Sunday, April 11, 2010

It's Not Just a Bowl Anymore!

Yesterday with the help two new friends, Debbie and Amber, I spent some time in the spring sunshine working on creating "salad bowl planters" that will become centerpieces for a fund raising event for a local non-profit.  I love ideas that are inexpensive and this one is a good one.

  • 1 large vinyl plastic bowl (approximately 7 liters)  The Dollar Tree has really great ones in bright colors.
  • 1 6-pak of lettuce  (see list of other plant options below)
  • The best potting soil you can afford 
TIP: If you compost you can add a couple inches of your good compost to last year's potting soil to rejuvenate it for using here.
  • A Drill
  • "Step down" bit (I've included a picture below)
  • Cardboard   (for making a drilling template for the drainage holes)
  • Ruler
  • Pencil or marking pen

Vinyl is better than acrylic to drill

For this project we tried using two different types of bowls, clear acrylic and vinyl plastic.  Both bowls were purchased at our local Dollar Tree though you can find other similar bowls at most any store that sells tableware.

You will need to draw out a template for where the holes in your container will be.  If your container is round like our bowls its pretty easy to do using  a compass or a bowl with the same diameter as the bottom of your bowl.  If it is a container that is another shape you will need to trace around the bottom edge.  This doesn't have to be exact as you will see later.  You are only using this as a guide.

Dissecting lines help decide hole placement

For this template I measured and cut the cardboard circle and marked where I wanted the drainage holes drilled using dissecting perpendicular lines.  I placed the templates over the bottom of the bowls and drilled away.  One thing I will add here is that you need to try to avoid pressing down while drilling as the weight of the drill should be enough to cut into the plastic.  This is especially true if you are drilling acrylic.  The thin acrylic bowls we had were a real pain to drill as the brittle plastic tended to want to crack if any weight was put on the drill at all.  The bit tended to not cut into it as easily either.  It made me wish all of the bowls had been vinyl.  I suppose if the acrylic had been thicker the cracking wouldn't have been an issue but it still would have been harder to drill through than the vinyl.  The vinyl bowls were like drilling into butter.  Vinyl is a softer pliable plastic that resists cracking making it a better choice for this type of project.

The close-up here is of the step down drill bit.  Its a cool bit as it allows you more control over the size of the hole you drill stepping down bit by bit to specific sizes.

Line up before drilling

I also tried drilling at two different levels to see which worked best.  First on a tall stool which was all right but didn't allow me the control of the drill I needed and I found myself tempted to put too much pressure on the drill causing that nasty cracking in the acrylic bowls.  Next I switched to counter height and that worked great!  I was able to see where it was drilling much better and it was easier to control the drill.

The stool was a little low to drill on

All the bowls had a mold mark in the middle of the bottom which made lining up the template a breeze and was the first hole I drilled on each.  I wasn't so concerned about the holes being centered exactly as much as I was that there were enough of them of proper size so once it was planted the bowl would drain properly.  Mine were about 3/8" and I put 5 holes in the bottom of each bowl.  I suppose if you are the type that has a reasonably good eye you could skip using a template all together as the bottom of the bowl is never seen once its planted anyway.

Finished holes

With the holes all drilled we took the bowls outside to our potting station and got ready to plant.  Our bench was a couple of sawhorses and a piece of plywood which worked well for the three of us to work in an assembly line fashion.  Because we had over 20 to make up we found that filling all the bowls with soil first quite helpful as it saved a lot of going back and forth from one end of the bench to the other.  We set the potting soil at the end of the bench where the bowls were so we could easily fill them and once filled, stacked them three high which was also a great height for planting up.

Each bowl has a scrumptious variety
Next we split apart the 6-paks of lettuce which were a gourmet blend which offered a really pretty blend of leaf colors, textures and shapes.  We then selected out a good mix of lettuces for each bowl and potted them up.  Once potted up we checked to be sure the plants were planted at the same depth as they were in their little 6-paks, gently tucked the soil around their roots making sure they were all snugged in and then watered them.

Once they were all planted we set them into a nice warm sunny raised bed we had prepared in advance and where they were watered in and left to grow.  Part of the reason I chose the raised bed is the soil they will sit on is already warmer than on the in ground soil and I can easily throw a frost blanket over them if there is a threat of hail or frost.  It also keeps them out of the paths of cats or other critters which roam our back yard.

Tucked all cozy so they will grow nice and lush

Today when I went out and checked on the bowls, the little lettuces were already perking up. They are going to make beautiful statements as a part of the centerpieces at our event.

Here are some other ideas on what you can plant in a bowl like this.
  • Pansies, marigolds, petunias or other shorter annual flower.
  • Herbs such as basil, parsley, chives, oregano, mint, thyme, chervil, cilantro
  • Radishes, beet greens, micro greens
  • Cat grass...oh indoor cats go bonkers for this but make sure your bowl won't tip over if they step into it which they might try to do after they have eaten around the edges.
  • Succulents...hens and chicks, sedums and other succulents
  • Spring blooming bulbs (plant in the fall and protect from freezing)
  • Dwarf dahlias, tuberous begonias, fuchsia and other premium annuals
Happy Gardening Everyone!

Copyright © 2010 by Patty Hicks
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