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Elmlane

Fred's Views


No Green Thumb

My darling wife likes to garden. No problem. Except, she wants me to garden too. Big problem. I hate to garden. The cynic might protest that I am merely lazy, and the cynic would be right, but that is not the whole tale. I don't really like the whole idea of getting down and dirty with nature, especially to grow just flowers.

Now, don't get me wrong, I like looking at (and taking pictures of) beautiful flowers at least as much as (and probably more than) the next guy. I just don't enjoy the process of creating those beautiful flowers. My creative juices flow in another, more technically oriented, direction.

Now, I'm not quite so unhappy about vegetable gardening. After all, you can eat the rewards of your hard labor, and I like to eat. So, off and on over the years we have had a vegetable garden. We've always had some flowers around but, since my wife still holds down a full-time job, and I can't tell a flower from a weed to save my life, the flower gardens sometimes don't look their best simply because she runs out of time and energy.

We have another problem in our area. Our land is hard clay. Over the years, some of our garden patches have improved with the addition of better soil, peat moss and the like. Still, working up the soil in spring is a hard job, even for a rotor-tiller, when it will run. No doubt this fact has added to my dislike. So, last year, we bought a couple of truck loads of soil for an expanded flower garden my wife wanted to add to our front lawn. What beautiful soil to work with it was, too.

This year, my wife has decided to expand our vegetable garden and has bought some more soil. We're going to build some "boxes" about five feet wide, place the soil in them, and then use these new areas for our garden. We've got the soil, but, as of the beginning of April, I haven't built the boxes yet.

To go along with our expanded garden, my wife thought it would be a good idea to start our garden plants indoors. One of the problems with our vegetable gardens in the past was that much of the fruit was just getting ripe as the first frost hit. To start our plants inside, we would need a growing center complete with growing lights.

We did some shopping and discovered that to buy a metal growing stand complete with lights would set us back nearly $500. That's a lot of money. It's also a lot of vegetables. So, we decided to build our own. While the final cost was far less than $500, it was also a fair bit of change.

I built the stand using 2 x 3 "studs" as the frame. Each stud cost a little more than $2, and I needed ten of them. I also needed four 1 x 2's to add some support for the shelves which were made out of 1/8 inch pegboard (I had that lying around). One of our goals was to make this stand as light as possible - which didn't work out too well. I used a few metal braces to help keep the stand rigid and "square". Of course, the stand needed lights. I had three or four fluorescent light fixtures lying around, so I used those. I ended up having to buy two when the ones I had didn't perform as expected. Finally, I needed the grow lights. Each one of them set me back nearly $7. Oops, one more thing, I had to wire the lights, including switches to turn each one off and on. Here's my parts list, rounded for simplicity:

ItemCost
10 - 2" x 3" x 8' studs$20
4 - fluorescent fixtures$80 (to buy new)
8 - "grow" fluorescent tubes$56
8 metal supports$12
1 4' x 8' sheet of per board$8
4 - 1" x 2" x 8' strapping for support$5
wiring, 4-outlet switch box, 4 switches, junction box$20 (more if I hadn't had a three-prong cord lying around
nails and screws$5

Total cost of my 4' x 2' x 6' high stand: $206. A savings of more than $200. It may not look as attractive as its more expensive counterpart, but its stronger, more durable, and somewhat larger.

It's also full. We have trays (@$2 each) full of tiny tomato plants, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, squash and some flowers. Almost every small container has sprouted at least one plant. So far, knock on my wooden plant stand, they are all doing well. I really haven't minded helping my wife get these new plants started, but I'm still not that anxious to move the whole production outside.

We have so many plants, I have absolutely no idea what we will do with them all. I also have no idea where we'll store the stand once the inside growing season is over. It currently sits in the walkway between our former dining room (which is now part of our larger kitchen) and our living room, which we never "live" in and seldom even visit. Still, it's projects like this one that guarantee my retirement will not be uneventful or unproductive. As if I needed more than a half-dozen web sites to keep me busy.

Okay, so this column wasn't particularly biting, sarcastic, insightful or funny. At least the price was right - and I didn't even mention Microsoft. See you next week.

Copyright © 2002 by Fred Oldfield. All rights reserved.


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