SWC's for a Veggie Garden Noob
I’ve been yearning for a veggie garden for ages. Three things keep stopping me:
1. Not enough space for a standard garden bed. We own a home in suburban CA central valley. My land is a postage stamp with a pool… My side yards are only wide enough for walkpaths, and I can only assume that the front yard is out of the question due to CC&R’s, though that’s unconfirmed.
2. Not enough time to commit to doing it properly. Although my weekends are generally free, I have a 200 mile round trip commute to work every day, two young’ns, and my wife works full time as well.
3. Very little budget for automating irrigation, a necessity. This area of the central valley stays very hot and dry for a long part of the summer. Full sun, High 90’s to Mid 100’s is pretty much the norm from May thru the end of September.
Last year, I wet my feet with a half wine barrel herb and assorted pepper garden…which did ok. Aphids did get out of control, and some kind of small worms/caterpillars bored through and ruined most of my bell peppers. This year, I’m going to try self watering containers using a slightly modified version of the dual 5 gallon bucket. Really, the only thing I’m doing different, is using a different (cheaper) wicking basket…something I found at the Dollar Store, meant to be a decorative bathroom storage container I think. Will post pictures later. Anyway, it’s quite a bit larger in area than the usual pond strainers, but I can get them two for a buck. It’s plastic, roughly 4x4x8”, and covered in vent holes, something like a laundry basket.
So, how I got here…I recently became interested in preparedness and have been listening to one particular podcast that sort of re-sparked my interest in personal food production. I became aware of some of the problems facing the future of world food supply due to the clearly unsustainable methods of modern agriculture. Since going down that rabbit hole, I’ve been turned on to ideas like homesteading, permaculture, and the paleo diet. Granted, these are pie in the sky ideals for most of us that aren’t lucky enough to be able to own and occupy that much land. Anyway, a man’s gotta dream.
In my research, I happened across lot’s of cool ideas on YouTube…geodesic dome greenhouses, aquaponics, rocket mass heaters, and these nifty little contraptions…self watering containers.
I don’t really expect to offset my food costs by much this year, as I’m certain this will be a learning exercise more than anything else. My little girl just turned three, so she’s probably getting old enough to involve and engage in some of the activities. Even if she just hangs out and bombards me with a million questions, that’s infinitely better than parking her in front of the tube. Plus, I’m sure we’ll all end up eating better for it.
Some questions I hope you folks can help me out with:
1. Considering how hot it gets here, is container soil temperature going to be an issue? If so, any thoughts on lining the inside of the grow bucket with reflective mylar facing out?
2. To sheet mulch or not? I assume this would help in retaining soil moisture, but will it also tend to trap heat?
3. My buckets are all food grade #2 HDPE, so I assume that’s safe to grow in. Should I be concerned about using PVC for the fill tube? I’ve seen where some people are using bamboo, or even copper tubing. Copper? That just seems like a bad idea to me given the fact that it’s one of the most powerful antimicrobials/antifungals occurring in nature. That can’t be good for beneficial soil micro-life. What about the wicking baskets? Am I overthinking? I do that :)