Truck garden

In response to someone moaning about not being able to garden, Felder Rushing developed the simplest garden ever, which is in the back of a 1987 F-150 pickup truck.

I just started my summer garden by tucking some basil into what is literally the fastest garden on earth.

Some 30-odd years ago, in response to someone moaning about not being able to garden, I tasked myself with developing the simplest garden ever. Needed to be inexpensive, alluring, edible and low maintenance.

To up the interest and challenge, I settled on creating a complete garden in an extremely unlikely place: In the back of my hard-working ’87 F-150 pickup truck.

I started out simply, with a bag of potting soil nestled against the back of the cab, where no matter how fast I go the gale-force wind is just a gentle eddy. I slit X-shaped openings, worked in some slow-release fertilizer beads, and deeply buried the roots of a tomato plant, a pepper and heat-loving periwinkle flowers. About once a week I used a watering can to keep the soil moist.

While the plants didn’t exactly thrive in the little sack of soil, they survived and produced enough flowers and fruits to prove my point. So the next year I upped the ante with a larger bag of potting soil which accommodated more plants with less frequent watering.

People thinking I was selling plants would stop to gawk and ended up taking selfies with the truck garden. The attention and comments indicated I was on the right track.

I have ended up with a custom-made galvanized metal planter box, 4 feet by 3 feet, which was just wide enough to slide into the back of my truck but not stick out too far where wind gusts are heartier. To prevent my truck bed from rusting, I drilled drainage holes through the side of the box facing the rear of my truck so water would drain away from instead of underneath the box, and I set the whole thing on a rubber bed liner.

By the way, I raise all my plant containers a little by setting them on small rocks or other “pot feet” to prevent deck rot or patio stains.

Because I park the truck for months at a time when I travel overseas, with no one to water it, the plants must tolerate intense summer heat, winter cold and drought. Thirty years and over 300,000 miles down the road, I’ve found a surprising number of small, compact plants that survive such harsh treatment. As for insect pests, I just hit the highway and blow them all away.

Enough of the how-to. It’s just a big pot that happens to be in a truck. But it proves that there are small shrubs, succulents, bulbs and both perennial and annual flowers and culinary herbs that, when planted together in a big pot or raised bed, don’t need much other than twice-annual feeding and occasional watering.

If something doesn’t make it, I simply yank it out and stuff something else in the hole. I’ve ended up with all-year rosemary, oregano, dwarf nandina, white flags iris, cold hardy agave and trailing sedums, groundcover junipers, golden moneywort, Clara Curtis mum and striped liriope. In the fall, I replace summer basil, peppers and Angelonia with cold-hardy violas, kale and parsley. There are others, but ain’t this a grand start?

Oh, and I over-enhance my garden with accessories including bottle tree sconces, bird houses, rain gauge, a copper frog and gnomes.

Point is, if I can garden all year in the back of a pickup truck, nearly anyone, regardless of skills or confidence, can do it on a patio or porch. With a little helpful guidance, even little kids can do it.

• Felder Rushing is a Mississippi author, columnist, and host of the “Gestalt Gardener” on MPB Think Radio. Email gardening questions to rushingfelder@yahoo.com.

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