NOTE: I recently posted an all-points bulletin asking people to send me pictures of their favorite gardens — theirs or someone else’s. I get tired of my own voice, so am periodically featuring these garden or gardenish images (with descriptive narrative) as are they are sent to me.

Lauri Lynnxe Murphy

Lauri Lynnxe Murphy portable bucket garden, tomatoes peppers lettuce bascil cucumber and cilantro

The Bucket Garden — I sort of combined ideas from other people’s projects into what worked for me, since I needed it to be fairly lightweight and portable.

I live in my studio which has a garage door entrance onto an urban sidewalk in Denver’s Five Points area, and though I have a little outdoor strip, nothing grows there and it’s filled with rocks. So I put wheels on the bottom of a pallet, and built this little garden.

The principle is that the garden will be self-watering, since I also lack an easy way to water, and on a hot urban sidewalk moisture will evaporate quickly.

Lauri Lynnxe Murphy bucket garden in process

Just using regular 5-gallon buckets from Lowe’s, I filled the bottom several inches with lava rock, which is very porous. On top of that is a layer of thick fabric (I just cut up an old fleece blanket), with a hole in it to accommodate the watering tube. The fabric is both a barrier to the soil so it doesn’t clog the tubes, and will help the water wick upwards into the soil.

Lauri Lynnxe Murphy bucket garden in process ready for dirt

Then I layered compost and soil, with a heavy layer of compost towards the bottom since the water will be wicking upwards and will gather nutrients that way. There is a hole drilled in the side that allows a 1″ PVC pipe to rest on top of the lava rocks as a run-off to let me know when the reservoir is full, so that I don’t overwater. The 2″ pipe coming down from the top nestles into the lava rocks and was inserted before the soil, so that it can be watered from above.

Lauri Lynnxe Murphy drainage tube lava rock bed fabric for wicking moisture and keeping the dirt out of the tubes

I don’t have a hose yet, so it takes about 6 trips with the watering can (which has to be filled with a bottle because it doesn’t fit in my sink!). I was able to fit 6 buckets and two long planters onto the pallet.

Lauri Lynnxe Murphy bucket garden ready for plants

The long planters have lettuce and kale for microgreens, and I have 3 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, shisito peppers, a purple pepper, and a lemon cucumber planted. I have mini-basil companion planted at the base of the tomatoes which can be picked when small, and cilantro planted with the cucumber to maximize space.

Because my life has been chaotic lately, I didn’t get a chance to plant this until late in the season, but the good news is I will be able to extend my growing season by just dragging it inside (which I do every night anyway). So for the first time in my many years of gardening, I won’t be harvesting everything in a panic for an early frost, and then wistfully watching those two weeks of gorgeous Indian summer in Colorado with dead plants!

I forgot to note — I have a rope tied to the pallet to pull it in and out of my space, it’s pretty heavy, but rolls smoothly!