Growing Your Own Mini-Garden

The picture above is our own little onion farm. A few weeks ago, we planted a dozen white onion bulbs in an 18″ rectangular planter box we bought from Walmart for about $5. We got about 2 dozen onion bulbs for $4 and the planter fit half of the pack. Total cost of the “farm” = $7, but any subsequent planting will be substantially less since we’ve already paid for the planter. Oh, I didn’t add in the cost of soil, but it’s probably less than 50 cents since I bought a large bag of it last year for about $3.

So why onions? Well, we figured they couldn’t be that hard to grow and we didn’t want to mess with seeds just yet. Both of our dads have large gardens, but only a smidgen of that knowledge has been passed down to us. We figured we would start small and easy and work our way up to tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, etc.

So why not plant a bigger garden? Since we have enough yard space for a decent-sized garden, you would think we would have tried a little harder, right? However, we would want to create a raised garden for protection against rabbits (they like our yard) and ground saturation, and that’s just more work than we’re committed to right now. Maybe in the future, but for now we’ll stick to the small, portable boxes.

As far as growth, we were kind of freaked out at how fast the onions grew (they’re about 8 inches high now) in just a few days after sprouting. It’s amazing that a dry bulb that sat on a store shelf and in our house for weeks could grow so quickly and easily with just some water and soil. I don’t really know what we’ll do with so many onions, especially since they’re not the large kind as we planted them close to each other (on purpose). I guess we’ll be eating a lot of onion sandwiches and salads!

So our first experiment was a grand success and we’ll be harvesting the first crop shortly. I’ll just need to add a little more potting soil before the next crop and we’ll try for larger onions (just plant them farther apart).

So if you’d love to have a garden, but have limited or no land, or just don’t want the hassle of a big garden, think about buying planter boxes. You can bring them indoors when it rains too much or it’s too cold, etc. You can’t grow deep-root veggies like carrots and potatoes in the shallow box I got, but larger pots will do nicely!

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Clever Dude


  • Have you heard of Square Foot Gardening. Very inovative, space saving and money saving ideas, especially if you build the boxes yourself.

  • @Lorna, yep, I’ve heard of it and read up on it. However, for now we have so many projects going on that we didn’t have time to build the garden. Perhaps next year. For this year, we’re working on retaining walls, landscaping, and maybe extending our driveway (in addition to numerous indoor projects). So we’re just dipping our toes in the dirt, er, water.

  • Square foot gardening is a bit of bollocks. Its great for shallowroot stuff but useless for deeper rooted stuff. Most vegies are no good in it.

    Its more a marketing con. One of his secrets is.. surprise.. good soil! he makes his own mix. wow. good quality potting mix = healthy plants, thats how he gets the “results” he gets. This is 99% of the “win” of his method, its nothing to do with his shallow boxes etc.

    You really need to double the depth of his boxes at a minimum!

    Dont get lulled in by all the amazon reviews of the book. I think most folks review before they use the methods for a full season.

    this is a much better and more solid book

    McGee & Stuckey’s Bountiful Container: Create Container Gardens of Vegetables, Herbs, Fruits, and Edible Flowers

  • i’d like to do the same thing w/ tomatoes. the only problem i have is that a) i’m always too busy to start, and b) i am horrible with this kind of stuff.

    …i’d start out with your onion idea, but only problem there is that i don’t like eat them 🙂

    I’ll keep watch for the next fruit/veggie you end up doing!

  • Yay on the onions – I might have mentioned at the DC happy hour that we’re growing the majority of our food – so gardening gets a lot of attention around here. Contrary to the opinion mentioned above, we’ve used the square foot method quite successfully and highly recommend it for anyone who thinks gardening is too complicated – though I’ll admit that we use his older method that still involved digging in the dirt versus all raised beds.

    Starting small is always a plus and building little confidences is a great way to learn. I might even suggest picking up a tomato plant next month and throwing it in a container, they do surprisingly well that way. We did that last year with a couple plants and it was no work at all and fits nicely on a patio. Plus, if you wait until the middle of next month, you’re pretty safe from worrying about frost and such and should be able to plant it and let it be with minimal maintenance.

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