Last year at this time, we tried to grow things. We had really, really good results with green beans, Kitchen King to be exact. Apparently, wild animals aren't fond of green beans. I gather that from my observations of last year's yard, in a rural (lakefront) setting, where every animal from otter to deer came to munch at my container garden. They didn't eat the green beans. They ate everything else, including the small watermelon two chipmunks carted away. They ate those, and squash, sweet peas, sunflowers, basil, oregano, rosemary, tomatoes and various lettuces. I put down cat hair. I borrowed dog hair. I put down various stinks. Nothing worked. When we moved, I didn't think we would attempt growing food again, sticking to roses, geraniums, marigolds and mums.
I am not enchanted with the soil, although I am enchanted with convenience. What can be more convenient than walking into one's yard and snagging a piece of fruit or salad fixings? Don't have to walk or drive to the store. Don't have to spend money after the initial investment. Walk out back, pick it, wash it, prepare it, eat it, clean up.
So it was with great reluctance that I tried again this year. The kids really, really wanted to start seeds again, as we've done for the past two years. What the heck?
The kids were the ones who suggested we try a Topsy Turvy™. They were on sale at CVS in April, so I thought, what the heck, get two.
Well, the seeds we started didn't turn out as well as could be expected, giving us some scruffy spinach and malformed cucumbers. We did all right on the herbs we already planted. So it was a trip to Walmart and Lowes that produced our starter plants this year.
It's not a sin in my mind not to be able to grow seed past a certain point. I am not saving my excrement, as I know one member of my extended family has done, to compost; in fact, I am not starting a major composting project. I make a compromise between plant leavings, purchased compost, good old earthworms (buy them at Walmart in sporting goods), Scotts soil, and half of what the bottle of MiracleGro recommends per application. The plants we chose were guaranteed to grow and produce, or my money would cheerfully be refunded.
I got out the Topsy Turvies™, let the kids construct them, stuck two tomato plants in each, and looked for a place to hang them. I checked the garage sofit for possible permanent hooks from past Christmases and the attending lights. No luck. I looked at the fence. No go. I was just about resigned to buying some device to hold the planters, such as a tall shepherd's crock, when I saw it, actually them, two, sitting in my backyard with nothing better to do.
We live in a suburban city in an older home that has been renovated. Walls have been removed, placed elsewhere. Central heat and air have been installed. What was apparently once a back porch is now a combo dining room/ sitting room.
However, in the back yard is a set of poles designed to hold laundry lines. They appear to be cast iron. They are very well set into the ground with cement. Unless there is an earthquake, they aren't going to be moved any time soon.
No, I don't hang out my laundry if I can avoid it, except the occasional sheets and blankets in the spring. The money it would save me in the short and long run doesn't compensate me for the time I need to perform the chore. Don't say have the kids do it. It's been tried. It involved even more time spent on supervision.
The poles happen to have four hooks on either end to catch the clothesline. The hooks also happen to be a great size to catch the end of the Topsy Turvy™.
So, we hung them there and waited. WHAM. In a month, we were looking at plants. We added two watermelon plants, along with two bell pepper plants, all in Topsy Turvies™. We also stuck a cucumber plant on its last legs. By July, we had the first fruits from every plant except the cucumber, but we weren't expecting that one to make it.
I've been hearing in the news how the drought has been making it hard for things to grow. I've seen, first-hand and on TV, where corn is tassling but there is no ear to grow. Gas prices are already up for transportation of all goods. Prices are already up on produce this year, along with prices on frozen and canned goods. There are no guarantees who will win various elections, so we can't count on that to change things in the grocery store.
That got me into a long contemplation. That made me reach for a ruler, a tape measure, a calculator, a pen and pencil.
If we raise our own vegetables next year in Topsy Turvies™, and if the vegetables actually grow and produce fruit, subtracting the initial expense for more Topsy Turvies™, cable or chain to run from each pole; then the annual purchases of soil, compost, fertilizer, seeds and plants; we could still save at least $800 by harvesting fruits and veg from the Topsy Turvy™ center. If food prices escalate, that $800 could be even more money.
I've already picked up 8 Topsy Turvies™ from Big Lots, and plan to look at the other Big Lots in my locale for more of them. They are $2.50 each. Do I care if they are last year's model? No. I've found blogs and sites (here, here and here) that also tell how to make a homegrown version of Topsy Turvy™. If I can avoid it, I will, as the homemade don't seem to do as well as the real deal. But to fill up the space, it wouldn't hurt to try.
They'll be more on my experiment next year. For now, we are about to have a bumper crop of tomatoes from four plants, and our watermelons look promising. The pot garden (can't really call it container gardening) produces plenty of leafy stuff, along with two experimental strawberry plants. I've got to get busy with canning jars or some such!