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Container Gardening
Old 04-04-2011, 01:14 PM   #1
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Container Gardening

Well, I'm going to try container gardening for the first time. After reading up on it a bit, I know that self-watering containers are really critical for success.

I'd like to make my own, but many of the plans I looked at seemed beyond my limited mechanical skills. However, I found this video, and I thought that even I could possibly handle this. So, to the seasoned container gardeners here...do you think this system would be sufficient? I worried about the wicking mechanism working well enough.

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Old 04-04-2011, 01:36 PM   #2
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You need to get FD to respond to this as he's a super pro at container gardening. He sent me some answers to questions and links over a year ago, and I still kept them--being the mad deleter I am--because they were so valuable. Knows his stuff for sure!
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Old 04-04-2011, 01:49 PM   #3
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You need to get FD to respond to this as he's a super pro at container gardening. He sent me some answers to questions and links over a year ago, and I still kept them--being the mad deleter I am--because they were so valuable. Knows his stuff for sure!
I know I just re-read that old thread! I will PM him and ask him to post here. Thanks!
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Old 04-04-2011, 01:50 PM   #4
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You need to get FD to respond to this as he's a super pro at container gardening. He sent me some answers to questions and links over a year ago, and I still kept them--being the mad deleter I am--because they were so valuable. Knows his stuff for sure!

Well thank you! But I think that Goonie is da man when it comes to container gardening.

I think this system should work fine. As she says in the video, it is essential to tightly pack the channels around and between the jugs with dirt in order to get the best wick action.
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Old 04-04-2011, 02:00 PM   #5
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Well thank you! But I think that Goonie is da man when it comes to container gardening.

I think this system should work fine. As she says in the video, it is essential to tightly pack the channels around and between the jugs with dirt in order to get the best wick action.
Awesome! I just watched several of her other videos, and boy did she get good results. She even has a video where she shows you how to manually pollinate squash. So cool.

Are you doing a garden this year?

Hopefully Goonie will drop in on the conversation, too.
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Old 04-04-2011, 02:23 PM   #6
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Are you doing a garden this year?

I am, but it's going to be smaller than last year because we are redoing the backyard. I planted a few salads last week. I also want to plant some herbs and bush beans. But this year I will probably avoid the larger plants (tomatoes, cucumbers, pole beans, peppers, etc...) in case I have to move the pots during construction. Last year my tomato plants were about 6 feet tall and the branches were so heavy with fruits that they broke the metallic cage I had installed around them.
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Old 04-04-2011, 02:27 PM   #7
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I am, but it's going to be smaller than last year because we are redoing the backyard. I planted a few salads last week. I also want to plant some herbs and bush beans. But this year I will probably avoid the larger plants (tomatoes, cucumbers, pole beans, peppers, etc...) in case I have to move the pots during construction. Last year my tomato plants were about 6 feet tall and the branches were so heavy with fruits that they broke the metallic cage I had installed around them.
Wow!
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Old 04-04-2011, 02:41 PM   #8
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I've got a few (homemade) self-watering containers that worked well for me. I think the system described in the video would work fine. She doesn't address soil in the video, but I'm sure somewhere else she talks about the importance of using potting mix (not potting soil, dirt, etc), about fertilization, and about affixing a cover over the whole thing.

The only two minor things that I'd do differently but which are likely not important in the real world:
-- If I used the two little bottles as a filler neck I'd probably tape them together to prevent them from coming apart int he future and lettline a bunch of soil into the water compartment.
-- I steer clear of flexible plastic containers. Again, this is probably overkill, but the pthalates and other plasticizers added to these flexible plastics do leach out and aren't good to eat, and the plants are going to be taking them in. I don't have any scientific test for "acceptable" containers, but if they are rubbery or if I can smell stuff outgassing from them in the store, I don't use them. Other folks are worried about PVC, but that doesn't bother me so much.
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Old 04-04-2011, 02:41 PM   #9
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I will be growing my Roma and dwarf cherry tomatoes in large pots (I already own) on the open walkway around my porch so they will not get that leaf black spot that develops in mid-season in my open garden.

I invested in one of these babies just recently.
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000JUW8RE
I plan to grow filet bush beans in it. I've grown beans in the garden just to have various critters (mostly Japanese beetles) ruin them. Or I forget to pick them and they get too large.

I will plant the bean seeds inside to germinate and then put the container outside a lot earlier than I could by direct sowing in the garden. The nice thing about this model is the wheels. When it gets cold at night, I can easily roll it a few feet to get it inside the porch.
It's nice to have a larger than usual "cold frame". The screened porch stays warmer in spring because I leave the winter plexiglas panels on. Once it really warms up, it is a great hothouse until I take down the panels.

If the container garden is successful, I will possibly invest in another one or two. My outdoor garden may get a hardy cherry tree planted in it along with the flowers on the side I am letting go fallow this year.
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Old 04-05-2011, 10:41 PM   #10
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...do you think this system would be sufficient? I worried about the wicking mechanism working well enough.
I think it should work out fine and dandy! I use several self-watering containers of various breeds, and they definitely do much better than the plain ol' run of the mill containers! They also help to keep me a lazy gardener since I don't have to be constantly watering stuff!!!

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Well thank you! But I think that Goonie is da man when it comes to container gardening.

I think this system should work fine. As she says in the video, it is essential to tightly pack the channels around and between the jugs with dirt in order to get the best wick action.
Thanks for passing the buck the vote of confidence, FD! Last year I only had 112 or 116 containers...or something like that...I forget! But it was down form the previous year by a dozen or so. Many were self-watering...but a lot weren't .

Anyway, like you said, be sure to pack that potting mix into all the cracks and crevices between the jugs...that's what causes the wicking action. Another thing that I learned a few years back, is to make sure the potting mix is thoroughly moist BEFORE you start putting it into the container...any container. I usually use a container, like the red one she was using in the video, to put my potting mix in and to moisten it.

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........She doesn't address soil in the video, but I'm sure somewhere else she talks about the importance of using potting mix (not potting soil, dirt, etc), about fertilization, and about affixing a cover over the whole thing.

The only two minor things that I'd do differently but which are likely not important in the real world:
-- If I used the two little bottles as a filler neck I'd probably tape them together to prevent them from coming apart int he future and letting a bunch of soil into the water compartment......
Absolutely potting MIX! Not potting soil, or garden soil, or any other plain ol' dirt...they have their place, but if used in containers, you'll turn out some pretty nice adobe bricks by the middle of summer!

I've used Miracle-Gro potting mix with mostly successful results, although their quality control is sometimes questionable (i.e. big chunks of wood mulch). Last year I started using FertiLoam potting mix with very good results, plus it was cheaper than the Miracle-Gro...and it was consistantly the same from one bag to another....no big chunks either!

Both Miracle-Gro and FertiLoam have some slow release fertilizer in them, but I always add a touch more Ozmocote slow-release fertilizer. It's good for about 3 months...after that time period, you can scratch in a little bit more if you want, or add a little bit of other fertilizer. Also, Ozmocote won't burn your plants roots!!!

If you do use the water bottle system that she shows, like Sam said, duct tape 'em together. Personally I'd opt for a single piece of pvc pipe cut to length, and then cut the bottom of it at an angle so the water can flow freely into the reservoir area.

BTW...I planted my 1st container of the year on March 20th...the 1st day of Spring! It's currently sitting inside my little coldframe/hot-house thing, and doing splendid!!! The mesclun is about 1 1/2" tall right now!!! I'm going to plant some radishes in it tomorrow!

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Old 04-05-2011, 11:12 PM   #11
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.....I invested in one of these babies just recently.
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000JUW8RE
I plan to grow filet bush beans in it. I've grown beans in the garden just to have various critters (mostly Japanese beetles) ruin them. Or I forget to pick them and they get too large......

.....If the container garden is successful, I will possibly invest in another one or two.....
I bought one Earthbox in 2009, and planted a couple of grape tomato plants in it. They did pretty good! So last year I was exploring a couple of garden centers that I'd heard about, and bought 4 more Earthboxes!!! I planted 3 pepper plants in each one of the five boxes, and they did fantastic!!! One had cayenne, two had jalapeņo, and the other two had sweet banana...all did equally well! And they all did better than any of the peppers that I planted in other types of containers!

I tossed out the plastic shower-caps covers that came with them, as I didn't care much for them, and besides the root balls of my peppers are pretty good sized since I pot them up into 6" pots until I'm ready to plant them, and cutting an "X" in the plastic cover to stick the root ball through ain't gonna work out to well! Ha! Instead, I just put about a 1" layer of cypress mulch on top each container to hold in the moisture....as I've done with all of containers and planting beds for years.
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Old 04-06-2011, 05:09 AM   #12
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I think it should work out fine and dandy! I use several self-watering containers of various breeds, and they definitely do much better than the plain ol' run of the mill containers! They also help to keep me a lazy gardener since I don't have to be constantly watering stuff!!!

Anyway, like you said, be sure to pack that potting mix into all the cracks and crevices between the jugs...that's what causes the wicking action. Another thing that I learned a few years back, is to make sure the potting mix is thoroughly moist BEFORE you start putting it into the container...any container. I usually use a container, like the red one she was using in the video, to put my potting mix in and to moisten it.


Absolutely potting MIX! Not potting soil, or garden soil, or any other plain ol' dirt...they have their place, but if used in containers, you'll turn out some pretty nice adobe bricks by the middle of summer!

I've used Miracle-Gro potting mix with mostly successful results, although their quality control is sometimes questionable (i.e. big chunks of wood mulch). Last year I started using FertiLoam potting mix with very good results, plus it was cheaper than the Miracle-Gro...and it was consistantly the same from one bag to another....no big chunks either!

Both Miracle-Gro and FertiLoam have some slow release fertilizer in them, but I always add a touch more Ozmocote slow-release fertilizer. It's good for about 3 months...after that time period, you can scratch in a little bit more if you want, or add a little bit of other fertilizer. Also, Ozmocote won't burn your plants roots!!!

If you do use the water bottle system that she shows, like Sam said, duct tape 'em together. Personally I'd opt for a single piece of pvc pipe cut to length, and then cut the bottom of it at an angle so the water can flow freely into the reservoir area.
Taking notes here! A few questions...I have been doing a bit more reading, and one site states you need to have an aeration screen or tube to allow the roots to get some air. In the design I linked to above, I didn't see anything that allowed for this. How important is aeration?

Also, regarding fertilizer, how do you add it? Do you mix it in with all of the soil, all the way through, or just in the top part of the soil? Or do you do a strip of fertilizer in away from the plants? How do you know how much to put in?
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Old 04-06-2011, 05:59 AM   #13
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Another question! If I am going to be planting sometime in the next 2 weeks here (central Alabama), should I start with seeds or plants for the following?

- bush beans
- lettuce/mesclun mix
- green bell peppers
- red bell peppers
- cucumbers
- summer yellow squash
- tomatoes

Also, there are two of us. How many of each plant do you think would be sufficient?
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Old 04-06-2011, 09:29 AM   #14
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Taking notes here! A few questions...I have been doing a bit more reading, and one site states you need to have an aeration screen or tube to allow the roots to get some air. In the design I linked to above, I didn't see anything that allowed for this. How important is aeration?
In was wondering this also. Maybe I'm missing something, but it seems these things have a pool of water in the bottom. I always thought that was bad? I guess the spacers and limited channels of soil are what provide the wicking and keep the roots from drowning? Seems to really cut down on the soil volume available for roots.

Seems like punching a few holes in the plant containers and setting them in a pool of water (or a larger, shallow container full of water) would do the same thing?

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Old 04-06-2011, 09:51 AM   #15
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Another question! If I am going to be planting sometime in the next 2 weeks here (central Alabama), should I start with seeds or plants for the following?

- bush beans
- lettuce/mesclun mix
- green bell peppers
- red bell peppers
- cucumbers
- summer yellow squash
- tomatoes

Also, there are two of us. How many of each plant do you think would be sufficient?

I am in Northern Alabama and this is what I do:

-bush beans: seeds
-lettuce/mesclun: I have done seeds and plants. It might be a bit late to start from seeds down here. Salads like the colder weather. As soon as it gets hot, they will start bolting and, here in Alabama, it starts getting hot pretty early in the season! So at this point, I'd go with plants. Next year, you can start from seeds in early March or so.
- bell peppers: plants
- cucumbers: plants
- squash: plants
- tomatoes: plants

I usually wait until mid- to late April to plant frost-sensitive plants here, but I think you can start planting those right now in your area.

How many plants you need? It depends on your growing conditions and how much you want your garden to produce. My growing conditions are pretty poor. My backyard gets only about 2 hours of full sun per day and maybe 6 more hours of partial shade. Those are terrible lighting conditions for growing veggies. Nonetheless, my yields have been pretty good. If you have more sun than I do, your yields should be even better.

- Cucumbers: unless you are willing to eat cucumbers sandwiches every other day for 2 months, I would limit it to 2-3 plants.
- Tomatoes: same thing. In the late summer month, you will have ripe tomatoes almost everyday. I would start with 2-4 plants.
- Bell peppers: I don't eat a lot of peppers, so I keep it in the 4-6 plant range. That should give you just a few bell peppers a week for many weeks.
- Bush beans: hard to tell. I plant the seeds in groups of 3-5. I plant somewhere around 15-20 groups for the 2 of us. Again, that should give you fresh beans every other day or so for a short while. Beans tend to produce a lot for a relatively short period of time. Unless you love beans, that may be too much to harvest at one time (but you can always freeze them). If you want to get smaller quantities of beans throughout the summer, you could do the following: Plant some beans now, plant some beans 2 weeks from now, plant some beans 1 month from now, etc... It's called staggered planting. That way you will have waves of beans ready to eat throughout the summer instead of having one huge quantity of beans all at ounce.
- Salads: I think you can never have enough, so I usually plant 18-24 plants for the two of us. You can use the staggered planting method too for salad, but our cooler spring is so short down here that I usually plant everything at ounce.
- Squash: a minimum of 2 plants should do.


Also, I would recommend the following:

1) place the tomatoes and peppers in the sunniest and hottest part of your garden space.
2) Place the cucumbers in relative shade however. The sun down here will bleach the cucumber leaves in no time.
3) when you plant in containers, do not place the plant less than 1-2 inches from the side of the container. It gets so hot in the summer down here that the plants that have their root balls too close to the sides of the container will fry.
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Old 04-06-2011, 10:40 AM   #16
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I am in Northern Alabama and this is what I do:
Thank you soooooooo much for writing all these details out - incredibly helpful to the complete newbie gardener!

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I usually wait until mid- to late April to plant frost-sensitive plants here, but I think you can start planting those right now in your area.
Surprisingly, we just had frost last night. Hopefully that will be the last one for the season.

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If you have more sun than I do, your yields should be even better.
We are putting them on our back deck which gets great Southern exposure. Hoping we get good yields!

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- Bush beans: hard to tell. I plant the seeds in groups of 3-5. I plant somewhere around 15-20 groups for the 2 of us. Again, that should give you fresh beans every other day or so for a short while. Beans tend to produce a lot for a relatively short period of time. Unless you love beans, that may be too much to harvest at one time (but you can always freeze them). If you want to get smaller quantities of beans throughout the summer, you could do the following: Plant some beans now, plant some beans in 2 weeks from now, plant some beans in 1 month from now, etc... It's called staggered planting. That way you will have waves of beans ready to eat throughout the summer instead of having one huge quantity of beans all at ounce.
So, when you say you plant in groups of 3-5, does that mean you have to transplant them after they sprout, or can they stay near each other? We do love green beans, but I like the staggered planting idea.
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Old 04-06-2011, 10:42 AM   #17
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Taking notes here! A few questions...I have been doing a bit more reading, and one site states you need to have an aeration screen or tube to allow the roots to get some air. In the design I linked to above, I didn't see anything that allowed for this. How important is aeration?

Also, regarding fertilizer, how do you add it? Do you mix it in with all of the soil, all the way through, or just in the top part of the soil? Or do you do a strip of fertilizer in away from the plants? How do you know how much to put in?

Actually, there is an aeration tube in the design above: the water bottles you use to fill up the water tanks. In commercial self-watering containers, air is similarly introduced to the roots via the watering hole.

I add fertilizer as a strip, on top of the soil, and away from the plants (the strip is placed lengthwise, in the center of the pot). If you do that, it's very important to use a cover, otherwise the fertilizer will be released too quickly when it rain.
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Old 04-06-2011, 10:50 AM   #18
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So, when you say you plant in groups of 3-5, does that mean you have to transplant them after they sprout, or can they stay near each other? We do love green beans, but I like the staggered planting idea.
Once your pots are filled with potting mix, make holes about 1.5 inch deep in the dirt (6-8 holes per pot depending on the size of the pot) and put 3-5 bean seeds in each hole. Cover with dirt. That's it. They sprout directly in the pot, no transplanting necessary. Beans are not fussy.
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Old 04-06-2011, 11:06 AM   #19
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I have been container gardening for the last few years. I keep getting more and more containers. (I want to try more and more dif veggies... ) My issue are squirrels digging in them. I planted some seeds a few weeks ago and the plants have started coming up but the squirrels are wrecking it. Anyone have any ideas on what to do to keep them out? We have used mouse traps in the past when we have tomatoes.

ALso, my neighbor has been feeding the rabbits that are now living under her deck. THey ate all my crocuses this year! I told DH we need to get some chicken wire before we plant anything else at ground level. He thinks it looks ugly.

We used to have several cats in the area and that helped but they have moved on or were hit by cars.
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Old 04-06-2011, 11:24 AM   #20
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Once your pots are filled with potting mix, make holes about 1.5 inch deep in the dirt (6-8 holes per pot depending on the size of the pot) and put 3-5 bean seeds in each hole. Cover with dirt. That's it. They sprout directly in the pot, no transplanting necessary. Beans are not fussy.
Excellent! I'm all about the easy button.
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