Do you want to make a quick mini garden? You can grow healthy ‘fast food’ like salad veggies and herbs in a simple box. Best of all, you can make it in about 15 minutes. The bonus is you’ll be eating the rewards in just a few weeks for only a minimal investment of time AND money. Let’s get started!

A wide variety of seasonal herbs, veggies and flowers can be grown in micro gardens and can reap you a rich bounty of food for minimum effort.

A wide variety of seasonal herbs, veggies and flowers can be grown in micro gardens and can reap you a rich bounty of food for minimum effort.


This is a system I’ve used for years with great success and it’s so easy. Even if you’re a beginner gardener or on a budget and need a thrifty solution, this is it! An easy container garden with just a few ingredients to get started.

Sow fast growing greens for quick results like lettuce, rocket (arugula), Asian greens, spinach, sorrel or radish. Photo: The Micro Gardener

I succession plant in new boxes regularly so I continually have a delicious variety of food crops to harvest for our table.


DIY Container Garden Materials List

  • A table or workbench. I line mine with some newspaper to keep it clean while I’m putting my micro garden together.


Garden gloves on the table ready for potting up

You’ll need gloves, mask (for use with potting mix) and a trowel.


  • A new or undamaged, clean polystyrene box. Tip: I get mine free from local green grocers, but you can try fish mongers or stores that sell fresh fruit and veggies. You’re doing them a favour by repurposing boxes that would otherwise end up in landfill. Alternatively, choose a container you have easy access to.


Painted polystyrene box - use non-toxic paint or leave it white.

These come in a variety of sizes and depths and can be painted to suit your taste like I have here! This box is approx 45cm long x 20cm deep x 30cm wide.

The bottom of the box below:

Ready made drainage holes in the bottom of the box.

Choose a box that has holes already. Bean & corn boxes are fantastic choices (20cm deep) or broccoli if you want a 30cm deep one.


  • A suitable quantity of potting mix (I make my own). You can use my easy DIY recipe but I suggest you include suitable soil food like I do, so your plants are off to a healthy start.


Kids edible salad, herb & flower box

This is an easy project for kids too. Get them to paint their box in fun colours or designs.

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  • Paper towel (about 4 sheets) or other suitable liner such as an old clean tea towel or cotton fabric.


 An average watering can holds about 9 litres so mix up a strong solution of seaweed (kelp) according to the brand you use and add a dollop of molasses (available from produce or health stores).

Watering can with liquid or powdered seaweed and about 1 tablespoon of molasses to feed the soil microbes.



A variety of edible seedlings ready to plant out

A variety of edible seedlings ready to plant out


  • A few handfuls of organic mulch e.g. coir peat, chopped lemon grass or aged lawn clippings/dried leaves.


Bag of sugar cane mulch - a sustainable by-product of the sugar cane industry.

I often use sugar cane or lucerne because these add vital nutrients and are chopped fine which makes them easy to handle. You can use grass clippings, chopped lemon grass or whatever you have handy to maintain moisture and regulate temperature.


  • Optional: Shade cloth or exclusion netting (depending on your situation and climate)!

DIY Veggie Garden in a Box Instructions

Step 1:

Wearing your gloves and mask, line the poly box with a couple of strips of paper towel to cover the drainage holes in the bottom and prevent the potting mix escaping.


Spray bottle with water.

Tip: I mist the paper towel with some water from a spray bottle to moisten before adding the soil mix.


Step 2:

Tip in sufficient potting mix to sit about 1-2cm (1 in) below the lip of the box.


My homemade potting mix. Photo: The Micro Gardener

This is my light and fluffy home made potting mix. Tip: It will settle down after you water in so best to have it a little high.


Step 3:

Using the handle of the trowel make a small hole for each seedling. (Tip: How close you plant depends on the variety – skinny chives can be planted ‘up close and personal’ but leave more room for veggies that like extra ‘personal space’ to mature.) See the spacing example below:


Garden in a Box after planting with 4 x spinach at the back & 3 x capsicum at the front.

Garden in a Box after planting 4 x spinach seedlings at the back & 3 x capsicum seedlings at the front.


Below: Garden in a box a week later.

These seedlings took off because they were planted at the best time of the month using the Moon Calendar.

You can see the spacing is suitable as they start to grow. In the middle are 2 small bean seedlings which I transplanted after using this as a temporary nursery until I got another box ready.


Step 4:

Pick up the pre-soaked* seedling and gently lower into the hole. (* See Tips below)


Be gentle when handling delicate seedlings. Hold by the leaves.

Tip: Pat down firmly so all the root hairs are in contact with the soil.


Step 5:

Repeat until all seedlings are planted and then water in with seaweed/molasses solution.


Planting complete! Photo: The Micro Gardener

Fast growing salad greens can be planted close for maximum use of space and then rotated with another crop when they are finished.


Step 6:

Finally top with a few handfuls of mulch (about 2-3cm deep), leaving about 1-2cm (1 in) gap around the stem of each seedling.


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Celebrate your new garden – add your plant labels!


Veggie rock garden markers | The Micro Gardener

Add some garden art or home made plant labels like these painted veggie rock garden markers.


Tips for a Successful Instant Veggie Garden

  • Use a Moon Calendar to plant at the optimum time for an abundant, fast growing healthy crop.
  • Baby Love: Just like you wouldn’t throw a baby into a cot, you need to handle your ‘baby plants’ with care as they move from one ‘bed’ to another.


This is a healthy seedling with a well formed rootball ready to plant.

Hold the seedling by the leaves (the strongest part of the plant) to avoid damaging vulnerable roots.


  • Vertical Veggies: Want to grow climbing veggies like peas, beans, tomatoes or cucumber? Easy – add a tepee (get my free instructions on making yours from bamboo stakes for under $1) or portable A-frame trellis to your Instant Veggie Garden.


Snow peas climbing up a bamboo tepee. Photo: The Micro Gardener

These snow peas grew really well up a four-legged bamboo tepee I made with one stake in each corner of the box.


  • Good Looking: Want to make it prettier? Get creative and give the box a coat of non-toxic eco-friendly paint or choose another container you like better.


Instant veggie garden in a box - use a variety of flavours, colour and texture!

Use your imagination to make a garden in a box as a gift for someone. I made this colourful one for my daughter. Complete with decorative shell mulch, garden art and a clay moisture meter worm!


  • Potting Mix: If you choose to buy a bag of organic potting mix, you’ll probably need around 15-20kg depending on the size of the box you use. Remember to add soil conditioners to feed the plants.  I add these to my home made potting mix to save time when I want to start planting my garden.
  • Soak or spray your seedlings: To avoid transplant shock, sit your punnet of seedlings in a shallow container for about 15-30 minutes with a strong solution of seaweed (kelp) or add some to a recycled spray bottle and mist the seedling roots before planting (this takes longer though!)


Shallots, chives and salad greens - tall & skinny partnered with leafy veggies.

You’ll be amazed just how much you can grow in an Instant Veggie Box Garden. Have fun!


In Part 2, I show you how to grow a variety of plant combinations in these micro gardens for best results.

Related: Micro Gardening; The Benefits of Container Gardening; Getting a Small Kitchen Garden Started; Choose the Healthiest Seedlings; Harvesting Vegetables & Herbs & Tips for Growing a Garden in Pots.

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© Copyright Anne Gibson, The Micro Gardener 2016. https://themicrogardener.com. All rights reserved.

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