Monday, March 16, 2009

Still Wittering on About Gardening!

The cold blustery days continue, and my desperation to get into the garden grows. I occupy myself searching for alternate ways to grow vegies in small spaces.

I talk to my 80-year-old brother in Texas on the phone most days and a few days ago he mentioned that he'd gotten a flier for a container growing system for vegetables in the mail. He's grown gardens for many years and said this looked interesting, as it's something he feels he could still manage, when he can't garden conventionally any more due to age and health problems.

As usual I turned to the web and came up with the company but of course they are in the US and importing their growing boxes would make them completely out of reach financially.

But with a little more looking I found a DIY alternative called Earthtainers, and I'm seriously considering making several containers along these lines. The idea behind this type of container is that has a water reservoir, which holds several day's worth of water, and the plant wicks up exactly the amount it needs.

The biggest difficulty with container planting is water, especially in the brutally hot summer days we have here. The soil dries out and you often have to water twice a day. If you water superficially the roots get no water whatsoever, dry out and die. If you water too much plant roots become waterlogged, are without oxygen for hours, and die. One too many cycles of "dry and waterlogged" and you have dead or non-productive plants on your hands. And you get tomato plants that look like mine last season. Poor things. This was taken when they were at their best. (Now you know why I posted no tomato plant pictures last year!) They produced moderately well but I think it was out of fear of what that woman with the hose was going to do next!

These containers get around the watering problem. I can see how solving this one problem could increase your production dramatically. While it might seem a bit pricey to start with, it's not going to be inexpensive to build the 12" deep beds I was planning. Filling them with a delivered soil/compost mix will be back-breaking work. And, I fear that when you build a bed, fill it with nice cushy nutritious soil and keep it watered, the tree roots underlying every inch of ground here will sucker right up into it. Willows and these Mock Cherry trees reproduce by exactly that method.

I have a big stack of planters of all sizes and I can see how it would be easy to take the principle behind the Earthtainer and use it to adapt almost any of these planters into a "reservoir" type container. I also will probably buy at least a few totes to use for larger plants, like the melons, larger tomatoes, and maybe some okra.

As soon as it is warm enough to work outside a bit I will haul out the tools and start adapting the planters I already have. Meanwhile you can look at their beautiful site and watch some nice videos on how to build a swanky Earthtainer for yourself.


Anonymous said...

This is sounding quite worthy. I wonder if it would be alright to have the containers in the green house?

Deb said...

I don't see why they wouldn't work in a greenhouse. One problem in a greenhouse is too much moisture and resultant plant diseases. The water doesn't leave the containers, the only "loose" water is that which evaporates out of the plants. You'd extend your growing season too. Wish I had a greenhouse, or a house, or a green. :~x

Anonymous said...

I find the best growers in the greenhouse are peppers.

I may have to move the 'mater plants to the great out of doors.

Anonymous said...

Auntie Deb, I hope you have better luck with these. We made 3 of them last year and the only thing that grew was the sticks from a friend's Flowering Quince that I rooted in 1. The tomatoes never produced and the water got stagnant and icky in the containers.

I love the idea and I may give the remaining 2 containers one more try this year...fresh dirt and new plants.

Deb said...

Hey SusieQ,

What kind of soil didst thou use? I am highly curious. Everywhere you look people are raving about how good these things are. I just looked at a YouTube where the gal's sweet million tomato plants were bigger in a month than mine got last year. But if there's a way to fuss it up I'll find it! My gardens are always best in Feb, while they are still in my head! LOL