Wednesday, June 3, 2015

My First Container Garden

I have grown plenty of flowers and other plants in pots and other sorts of containers. But I have not tried to grow vegetables in containers before. So this is a learning experience for me as well.  I had a couple old kitchen trash cans in my garage. Sometime in their life the lids either broke or just didn't latch closed anymore. I have quite a few of them since I don't throw out useable things.

I know that a full bin would be quite heavy so I filled them 3/4s full with wood chips and the top 1/4 with a mix of compost, light soil, and store bought potting soil. The bins are only about 15-20 lbs now but as the wood chips absorb water they will get heavier. I put a layer of newspaper between the soil and the wood chips so the soil wouldn't wash down into the bed of chips. I am hoping that the wood chips will hold water, which should wick up into the soil when needed.

I always pinch off the lower branches of the tomato plants and then bury the plant deep in the soil. Tomatoes will put roots out anywhere that it is in contact with soil. The soil is very rich and very well drained. I planted eight inch tall plants three weeks ago and look how big they are already.

I have back against the wall because we were still getting frosts at night when I planted them. This will also protect them for a few weeks in the fall if they survive that long.  They also get some reflected light from the light tan siding. They are on the south side of my house so they are in the shade by 4:00 PM; they need all the sunlight they can get until then.

Both plants already have flower buds on them. I intend to pinch off some so more energy can go to fewer fruits. This will increase the speed at which they mature. I don't need baskets of tomatoes at the end of summer; I want a couple a week for as long as possible.

Under one tomato I planted onion sets. There aren't many but they will also grow fast and the onions will keep some insect and mammal pests away. They will also decrease the impact of water on the soil, keeping it from splashing. Tomatoes are subject to blossom end rot when soil splashed up on the plant.

Under the other tomato I planted radishes for the same reasons. The radishes will mature in 30 days and as I pick them I will plant something else.

I'm using an old recycle bin that was put out for trash as a bin for green beans. I used the same soil over wood chips technique as with the tomatoes. The package says to plant the beans three inches apart in rows that are eighteen inches apart. The 18 inch rows are really for the use of tillers, not because the plant needs that much space. I never plant in long rows, I plant in blocks. I stagger the seeds so that they are the same distance from each other in all directions. Since the planting distance on the package said three inches in rows, I plant them six inches apart in all directions. I explained this technique before and show it below.  These beans should sprout in about ten days. I have a very active squirrel and bird population here so I will have to cover the beans with something when they come up.


I missed the pepper plant in the middle, between the tomatoes. That is planted in a standard 12 inch pot but otherwise the same as the tomatoes. It is also doing very well, tripling in size and it is dark green, which is a healthy sign.

Monday, June 1, 2015

31 May 2015 Garden Progress

After yet another dry week I gave the garden a good watering on Saturday and the Sunday, after I left, a torrential rain came through our area. I have no idea if there is any damage to the garden and won't until next weekend. Fingers crossed.

As you can see the spinach has done very well. This is two of the six plants I have growing.  I already picked a bag of spinach leaves from the left plant.  The trick is to take mature leaves from the outermost parts of the plant and new leaves will grow in from the center.  Eventually the plant will "bolt", what they call it when it goes to seed. This usually happens when it gets warmer or when you have removed enough from the plant that it somehow knows to stop growing and start producing seeds. In any case, you will get quite a few salads from each plant.

The tomatoes have more than doubled in size in just a week. I pruned off the lower most branches. I usually try to have a ten inch gap between the lowest branches and the ground. This helps prevent diseases such as blossom end rot from starting. Any water-splash from the ground up to the plant is not good.  There are a few flower buds so tomatoes will start forming in a week or so.  The peas are off to a slow start. I'm not sure what is causing them to grow so slow, perhaps the dryness.

I harvested all the carrots, turned the soil, and planted the area in carrots and parsnips. Normally I wouldn't plant the same crop in the same area but since the original carrot crop was in during the winter and I harvested them a little early, I don't have much fear of any residual disease in the soil. But I will definitely plant something else after this crop matures. If I plant something fast growing I will get three crops from the same space in one year. That is not too bad.

As you can see, I laid out rows 4-5 inches apart. Every other row is carrots and the other is parsnips. What I very often do is scratch in my rows to the depth recommended for the particular seed. In this case it was half an inch. I drop the seed in the row and then cover it with either sand or compost. In this case I used compost. The contrast makes it easier for me to pull tiny weeds without pulling up a tiny seedling. Also, the sand or compost is looser and helps the seed to sprout and for the seedling to emerge. The compost will help feed the seedling with a slow release fertilizer.  I am hoping the down pour did not wash out these seeds. The rain was so heavy that there was localized flooding after only 45 minutes.

I didn't take a picture but the green beans that I planted a week ago are already up. Two of them didn't form properly so I'll replant them next weekend.

All the onions have also sprouted nicely and are starting to grow.

My next posting will be of my container garden that I started three weeks ago at my second house where I work. It is my first try at a container garden so it is all new to me.