I'm very good at recycling and finding new uses for old things- it just comes natural to me. While I was cleaning the basement I came across an old drawer (the dresser it came from is long gone). The lettuce I started from seed under florescent lights was just about ready to be planted outside, so I thought the drawer would make a very nice raised bed. One problem I often have with my early spring crops is that it's usually too wet to get out to the garden and get them planted at the right time. Usually I end up waiting until the garden dries up, and that shortens the time I have to harvest the lettuce before it goes to seed. This year, by using the drawer as a planter, I can have the lettuce close to the house, and even move the planter around as needed. This is what I started with.
Then I drilled holes in the bottom for drainage (otherwise the water would just sit in the bottom and the roots would end up rotting).
Then, to improve drainage further and make sure the potting soil won't block the holes, I added a layer of styrofoam packing peanuts. I've used this method before in a variety of other planters and it's worked quite well for me.
Then I filled the drawer almost to the top with good quality potting soil. Add the soil slowly or you'll have packing peanuts flying all over the place! And a windy day isn't the best time to work with packing peanuts outdoors either ;-)
Then I added the lettuce- a variety of loose leaf and semi head lettuce (Buttercrunch is my favorite!). I added potting soil around the plants as needed and gently firmed the soil around them. I made sure the plants would have enough room to grow too.
After I gently watered the plants I used two row cover supports and covered the whole thing with a lightweight row cover, attaching it to the drawer with clothespins and plastic spring clamps. The row cover serves a few purposes: it keeps animal from eating or digging up the lettuce (and I've got all sorts of critters in my yard who would love a nice fresh salad!), and it protects the plants if the temperature drops below freezing.
Lettuce does quite well in cool temperatures, and so long as it's protected from actually freezing, it can handle pretty low temperatures. I used the same row covers one year when the temps were down to about 27 one spring, and not a single plant was damaged. Within a few weeks I should be eating nice fresh salad from a drawer- LOL! Happy gardening! =)
-Michelle of CreativeCritters