Pool Party for Plants
An informal garden planter made from a rigid plastic kiddie pool is very inexpensive and easy to make. It can be a great way to repurpose a family splash pool that is no longer being used by the kids. You can plant anything that has shallow roots, which includes most herbs and many vegetables, and many annual flowers.
A kiddie-pool planter is a great way to have a combination of herbs, lettuce, and some smaller vegetables in one place. It can also be used to plant a mixture of annual flowers. Just be careful where you put your pool planter; if you put it on the lawn, it will probably kill the grass underneath. A large patio, deck, or driveway pad can make an ideal spot for such a planter.
Raised planters have some special needs since the soil tends to get hotter and dryer from sun exposure around the walls of the planter. This may mean that you can plants seeds earlier in the spring than you would when planting an in-ground garden, but it also means you will need to watch moisture levels carefully. Raised planters typically need to be watered more often than do in-ground gardens.
Tools and Supplies You Will Need
- Lightweight rigid plastic kiddie pool (the larger, the better)
- Plastic window screening or landscape fabric
- Utility knife or drill with spade bit
- General-purpose potting soil (quantity required depends on size of pool)
- Slow-release granular fertilizer
- Lightweight wire fencing (optional, if critters are a problem where you live)
- Plant seeds or potted transplants
Add Drainage Holes to Bottom
All container gardens need to have drainage holes, so the first step is to cut 1-inch diameter holes in the bottom of the pool, spaced about 1 foot apart. You can do this with a sharp utility knife or a drill fitted with a 1-inch spade bit.
Make Drainage Holes in Sides
In addition to drainage on the bottom of your kiddie pool, drill or cut holes into the sides of the pool, slightly up from the bottom of the pool. These holes will serve as backup openings in case the holes in the bottom of the pool get plugged. Space these side holes every foot around the perimeter of the pool.
If you have plants sitting in soggy soil, it will kill most of them, so having good drainage is key. You can also elevate your pool slightly by setting it on bricks or wood to make sure the water can get escape through the bottom. If elevating your pool, make sure the bottom is evenly supported. Potted soil saturated with water can get quite heavy, and it may crack the bottom of the pool if it is not well supported.
Line Bottom of the Pool With Mesh
Once you have finished putting in your drainage holes, you will need a barrier to keep the soil in and let water out. You can use plastic window screening or porous landscape fabric cut to size. Make sure to cover the bottom of the pool entirely, and overlap the mesh slightly up the sides of the pool.
Add Soil and Fertilizer
Situate your pool planter in a sunny spot. Most flowers, herbs, and vegetables will require at least six full hours of sun each day. A planter filled with shade-loving flowers can work in a part-shade location.
Fill your pool either with general-purpose potting soil or a combination of potting soil and garden soil. You can also make your own potting soil by blending peat moss, garden soil, and perlite or vermiculite in even ratios.
Thoroughly mix in a granular slow-release fertilizer with a balanced mix of nutrients. Follow label directions for quantity.
Prepare Soil and Add Fencing If Necessary
Smooth out the soil in your garden planter and pat it down gently. The surface should be flat but not tightly packed.
If rabbits, squirrels, or other wildlife animals are anticipated to be a problem, you can build a short wire fence around the perimeter of the pool planter, embedding the bottom of the fence a few inches into the soil.
Plant Seeds or Seedlings
Many vegetables grow quickly from seeds, while others (such as tomatoes) are so slow-growing that its best to buy potted transplants that are already well developed. Generally speaking, shallow-rooted vegetables (such as lettuces and herbs) are better suited for this type of planter than deep-rooted vegetables (such as potatoes).
One of the biggest mistakes people make when planting seeds is to plant them too deep. Check the information on your seed packet to see how deep and far apart you should plant them. Make rows in the soil according to the directions on your seed packets.
Potted transplants should be planted at the same depth they were in their containers. Dig small holes, insert the transplants, then press down the soil around the plant. Make sure to follow spacing recommendations for each type of plant. Some vegetables, such as tomatoes, are quite large; a single planter might be able to handle only two or three such plants.
Once you have planted your seeds, give your garden a deep watering, preferably until water runs out the bottom of your garden planter. It is important, particularly at this point, not to use a harsh stream of water that will disturb the seeds or wash them away. Either use a watering can with a rose attachment or a garden hose with a misting nozzle to provide a gentle spray.
Care for Your Planter
The fastest way to kill growing seeds is to let them dry out. In the early stages of germination, keep the soil moist at all times. As the vegetable sprout and get larger, you can gradually reduce watering somewhat. Generally speaking, most plants need about 1 inch of water each week, through combined rainwater and irrigation. Raised planters, however, can dry out fairly quickly, so make sure to keep an eye on the plants.
- You may need to thin the sprouted seedlings after they get their first set of full leaves. Follow the space recommendations on your seed packets.
- If you are growing basil, once it is about 4 to 6 inches tall, let the soil dry out a bit between waterings; this is an herb that likes somewhat arid conditions.
- Go easy on the fertilizer if you are growing herbs, as they will be most flavorful if the soil is somewhat poor in nutrients. Fruiting vegetables such as cucumbers, tomatoes, and zucchini, on the other hand, will benefit from feeding every month or so.