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Charting life's circuitous path


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Gardening in the City

Review: City Pickers Planter Box

We share our breakfast with a cute little guy.  His twin dark stripes running down his back and little tufty tail mark him clearly as a chipmunk.  We call him Chipper.  Okay, not original, but naming him makes him our little guy.  (Even though it’s impossible to tell if it’s the same chipmunk stuffing its cheeks at the feeder. 😮 )  We’ve yet to name the squirrels, dark red cardinals and sparrows, but Chipper is the reason we keep our feeder well stocked.  Nothing makes me smile more broadly than seeing his fat cheeks.citypick1

I keep a number of container plants on our patio and he loves to dart around and over them as he scopes out his territory.  My mother sighs in exasperation at the squirrels that dig little holes into her dirt, but I think it’s cute.  It’s not like the plants are ever hurt and it reminds me that even the animals have bad memories.

Gardening, though, takes a lot of effort – there’s the planning, buying, potting, pruning and of course, the never ending watering.  Since it’s Spring, I’m  stamping my green thumb all over my small patio with glee, but the real work is only beginning.

My May flowers are definitely filling up the muddy corners and giving everything a touch of (in my case) pink.  Inexplicably, I seemed to have gravitated towards varying shades of pink this year.  Noticing the pink trend in the checkout line, I panicked and thought about swapping out for, say, purple or orange, but I had already envisioned the plants in my pots.   This is the gardening equivalent of trying on an outfit in the fitting room.  Once you picture it in, say, the blue pot on the light blue stand, you might as well put them in the cart and move on.  🙄

citypick2In the past, I used to plant a lot of veggies.  Growing up, vegetables fresh from the garden were an integral part of summer, and I have continued that in our containers. In past apartment balconies, tomatoes grew like weeds and green peppers would be prepped and frozen to keep up with the summer yields.  In our current apartment, I’ve found that I can grow less vegetables due to the limited sunshine.  Our electric bill is lucky to have a tree shading our patio doors, but it isn’t so lucky for the tomatoes.  With only about 4 hours of direct sun, I don’t get the kind of production that an 8 hour day used to provide.  So, I scaled down, both in numbers and in expectations (course, that didn’t stop me from sneaking outside and surreptitiously cutting overhanging limbs like a vandal when no one was around).  😈

However, I’m hoping to change that with my new planter.

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It’s called City Pickers and I saw it in my local Home Depot for about $30.  It promised high yields and a solution to my watering problem (by utilizing a self-watering system).  It also piggybacked on the raised bed idea with its square box shape (24.5 in x 20.5 in) – a great shape, btw, for stability and  quantity.  Nothing tips faster than a top-heavy tomato plant in a round planter.   Amazon reviews were pretty positive, so it’s now sitting on my patio.

The best thing about it?  It has wheels (they aren’t attached yet in the picture).  Honestly, I don’t know if it’ll grow twice the produce or keep my plants watered, but the very fact that I can cart it around easily to chase the sun is a major plus.

Filling the planter with dirt is a bit trickier – you need a specific type of dirt (potting mix and not soil – not sure why), fertilizer (granular and not powder or liquid – again, not quite certain why), and dolomite (which I skipped since its use received bad reviews online and I couldn’t find any at my garden center). Reading the directions is a must.  You have to pre-moisten the soil, set up the planter with the appropriate fixtures and layer the “ingredients” precisely.  It didn’t leave me kicking the pot in anger, but I came close when I had filled it halfway and then realized that I had forgotten to insert the drainage cover.  Yeah, definitely read (and follow!) the directions.

Once you fill it, it supposedly holds quite a number of plants (up to eight, if the image is to be believed), but I was a bit reluctant to overfill.  For one, as much as they want to call it a raised bed, it’s only raised in so far as being “above” ground.  It isn’t a raised bed in any traditional sense with more dirt underneath.  Also, plants needs space – especially plants like tomatoes, peppers and other heavy vegetables.  So, I planted one tomato (a Cherokee purple plant), and two yellow banana peppers.  I’m going to see how they do before I plan for next season.

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The biggest downside to the planter is the provided cover, which is really just a black “shower cap” for your pot.  Supposedly you plant your seedlings through cut holes, but if you’re planting anything you’ve bought from the garden center, then you’ll have to cut such large holes to make it useless.  I attempted to do this with my small tomato plant and gave up.  I might try to cut it up once the heat of summer arrives, but right now, I put it away and the plants are just going to have to live without.

Pros:  Great size for patios, wheels!, attractive vegetable pot

Cons: A bit misleading in advertisement (not really a raised bed, and they make it seem much easier to put together than it is), complicated soil directions, difficult to use cover, inconsistent pricing online (not really a fault of the product, but definitely something to look our for)

I like the planter, but so far, it’s really just a glorified square pot on wheels.  I’m hoping it’ll live up to at least two of its claims (being self-watering and providing high yields), but I’ll have to update this post when summer is over and the verdict is in.   Still, it’s a nice pot if you have the space and I can see myself using it for many summers to come.

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