This past weekend Jeff and I tackled lining, filling and planting our garden. It took a good amount of research to complete this phase of the process as I wanted to try to find the most eco-friendly solutions for the lining, the soil and with plant selection. This what I learned and what we ended up using.
Lining: To avoid rotting wood and the bacteria that goes along with it, wood planters need to be lined. Also I should take a moment to note that wood planters should NOT be made out of treated or painted lumber as the chemicals can leach into the soil and subsequently your vegetables.Several forums discussed inserting plastic bins but our planter is too deep for that solution. Other recommendations were to use landscape fabric, plastic sheeting or asphalt paper (not sure if that is the correct terminology). I was a little uncomfortable with these methods as plastic can also leach unwanted chemicals and since lining a vegetable planter is not the intended use for those materials there obviously has not been any testing done. We eventually decided to use a pond liner per suggestion made by our local garden shop. Pond liners while still being plastic are at least tested and manufactured so as to not be harmful to fish so hopefully that also means humans too.
Jeff started by laying the pond liner inside the planter and draping it up the sides. Then he stapled it into place and trimmed off the excess lining. Finally, he cut 3 drainage slits roughly 3" long.
Soil: For me, it was important that I use an environmentally friendly soil which unfortunately means not just going to the local hardware store and grabbing several bags of top soil. As far as my understanding goes, your generic soil is not intended for edible gardening. It also contains peat moss. Peat is partially decomposed remains of plants mainly sphagum moss. Peat moss is mined in marshes, bogs and swamps known as peatlands or peat bogs. The peat bogs release a large amount of carbon into the atmosphere contributing to the problem of global climate change. Organic Gardening has more information here if you are interested.
My initial plan was to either use Happy Frog potting soil or Organic Mechanics or some combination of the two. Both came recommended by my local garden shop as well as by the online blogging community. However, we ultimately chose a local option Route 66 Organics top soil combined with Back to Nature, Inc. Cotton Burr. This was the slightly more economical option as well as what our garden shop experts personally use.
For our 2'W x 5'L x 1.5+'D planter we needed roughly 15 cubic feet of soil using equal parts Cotton Burr and top soil. Luckily, Jeff moved the planter into place before filing it as our planter now weighs an absurd amount and while it does have wheels it will not be moving anytime in the near future. He completed the preparation face by wetting down the soil and letting it sit over night.
Planting: Since I already had my plan, this step was rather easy. However, I did end up making a few last minute changes. I flipped the orientation of the cucumber trellis and the green beans as to not block any sun exposure that the trellis might create (face trellis' to the North or West). I also decided to nix the lettuces after all and plant green beans instead. I also added more strawberry plants - 5 in total. I had intended to have all my plants by organic but unfortunately in the rush of getting things done and being a first time gardener I came home with only my tomato plant being certified organic. I am going to cut myself some slack on this as I am learning as I go but for next year I plan on making sure all my plants are organic, non-GMO (genetically modified organisms). I also think I will devoted a whole, future post to this topic as its something I think is really important. In the meantime, check out this article from Organic Gardner.
The last step of this phase of course was getting the plants in the soil and giving them a good watering!