Knock Knock Knock.
Honestly I should have done this one earlier in the season, but sometimes life gets in the way of best laid plans, right? So here we are in a heat wave and I am deciding it’s time to PLANT.
Right now I am in New York City and let’s face it: no one has outdoor space here. A lot of people in regular America don’t either. This project is for you. Condo people, apartment dwellers, all of ya’ll whose soul is yearning for dirt to dig in but don’t know where to find it.
Thursday night is “Big Trash Night” in Manhattan, meaning that people put out big things. It’s astonishing what you see on the streets. Mannequins, sofas, baby cribs, washing machines, tv’s, and the most useful for today’s purposes: CHEST OF DRAWERS. (Below is an example, not the actual one I got…just proving my point!)
I was on the way to do the show and someone had put out a vintage midcentury chest. It was beat up, but looked clean. I walked on to work and thought DRAWERS. I had the intent to build out some window boxes from scratch, but why not source those deep dove-tailed drawers for window boxes? I spent the entirety of the show focusing on whether or not the chest would be there when I got home. Eureka, it was! So I drug a few drawers up to my place and thoroughly disinfected them and myself. (Note: don’t EVER pick up something with soft surfaces or fabric off the street unless you want some bedbugs.)
Let’s get to the real work.
Put down a drop cloth. Make sure your drawers are clean. If you want to hit any varnished areas with sandpaper, knock yourself out. These aren’t going to last for the rest of your life so you don’t need to be that meticulous. The moisture of the dirt is going to rot them over time so be as meticulous as you want, but don’t get crazy. Unless you ARE crazy and that’s just how you do things.
Remove the hardware. You can save this for another project if it’s pretty.
Paint those suckers. Or don’t. If you like the wood tone and you want people to know it used to be a drawer, that’s a valid aesthetic choice. Don’t be afraid of color here. I can be timid about color; I wear a grey t-shirt every single day. But in honor of this project I have on purple Converse. Let your house/dwelling/domicile be your grey t-shirt and your window box be your purple Cons!
While you’re letting the paint set up, go get you some hardware. Based on what kind of ledge you have or don’t have, you can use mending plates or L brackets. I am using mending plates and shimming the underside of the drawers with some 1×6. Shimming is the process of leveling something with smaller pieces of wood that you ideally do not want to see. If you are using L brackets you might be level without shims.
Measure out where you want them. Symmetry is sublime.
Affix the hardware. Use a substantial wood screw so you have some structural integrity. No one wants to clean up a box full of dirt. Yes, I took my shirt off – I am f****** melting. You’ll read why in a sec.
Screw those boxes in place.
Drill some drain holes in the bottom of the box.
Paint out the exposed hardware if you want. And if you have exposed hardware, you definitely should want. 🙂
A standard drawer is going to hold about a cubic foot of dirt before being planted (this is assuming you’re using plants already started from a home improvement center or nursery). Please have more sense than me and don’t try to schlep 2 cubic feet of dirt home in sacks on your shoulders through midtown Manhattan in the midst of a heat wave. I wish I had a photo to insert here, but you’ll have to use your imagination.
Plant those suckers. Be creative; flowering plants and herbs coexist peacefully. Be sure to drop some vine-type plants over the sides. Sweet potato vines are a little banal, but damn if they don’t always look nice. Vinca vine is always nice. If your box is going in a spot that gets blasted with sun, a patio tomato plant is not out of the question.
Find out about planting combinations in the next article! Wishing you and your green thumb much success.
This is The Gentleman Caller signing out.