano, sage and thyme. Before actually planting the herbs, I did some research on pairing plants to ensure that they have a happy home once in the soil. The figure below is a map of how we spaced out and planted our herbs; the eucalyptus and mint were grown separately in their own planters due to mint’s invasive nature and my personal desire to see the eucalyptus grow as tall and sturdy as possible while not shading out other plants.

This project was started on May 30th, 2020 and has been flourishing ever since! At the top of this post is a side-by-side photo to show our project's growth since its beginning. Our plant babies are VERY happy in their new saddle bag home, and my taste buds are even happier with the deliciously flavored meals seasoned straight from our back porch!!

Not so crafty? Skip the DIY and purchase an already-built planter of your own. Here are some options that I dug up:

  1. Modica Deck Rail Planter - Bloem from Target.

  2. 30-Inch metal planter with biodegradable coconut liner from Lowes.

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