Wooden wine boxes are free from my local liquor store, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy to get.
They’re only available for a short time each year, usually in the fall, when the year’s Bordeaux wines are released. And there are usually only a few stores in Vancouver that carry fine Bordeaux in crates, meaning that many of the wine connoisseurs in town line up on the same drizzly morning to get their hands on a limited quantity.
Once you’re inside, it’s basically survival of the fittest. Most of the people at the store are there for the actual wine (obviously), but a decent number of us want the cases they come in. It’s confusing to figure out where to locate boxes, and then, once you do, there’s a lot of waiting and the occasional need to elbow a wedding planner or two out of your way.
Somehow, this year, I managed to score a whopping 13 boxes. The pile was higher than I was, and extremely hard to move through the store. But I did it!
At the time, I was preparing to teach Urban Garden Abundance for Hollyhock, and the boxes were the basis of my class project.
Wine boxes are the perfect way to explore the basic principles of urban food production, because just like the 4’x8’ raised beds out in my garden, we can build crop protection over them. And they use repurposed materials — always a bonus.
At Urban Garden Abundance, each student planted up their own wine box, and it was a total success. The tough little boxes withstood some weird weather (multiple hailstorms and unseasonably hot days) just fine. Everyone ended up with a lovely crop of succulent baby greens.
For something that looks so simple, these boxes require a fair bit of work to prepare. You could probably skip the clear coat, sanding and reinforcement, but do make sure to drill some holes in the bottom.
- Wooden Bordeaux box
- NON-TOXIC, eco-friendly waterproofer (to help prevent mould) -- I used Seal-Once: http://www.seal-once.com/
- Drill with a bit about the width of a pencil
- Optional: nails and small brackets
- Potting soil
- Thumb tacks
- Mini greenhouse hoops or bent hangers
- Clear plastic
- Large clips (office clamps work well)
- Seeds -- mustards, lettuce, mesclun mix or arugula work well.
- First, prepare the box. Scrub off the sticky labels if you’re so inclined and sand off the sharp edges. Then coat it with your non-toxic sealant, inside and out. Consider reinforcing any weak parts of the box with nails or brackets (the top corners can split apart over time), and making little “feet” with the bottle holders that come inside the boxes. Finally, drill a bunch of holes into the bottom of the box for drainage.
- Next, place your planter where you want it, and fill it with soil, leaving about an inch of space at the top.
- If you’d like to plant more than one type of seed in your box, use thumb tacks and and string to divide it into two to four sections. This technique is exactly like what I do with my big raised beds out in the garden, only much smaller!
- Poke some mini greenhouse hoops (they’re hard to find, but I managed to get mine from a dollar store), bent hangers or strong wire securely into the soil-filled planter.
- Give it a good sprinkling, and then plant some seeds! Be sure to label them well.
- Finally, drape your box with clear plastic (leave the ends open, with a bit of overhang -- that way, it can have airflow when it’s nice outside, but you can also close it up if there’s a cold snap or a storm). Use clips to hold the plastic down.
- There you have it! Keep an eye on your box and water it regularly (the porous wood makes it prone to drying out) and enjoy! These boxes are perfect for growing “baby” sized greens -- don’t let them get much bigger than that.