Pop-Up Cardboard Garden

UPDATE: Our first big harvest! That little cucumber grew up!

Electra has had her cardboard garden for over a month and a half now, and seeing that the cardboard is still in great shape after 6 weeks of rain, watering and sunshine, I thought it was OK to officially let it be known that our pop-up cardboard garden is a keeper.

When I was on a cardboard finding expedition at my local grocery store, the produce manager asked me if I was interested in any of the watermelon boxes they had out behind the store. Watermelon boxes, I thought, why didn’t I think of that before?

Watermelon boxes are made of triple-walled cardboard with a slight waxy finish, and they are super sturdy, even when exposed to rain. This garden isn’t intended to last for more than a summer season, but the cardboard should easily last that long. After we finish picking our tomatoes the plan is to distribute the soil onto the other needy beds in our front yard,  and pack up our watermelon box for curbside recycling.

I used a serrated bread knife that I got from a nearby thrift shop to cut the box down to 12.5″ high. Then I just positioned the box in a bright and sunny area of our front yard.

My husband kindly screened several wheelbarrow loads of compost from our backyard and added it to the garden. The last step was cutting off the little triangles of cardboard on the sides that center the watermelon box onto pallets for shipping.

We decided this would be the perfect first garden for Electra so I let her pick out all of her own plants at the local greenhouse. I encouraged her to choose a variety of vegetables, flowers and herbs. She chose cucumbers, tomatoes, chives, basil, cilantro, rosemary, zinnias and her favorite, geraniums.

She LOVED handling and smelling her plants and breaking up their roots to get them ready for planting.

Here she is watering the new crop, and facing a few skeptic neighbors who were sure we were preparing for failure.

We watered the garden as needed trying to let it dry out as much as possible to encourage deep root growth and preserve the box. I notice after one month of watering the box is starting to break down a little where the bottom  seam is touching the soil. It looks like it’s not to much of a problem at this point, so I’m leaving well enough alone.

After a big rain the cardboard gets a little damp and softens. It will harden up as it dries out, so try not to disturb the cardboard too much when it’s wet. I’m not promising invincibility here folks, but this IS a means of getting a few more cherry tomatoes into your little ones hands, and a great way to kindle a budding love of gardening.

Isn’t this tiny cucumber the cutest thing you’ve ever seen? Seeing it all nestled up next to the side of the triple wall cardboard just about breaks my heart.

11 thoughts on “Pop-Up Cardboard Garden

    • Soon we will be returning to Tokyo to try our hand at balcony “containment” gardening again, but in the meantime, we’re really enjoying this little garden. Congratulations, by the way about the little one on the way! That’s so exciting! I wish I could email you a nice cold glass of something that would make you feel better!

  1. I saw all the cardboard so I knew I must be on your site, but the big yard totally threw me off. It took me a minute to figure out that you’re in the US on holiday. Fun! I just love how experimental you are with cardboard and can’t wait to see the book that I’m sure you must be writing about it 🙂 And if not, you should — I would buy it!

    • Ha! Yes, we are on summer vacation in Michigan, and we have a place here where we can garden, and do a lot of the stuff we don’t get the chance to do in Tokyo, so that’s been great. As far as writing a book, I often wonder why I didn’t do such ambitious things before having children? Thanks for the warm fuzzy though, it would be fun….

  2. I really love the idea! I thought about it already for my garden but never tried it because my area is really rainy…Well maybe the melt carboard could use as mulching after all? Anyway, I toltally agree with Rachelle : I’m sure that a book would be so nice. In fact if I were a craft editor, i would propose a project to you immediattly 😉 Too bad I’m not 😉 But I hope that a real one will contact you for this kind of excinting project! By the way, I jump from one subject to another but do you know this blog : http://mermag.blogspot.fr ? It’s in english and ther are wonderfull cardboard project for kids in it! 😉

  3. I really love the idea! I thought about it already for my garden but never tried it because my area is really rainy…Well maybe the melt carboard could use as mulching after all? Anyway, I toltally agree with Rachelle : I’m sure that a book would be so nice. In fact if I were a craft editor, i would propose a project to you immediattly 😉 Too bad I’m not 😉 But I hope that a real one will contact you for this kind of excinting project! By the way, I jump from one subject to another but do you know this blog : http://mermag.blogspot.fr ? It’s in english and ther are wonderfull cardboard project for kids in it! 😉

    • Hi Agathe, Thanks for your comment! And thanks for your encouragement about getting a book deal, that would be wonderful… but until then I blog on!……Mermag, is an awesome blog that I do follow. Merrilee has such a great eye for graphic shapes and colors. I really do admire her work, it’s so sophisticated. I’ll be starting some bigger cardboard projects when I get back to Tokyo, and I’ll definitely be incorporating some inspiration from her cardboard projects. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. What I love about this project is that it can solve a problem for people who are renting and still want a raised garden. And I love it’s move-ability – if it doesn’t work well in one area – move it next year to another!

    • Thanks Pam! This little garden was a real success. My daughter’s plants grew so well! And you’re right, it would be a great solution for the temporary gardener, (as well as the indecisive gardener.) It seems to be just the right size to keep a small be steady stream of produce flowing your way during the summer months.

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