Buckets o’Veg, Towers o’Toms, Container Growing Anywhere*

by Jack

* almost anywhere where there is good sun, sufficient water, quality soil, a bit of attentive care and some love…

2011 spring is edging up fast – this year – are you going to grow something really good and productive? or just the same old miserable and pathetic droopy tomato plants?

Close your eyes and imagine all those big juicy tomatoes on your deck or in your yard – it’s mid-summer, warm breeze and sunny and you’ve got eggplant, and sweet cukes, crispy lettuce and ripe green zucchini  – mmmmmm!

OK, snap out of it and listen up – Here’s some tips on container gardening that you may or may not get on any of the other multitude of container gardening tutorials that will be lots more complete than I’ll ever have the patience to write.

On top of that, many of the bloggin’ gardeners tend to be totally anal and make it all look so precise and detailed. What I will say for all of ya inclined to whine that you don’t have no green thumb – this ain’t rocket science! It’s more like keeping a pet – not too damn hard if you feed (make real soil) the thing and give it water, got it? (don’t over water so it’s dribbling out the bottom all the time, don’t let it dry out to wilting- simple).

The container – those self-watering boxes – yea – fine, better than nothing, but they mostly…

[TIP 1] DON’T HOLD ENOUGH DIRT. Some plants (grass, weeds, a few herbs) are cool with 2 -6 inches of potting soil and miracle grow (yecht!) but you want REAL veggies with good nutrients? Get yourself the biggest pots that will fit where you are trying to grow – sacrifice the deck chairs, the tiki torches AND the grill – yes that’s right – 55 gallon plastic drums (NOT the ones that held hexavalent chromium or RoundUp  in them up to 3 weeks ago and weren’t rinsed…). Cut those babies in half and drill a couple drain holes in the bottom (so your dirty over-watering drips on the neighbors Brookstone patio set the floor below). and then…

[Tip #2] MAKE SOME ***SERIOUS*** ORGANICALLY FERTILE DIRT. No I do not mean Walmart $5.95 for 20 gallons special potting soil dug up from the Love Canal and sifted – I mean go and get some OMRI Peat Moss or coir (shredded coconut husk), some good horse or steer compost (good garden shop will have this – better if you can get some horsie poo local, soak the pile of it with water – cover and let sit for 3 months – apartment neighbors will LOVE you doin this) .  Now get a quality Organic Fertilizer – and remember if you are used to those astronomical NPK numbers on the bottle of MiracleGrow concentrate  – don’t freak when you see the 2-3-2 or 1-2-1 numbers on the organic fertilizer. MiracleGrow is CHEMICAL POISON, and the natural path is healthier for you, and the good soil buggies on whom you depend for healthy plants, jus’ like in your stomach for your good health (different buggies there…).

Look on this blog in the left hand sidebar and you’ll see an Amazon carousel ad with garden supplements, essential minerals and mycorrhizal fungi inoculate. Get some.

Mix 1/2 peat, 1/2 compost, cup fertilizer, 1/2 cup essential minerals (Azomite), small bucket of perlite or vermiculite, couple tablespoons fungi – and wet it down and turn till almost paste-y – let sit for month or so – occasionally turn. If your local soil is not too toxic, you can put in a couple gallons of that as well – the recipe is roughly for 1/2 – 55 gallon drum amounts. And if you are really brave – drove over a bag of Cowboy Charcoal (the solid 100% hardwood kind NOT brickets – waaaaay full of toxins) till it’s pulverized and toss in a gallon or so of that in the mix(see Terra Preta below).

For more on the soil mix, see our soil-building post here.

[Tip #3] MOVE TO THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE APARTMENT COMPLEX. You can fill your drums with pure imported Terra Preta (check out the link if you don’t know what this is) and you still won’t grow diddly if your containers aren’t in the sun at least 5 or 6 hours a day.

[Tip #4] If you in the Southwest – MOVE TO THE WESTERN SIDE OF THE APARTMENT COMPLEX – ok – I know that’s too much moving – so instead watch your containers – in the Southwest (or at high altitudes) you can get TOO MUCH sun – between May and September you may need a little shade cloth that cuts back the intensity of the 11 am to 2 pm sun.

[Tip #5] GET SOME EARTHWORMS and toss them in the containers – this will not work well (they’ll die) if a) the containers are too small and b) you either over water or let it dry out totally –

[Tip #5] DON’T LET THE CONTAINERS DRY OUT IN WINTER. many good buggies (ie healthy soil) will survive the cold but won’t survive dehydration. Water your pots over the winter just a little – provided they are not frozen solid.

[Tip #6] APPLY COMPOST TEA REGULARLY THROUGHOUT THE SEASON every week is ideal, every 2, OK.  And forget this “Aerated Compost Tea” business – it’s bogus (i’ll get some comments on that one…) Research/comparative trials have shown that it DOES NOT reduce any nasty unwanted bugs, and it DOES NOT provide any benefits over and above just a good soaked-poop tea. Google up a simple compost tea soak recipe and don’t bother with any page that pitches the aeration.

OK that’s it for now – more from Jack on the greenhouse construction soon!

Click HERE for organic soil-building products for your container (or other) garden.

http://ws.amazon.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&MarketPlace=US&ID=V20070822%2FUS%2Fdai0a-20%2F8010%2F4b616465-1347-4126-8514-38912cfeec14&Operation=GetDisplayTemplate Amazon.com Widgets

Do you have any container growing experiences to share here? Please comment!


One Response to Buckets o’Veg, Towers o’Toms, Container Growing Anywhere*

  1. Kelli says:

    Great advice! I’ve actually grown many plants in containers over the years using that cheap soil you buy at Wal-Mart or Home Depot. Actually the Home Depot soil isn’t too bas and all my plants were successful (except for the cilantro). The key is diversity: green waste, brown waste, and some earthworms thrown in the mix. I’ve never been able to stand the idea of animal manure in my garden so I just have to stick with decayed plants and adding some minerals by providing diversity.
    I have more advice at my site:

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