Friday 10 May 2013

The 'Eating from the Tin Bath' Challenge

Every year I plant seeds, some in the greenhouse (the coldest and draughtiest greenhouse I have ever known), some by mid May straight outside in the beds of the Veggie Patch.  This was cobbled together last year to be the same size as an average back garden so that I could see how much productive space I would need at our forever home to grow enough for us and the chickens to eat throughout Summer and as far beyond as possible.
Last year was a poor year to do any sort of experiment and we were lucky to get anything from it.  This year it is in the process of being made ready, with the paths being weeded and the raised beds weeded and turned over ready for the seedlings from the greenhouse.  The fruit trees and bushes are looking good and up to now (touch wood) we have had no hard frosts since the blossom appeared, so we might stand a chance of getting more than one cherry and more than the three apples we got last year.
As well as having the Veggie Patch I have pots of herbs and other edibles nearer the house and last year I planted Tomatoes in this old tin bath.  They didn't do too well, it was too wet and chilly for them and I think we only got about a handful to eat.  This year I pondered what to do with the bath, after all it was  half full of reasonable compost and just begging to be used.

Then I had a little brainwave. 
So many of my lovely readers say how they wish they could grow just some basic crops for themselves but that they haven't got the space to do it, so I got to thinking what if I had only a tiny yard or a picture perfect garden that I didn't want to turn over to veggies how much could I actually grow in a tiny space to feed myself and my family and for how much investment.
And so was born .....
This tin bath was here at the house when we moved in so it cost me nothing, I guess you could find something similar if you put your mind to it.  At the tip, at a car boot sale, rotting in someone elses garden. If you can't find something similar think differently what have you got that you could use, plastic boxes, old washing up bowls, the children's old plastic bath or paddling pool, whatever you choose all you have to do is put in some drainage holes, tip in an inch or so of stones gathered from around the garden, it's amazing how many you find while you're weeding just keep a bucket next to you and put them in, (or raid the gravel on the drive, no one knows if you smooth over the holes you create). This Challenge has got to be cheap and easy so rather than tip in more compost to fill it up to a more plantable level I tipped in one full lawnmower bag of grass clippings and stirred it all around, it made the soil more aerated and less dense, better for little seeds to grow.
Then I looked through my stash of seeds and picked out the real basics.
Lettuce (Lollo Rosso) - Free when I joined in with 'Dig-In' last year
Spring Onion - 50p (bought in the August seed sale last year)
Radish - 50p (ditto)
Half a pack of Peas - 25p (ditto)
10 Radish Seedlings that I couldn't fit in the bucket with the others - 5p
Pretending I was a bit more of a novice at this planting lark than I am, I simply made a line in the compost at the back and sprinkled in all the peas.  Then two more lines for the Radish, and the Spring Onion seeds and then I got arty and made two circles of seeds with the Lettuce seed at either end.  I planted the already growing Radish seedlings in a line along the front, I wanted the bath when it is in full growth to look nice as well as being productive.  I covered all the seeds with a layer of sieved compost and then gave it a good water.  Then I put another layer of dryer compost mixed with some of the grass clippings on the very top to stop the water evaporating (believe it or not the sun was out when I did all this, totally unlike today).
So the cost of planting out my free tin bath was £1.30.  The price of a single lettuce in the supermarket last week.  Lets see what I manage to get out of it, I will post pictures of the bath weekly and keep tabs on what and when I harvest from it and we will be able to see what value of crops we manage to raise in this small space.
You know how much I like a good challenge and this is a good challenge.  Have you ever done anything similar and did it work well?
Sue xx


  1. I forget sometimes that gardening isn't something everyone knows about but am reminded each time a beginners starts up at our allotment. It must be bewildering to try to figure out how to get a harvest with very little experience (or space). It's going to be interesting to watch your experiment unfold...

  2. One of my sisters used to live in a Victorian terraced house and only had a solid concrete very small back yard - maybe a square at the back of the house measuring 8' x 8'. She had never gardened so we took ourselves off to a local garage and got them to deliver a few large tyres. we stood them on the concrete, (one was a tractor tyre, the other two lorry tyres) We stuffed newspaper into the inside rims then filled them up with compost (bought in). The tractor tyre was used for climbing beans and salad crops, the other two for more salad crops and some leeks. She had never gardened and each year got a good crop. So you can grow anywhere, in anything.

    1. Tyres are THE most perfect instant raised bed and we use them all around the Veggie Patch for carrots etc, currently we have some of our fruit trees in them so they don't get too deep rooted before our last move.

      Always free to get hold of and brilliant for plants as the rubber absorbs heat early in the season and if you stack them gradually as the plants grow they are perfect for growing potatoes in (as I'm sure your sister knows :-)

  3. I know nothing about gardening (having lived a rather 'alternative' lifestyle for all my adult life) but when out building site of a garden is finally cleared I may well be looking to you, Sue, for inspiration!

  4. wonderful tin bath !

    There are lots of old wooden dinghies planted out with flowers in this area !

  5. We have a horrible purple bath that grows a fantastic crop of marrows/courgette/squash for us - it has to be something with big leaves to cover up the horrible bath - we just turn it over and add new compost each year. It's big enough for roots and to hold moisture, small enough to look after with almost no attention and a great way to use up a rubbish bath (really, we couldn't give it away, it's very purple).

  6. That should work well. Easier picking too, with everything on a higher level. On a smaller scale I was thinking of doing something similar for salad leaves outside the back door - so I don't have to walk so far for lunch when it's raining!

  7. This is a great idea. In our motorhome compound I have already a very healthy parsley plant growing, although I did buy it as a plant, we are only here for around 5 months and I know how long it takes to germinate parsley seeds. I have supermarket bought corriander growing on a windowsill, along with some cress. I am thinking I could save a fortune by growing some salad leaves in the odd pots that are around the site (I am sure there are tyres too but the compound is a little small for these) Your post has encouraged me to actually do this (instead of just thinking about it) I know I will have to search around on my next shopping trip, but feel sure I could grow some salad veg, just wish I could get my hands on a tomato plant or two.

  8. What a clever idea. I'm thinking of giving the tyres a go too!

  9. This would be great on my postage-stamp of a porch...would have to make the planter wheelchair level...will give this some serious thought. Thanks.

  10. We grew stuff in the backyard of our first house.We planted things in an old sink, and a small raised bed that J built. As you say, even if you only grow salad leaves you can save yourself a fortune. Down at the allotment the best carrots we have ever grown came from an old cracked water butt that we filled with a soil/compost mixture.

  11. could I ask - what do you grow to feed to your chickens? I'm looking at getting some hens soon, and was wondering how you feed yours and how
    it works out financially. Any advice would be very welcome! :-)

    thank you,


    1. The main crop I grow to feed to the chickens and geese is Perpetual Spinach, it grows all year round and helps keep them nice and healthy and the yolks of their eggs nice and orange in colour, they absolutely love it. I have at least one of my raised beds devoted to this all the time.

      Of course one of the best crops for chickens is weeds, a good mix of dandelions and all sorts, this is my excuse for not weeding all the areas of our land :-)

  12. Hummmmmi have an old enamel bath on the field........ I now have a few ideas

  13. Only recently found your blog and have been spending some days catching up on all your back posts!! Fascinating reading. Your energy leaves me speechless. I do hope the property search is fruitful for you.
    I was keen on using old tyres until I was told that they leak toxic chemicals into the soil and water - so disappointing: what has your experience been like please?

    1. In our experience everything we have planted has done brilliantly well and we have had no problems at all.

      If you were concerned you could always fill the hollow areas with something other than soil and merely grow in the very centre of them, but we have never seen the need to do this.

      We use them as they arrive and simply fill with a mix of soil and compost. They are THE best possible container for carrots, they all grow lovely and strong and straight and the extra warmth garnered from the warm subber in the sun brings them on a treat.

  14. Great idea - perfect for a novice grower :)

  15. Thank you so much for making me laugh out loud just now at your " how to give a pill to a cat " advice ! So funny.

    We now cradle Finn like a baby but tilted backwards jaws prized open & pill popped in as far back as I can. He managed to keep one pill hidden in his cheek while swallowing the second & then spit out the first.

    I've just " washed " him with facial wipes as he stinks ! I think he sits in his chosen toilet area little horror.


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