Weekend Project

Justin Newcombe's tips on outdoor DIY projects

Weekend project: One out of the box

By Justin Newcombe

With a small garden or patio space, a bit of inspired thinking is required, writes Justin Newcombe.

Justin Newcombe with his flourishing garden cube. Photo / Dean Purcell
Justin Newcombe with his flourishing garden cube. Photo / Dean Purcell

I'm really interested in small. I think the constraints of size are stimulation for innovation and gardening is no exception. This year I started a bit of a patio garden - a garden lab, if you will - using mainly pots. But I've been looking for opportunities to extend things a bit. Like many patio gardeners, I need to maximise precious ground space as patios are not only garden areas but are also living spaces for people to relax and entertain in. Last year I built a plant wall to use wasted vertical space. But what if you're looking for more of a quick fix, something smaller and easy to do without a lot of fuss? Well using the same technology as a plant wall seems like a good idea (no point reinventing the wheel).

Instead of stacking the cells and joining them together, I thought I'd make a single-cell cube garden on which I could plant the sides as well as the top. This gives me about four times the amount of garden space that I would ordinarily get from the same footprint.

Because this was a bit of an experiment, I had my doubts as to whether the plants would hold their condition.

I was pleasantly surprised. I focused on herbs with some cranberries on the top. I also planted a whole bunch or marigolds on one whole wall. I left the cube for a week without watering when I went away. This happened to be one of the few fine weeks we've had this summer and when I returned the cube was looking really good. In fact, the growth in the plants was as good as anything else we've grown. To make the potting mix lighter I used pre-lite (available at Bunnings), which also stops the soil slumping. The plastic cube comes with special bags to put the soil in but because these are designed for a structure half the width of the cube I wanted I would probably use a section of weed mat to line the box next time. All in all, the results were above my expectations and the vege cube has proved an excellent attractive addition to my patio experiment.

Step 1
Clip the box together, make sure you have all the pieces lined up correctly before you start (it's simple enough). Leave one side unclipped so you can fill the cube. One seam on the box doesn't clip together, so I used trusty old cable ties.

Step 2
Figure out how big the holes need to be for each plant and how you're going to arrange them, then cut them out with a drill and hole-cutter. Smaller and more frequent holes are best.

Step 3
Place the soil bags provided in the cube. Instead of using two bags try using weed mat, which will give you a better fit.

Step 4
Mix your soil and permalite. I used two bags of permalite for one bag of potting mix. The permalite makes the soil lighter and also reduces soil slumping. Fill the bags.

Step 5
Carefully cut the fabric liners for the plants and plant them. Water well. The plants will flop down at first but it won't take long (a day or two) before they grow upright again.

- NZ Herald

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