Sometimes the best ideas come when you are exhausted - or brainstorming with a friend.
On my way home from the retreat last month, I had the wonderful opportunity to stop in Columbus, OH and visit with Joan Hawley.
In addition to our mutual love of things Lazy, Joan and I are both avid gardeners working in small spaces. In the course of our rambling roving conversations that evening, we talked about those upside down tomato planters that are all the rage in infomercials and on QVC - and quite pricey in my opinion. Many many years ago I had used coffee cans for this purpose - under Mom's direction when I was a kid, and later shortly after I got married. They worked well, but coffee cans are harder to come by for me now, and I wondered what other methods might work.
Joan and I contemplated 5 gallon buckets (too heavy?), plastic pots with holes drilled (too expensive?), and then suddenly we hit a brainstorm - the tyvek mailing envelope that Joan had sitting on the table between us - that she had earlier offered me knowing my love of recycling tyvek. Lightweight, non-fraying, easy to work with - a couple of boxed corners, a hanging strap made out of the excess cut off the top, a slit cut in the bottom to insert the plant -and we would be in business.
Joan jumped right onto the project - making herself some bags and getting her tomatoes planted right away. Of course her planting season is a few weeks ahead of us - so I had a bit more time (in fact -we just had a frost warning last week!!!) - but I got caught up and now have 6 planting bags hanging in my garden, with 2 more on the way to Sister Terri for her use.
We used slightly different construction methods - Joan's pattern designer talents came out and she engineered a 2 envelope ultra reinforced bag. Mine - one envelope, a few seams, and away it goes.
So here's my version.
1. Save tyvek envelopes that you get in the mail. We get lots of these at work, plus I had a few around the house waiting to be harvested for their tyvek. You will be turning it inside out, so any writing on the outside will not show. (NOTE - I am showing this with a non-recycled envelope so I don't have to worry about blurring out a bunch of writing in every photo)
2. Cut off the top 3 inches of the envelope (do not include the adhesive flap in this measurement - basically you want a loop that is 3" by the circumference of the envelope.)
3. Undo the glue that holds the loop closed and open it up so that you have a long strip that is 3" wide. You will fold this in half (finger pressing works fine for tyvek - it will melt if you try to iron it) and then fold each half into the center. Fold the entire thing in half again and zig zag along the length and you have your hanging strap. (NOTE - for sewing tyvek, use long stitches, and you will want to change out your needle when you are done)
4. The next step is to box the corners. Open up the envelope and kind of "square it up" with your hands. You will bring the side crease in to line up with the bottom crease -and using your ruler create a triangle about 6" wide. Draw a line with a permanent marker to give yourself a sewing line. Do this on both sides.
5. Sew along your drawn line -using long stitches. On my first bag I did two parallel rows of stitches to help prevent tear out/perforating, but I did not do this on the other 5 bags.
6. Once you have sewn both triangles and created a boxed bottom, you will have two triangular flaps on either side. DO NOT CUT THESE OFF!
7. You will attach your handle to the points of these triangles. This will help distribute the weight of the soil along the entire length of the handle and support the entire bag.
I used double rows of zig zag stitching to attach my handles to the ends of the triangles, overlapping the two about 1/2 inch on either side.
8. After attaching the handles, turn the entire bag right side out. Fold over the top edge about 1/2". Align the handle along the inside side of the bag, pinning it carefully at the top edge on either side.
The triangle flap should "stand" up along the side of the bag. Topstitch all the way around the top fold, reinforcing where the handle is with some extra rows of stitching, but being careful not to cause the handle to perforate.
9. Draw an "X" on the bottom of the bag. This is where you will cut the bag open to accomodate your plants. I wrap my root ball in overlapping coffee filters, and then spread the filters out inside the bag once the root ball is inserted.
The soil holds the coffee filters in place and they add a bit of extra support around the opening in the bag.
10. Hang, water, and watch the plant turn up towards the sun.