Books & Prose


Buckets and Tubs

While rooting round in the basement in January, rearranging pots, staring at seed-starting trays, trying to pretend this activity resembled gardening, something unexpected became clear. I have more plastic tubs, buckets, and bags than watering cans. For someone covetous of just the right watering can and appreciative of the many forms they take, to discover upwards of 12 tubs was, well, slightly embarrassing. I had no idea—I covet tubs?

tubApparently. Yet, they are all useful, certainly. Here’s a rundown of their specifications and useful attributes:

Pride of place goes to a stiff but flexible, round, largish green plastic tub. Its plastic handles are continuous with the tub. It is exactly light enough to drag with me as I’m cleaning up or digging in, to catch the prunings, trimmings, leaves I should have picked up last season, and weeds. And when full, it’s not too big (thus too heavy) and yet big enough to make a trip to the Yard Waste Only barrel worthwhile.

The bags, well, I exaggerate. It’s a rectangular bag, made from a heavy plastic tarp material, blue and white. It’s extremely useful on trips to the nursery, as plants can be tidily packed in it, neither shifting in the car nor shedding dirt (a flat tarp just funnels dirt into the corners of my car). It folds up to store away, as very few gardening tools do. It has rope handles knotted in grommets, but carrying heavy things in it is awkward; it will sag unless they’re tightly packed. It could easily carry leaves.

Third place, not in terms of usefulness but simply because they’re common, is well occupied by those four- or six- or ten-gallon white buckets with handles that no gardener is ever without. And what uses! I generally drag a couple around with the green tub as I’m working—one for my compost, one for Yard Waste Only (I do not put quack grass in my compost). When cleaning pots, I soak them in one bucket and scrub them in another. I haul sifted compost to the garden in a bucket. I often put tools in one to make sure I know where they are when I’m working on different garden jobs simultaneously. I stick a bucket under the outdoor faucet to catch the drips from the hose connection. This year I will cut PVC piping, put several lengths in a bucket, and stick my stakes in the piping, a brilliant organizing idea devised by SGC club member Sonia Vallianos. (You can acquire buckets at hardware stores, if not free on the street.)

Okay, I actually have five white buckets, three with handles, two without, and three smaller, white plastic tubs, used for potting soil or paper trash or whatever (lots of that in the garden).

Speaking of tools, do trugs count as buckets? I have a green plastic one from the Walt Nicke catalog that my hand tools, twine, markers, and labels live in. It’s open breadth makes reaching for a tool easy and it’s sturdy and easy to clean.

Then there’s the gray speckled enamel pot with swing handle I picked out of the garbage many years ago. Its main usefulness comes from its size—wide and deep enough to hold a six-inch pot for repotting plants, with more space to catch the soil overflow. It was my apartment “potting bench,” and I still use it for mixing potting soil.

Many of these tubs stack neatly one within the other. They make quite a stack. I suppose that’s part of winter gardening, making things neat, when what I really long for is the green disorder of summer.

© Anna M. Warrock

Originally published in the Somerville Garden Club newsletter 2003