I teach several Grow It Eat It classes throughout the year. This year, I wanted to create a portable “lettuce box” that I could take with me to my GIEI classes. I wanted my box to be easy to carry, to grab participant interest, and to show people that planting vegetables could be creative and fun. Since this is clementine season, I decided that a Clementine Lettuce Box would be a fun, creative and portable solution.
For this project, I used a purchased Clementine box left over from a previous grocery run. The box, made out of thin, light plywood, was 11 inches wide, 7 ½ inches long, and 3 ½ inches tall (other Clementine boxes from different vendors seemed to have the same dimensions). Each box that I saw had several ½” holes punched in the bottom. I bought nylon window screen netting to the soil from falling out. I stapled the netting to the outside of the box on each side, taking care not to block the colorful box label. I thought that stapling from the outside would make stapling simpler, and prevent potentially sharp staples from poking through to the outside. Next, I filled the box with moist seed mix combined with a handful of worm compost. I made sure that the soil filled the box to the top of the front slats.
Next, I sprinkled an envelope of “Grow It Eat It” lettuce mix on top of the soil, covered the seeds with a sprinkling of seed starting mix, then placed plastic wrap over the top of the box. I placed the box on a gardening heating pad. When the seeds started to sprout, I removed the plastic wrap and placed the entire container under my grow-light.
A few weeks later, my lettuce was a few inches high and I was able to bring the box to my GIEI classes. My students loved it, and it the box seemed to inspire an interest in growing lettuce in offbeat containers.
I did reach one important conclusion during this process. Since I didn’t know the origin of the box plywood material, I thought that there might be a chance that the plywood could be treated with chemicals. I tell my GIEI students to be sure to line the inside of the box with plastic (chemical-free plastic, please!), and to be sure to poke holes in the bottom of the box to let water out. Of course, the plastic could take the place of the screen. My next project will be to produce Clementine boxes lined with plastic and bring these to my GIEI classes.