I constantly daydream about living off of the grid. My thoughts are filled with a hand built house on some acreage in the wilderness, solar power, a big garden and smokehouse full of fish and game living free of the annoyances of modern life. "Mother Earth News" has replaced "Playboy" in terms of my fantasy reading as I eagerly read articles about really cool projects like building alcohol fuel stills.
Reality, usually in the form of a conversation with my wife, soon comes crashing back in and dispels these visions of grandeur. I did, however, take a recent small step towards self sufficiency by planting a deck garden. Whether or not this venture yields anything worth eating remains to be seen, but we have been happy to see the seeds sprout and the plants starting to grow above the top edge of the planters.
For around $ 10 bucks worth of seeds, we planted lettuce, spinach and a good assortment of herbs (cilantro, dill, chives, parsley and basil- I suggested another more profitable herb but was met with an icy stare of disapproval from my spouse.) I built the planters out of cedar boards and bolted them to the deck rail which proved prudent after a couple of severe storms roared through our area. I drilled holes in the planter bottoms for drainage and we filled them with a layer of rocks at the bottom to also help the roots from getting waterlogged. The three planters are all 4' long and cost about $ 40 total to build.
Update- Our deck garden was very successful and the amount of food we produced was far beyond my expectations. For about $ 10 worth of seeds we had multiple harvests of herbs including parsley, cilantro, basil and chives. We started our tomato and pepper plants here and then transplanted them to my in laws garden- the production we received was incredible. We processed most of the tomatoes into sauce and salsa and now have every square inch of our freezer filled with containers.
The peppers turned out great as well, although very hot. The lettuce and spinach did not do well at all and we will probably not plant them again next year. I think the problem was in the depth of the planters on the deck and the weather in the spring was too warm for them to get going properly. We were able to use produce from the garden in just about every dinner over the summer and it has saved us a great deal of money. For next year, I am working on getting back up to speed on canning and looking into building a rain retention and diversion system for our back deck. Using diverted rain water not only makes environmental sense, it makes economic sense as well.