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Weekend Life

Learning to Grow: How does your garden grow ... at work

A pontoon tube is used to for a nautical-themed garden at a marina in southern Wisconsin.
A pontoon tube is used to for a nautical-themed garden at a marina in southern Wisconsin.

I work at a marina in southern Wisconsin. 

Last year, I planted a few large containers with cherry tomatoes near the entrance to our showroom. 

This year, I wanted to plant a small garden with a nautical theme. Dalton, our sales manager, suggested a pontoon tube – great idea! In asking around, I discovered that we had a partial tube at our storage property. 

Dennis, our welder, was nice enough to cut out the top section of the pontoon tube to open it up for planting and to cap the end. 

The end result was a 6-by-2 foot planting area with holes for drainage – perfect for my small garden.

Next, adding soil. I used a variety of products – potting soil, garden soil, mushroom compost, humus, and cow manure. This accomplished two goals – keeping the cost down and giving me some soil with nutrients. 

In the top 2 to 4 inches, I added a balanced 10-10-10 slow release fertilizer that would feed the garden for most of the season.

Next, planting.  I chose both cool weather crops like kohlrabi, chard, rumex, kale, chives, and parsley. 

Next the warm weather plants, cherry tomatoes – Sun Gold and Black Cherry, eggplant, hot peppers, bush cucumber, nasturtium, rosemary, two types of oregano, thyme, and French tarragon. While these plants offer a variety of textures and color, I also planted heat-loving gazanias, dusty miller and lantana.

The garden has been robust, in part, due to planning and – in part – just plain, old luck.

As the kale, kohlrabi and Swiss chard have been harvested, the warm loving plants – tomatoes, eggplant, and herbs – have filled in and flourished.

This was the plan.

Because of the aluminum pontoon tube and the reflective heat from the stone building, the soil warmed up very quickly this spring and did not lose heat overnight.

Even though we have had some very cool nights this summer, the little pontoon garden is producing like crazy and looks beautiful. 

Colorful edibles, such as rumex Raspberry Dressing and Bright Lights Swiss chard, also add color. 
Shortly, I plan to scatter a few beet seeds and lettuce seeds for fall harvest.  

A special thanks to the marina for allowing me to enjoy gardening at work!

• Vicki Hagstotz is a University of Illinois Extension master gardener for Kane County. Call the extension office at 630-584-6166 for more information.

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