How to Turn Your Unused Dining Room into a Garden Paradise

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Do People Dine in Your Dining Room?

Used to be a dining room!

Used to be a dining room!

Has your family gathered together around a dining room table — during this century?

When was the last time you held a formal dinner party? In this lifetime, that is?

Does that big expensive oak dining room table support stacks of old magazines and tax paperwork for 2003?

If you stopped laughing long enough to answer ‘no’ to any of the above (or all of the above), wouldn’t you love to stop torturing yourself and enjoy that room?

“HA!” I hear you say. “The folks come over once every nine years for Thanksgiving dinner. Where oh where would I feed them?” (A restaurant? Rent a table? An unfinished door, turned sideways, and supported by sawhorses or trestles, Tuscany style? You’re clever; you’ll figure it out when the time comes.)

Erase the Dining Room and Build a Garden

Sell the dining room table – or foist it off on “someone who dines” (or still thinks they can get everyone to sit down around a dining room table once a year).

Take the money and buy some old shelves from the second-hand store. Cover them with contact paper if you’re craftily inclined. While you’re there, pick up some old pots and saucers.

Dirt and water obey the laws of gravity, no matter how careful you are. Your white carpet will not survive this. Trust me. If your former dining room has carpet, consider removing it.

Don’t go all fancy with super-duper plant lighting systems and gro-everything fixtures, or you risk replacing a guilt-filled dining room with a guilt-filled garden room.

The local garden center will see you coming a mile away, and want to help you get your new garden area outfitted with the latest and greatest. Run away. Don’t buy a load of expensive gardening gear if there’s the slightest chance that you’d feel terrible about if you end up tossing it in a year.

Get some soil – or dirt (to use the nontechnical term). It comes in bags, and some of them have zip closures. Don’t worry about being fussy with additives and amendments. Get a little bottle of Miracle Gro to mix into your plant water once in a while. It might work, if only to make you feel like you’re doing garden’y stuff for your plants.

Add Plants to Your “Dining Room” Garden

Plant stuff. Doesn’t have to be fancy stuff. In fact, the low-rent stuff at the grocery checkout counter will do just fine for starters. Just don’t get the plastic and silk ones. They won’t grow, and watering them is a waste of time.

When you find yourself reaching for the ninth plant, stop. Begin with a few little plants, and see how things go. You’ll know when it’s time to add to the plant count.

Get a small stack of peat pots. They work well for starting seeds, and they feel garden’ish and productive. You may not need them if you have a ton of old butter dishes and cottage cheese containers –  those work great if you stack two together and poke drainage holes in the bottom of the inside one.

Resist the kits where you plant six herbs in one dish. Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme songs notwithstanding, one will thrive and eat the others out of house and home. None of the herbs will want exactly what the others do, and it’s easier to avoid a fight by keeping them in separate pots.

Some plants will live; some will chug along and gripe every second of the way. Some will outright die. Plants do that, no matter what color your thumbs. It’s the journey, not the destination salad. Grow things you love to look at and talk to.

Admire, and Water Once in a While

Now, in the morning when you go past the room that used to be your dining room on the way to get coffee, detour and admire your new plants. Water when they’re thirsty. Turn some toward the sunshine if they’re groping for more light. When one gets too big for a pot, put it in a bigger pot.

Voila. You’re the proud owner of an indoor garden, minus the dining room guilt.

To your garden success!
Casey – the Garden Lass

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