My First Container Garden

gthumb21(5b)April 19, 2012

Here is a map of my first container garden.

It has a self-watering system (each container is siphoned together to a float valve bucket that is gravity fed by a rubbermaid roughneck trash can). Each container is 5 gallons. Containers are either 1 hole at top, 6 holes on side, or 12 holes on side. Each container is actually 2 containers, the bottom is for water storage. A sock wicks water up into the top container through a hole in the bottom of the top container. 20 1/4" holes are drilled on the bottom of the top container for drainage.

I am using a mixture of 70% Lambert Peat Moss, 30% Perlite/Vermiculite, with 1 cup of Agricultural Lime and 2 cups 5-3-1 Organic Plant Food per 5 gallon container.

So far the lettuce looks amazing!!

I am growing from seed indoors: jalepeno pepper, sweet pepper, summer squash (zucchini), green beans, sugar peas, matina tomato, sweet cherry tomato, cilantro, basil, green onion. Will be moving most of these shortly to 6" planters and putting them into the Cold Frame until I can plant them outside. Peas are going in tomorrow.

I have a bunch of root vegetables that I ordered seeds for, and as soon as I get them, I am planting them directly into the containers (except for the celery root, which needs to be grown indoors first from what I read).

I also have a Kaffir Lime Tree that I am starting from seed, but those seeds are coming from Thailand and I don't get them for a few weeks. :)

Please give me pointers on my setup and I would be open to trying anything the community suggests. Also note that I have a few open spaces as well to plant something different.

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captiveroots(6A)

wow!

Is this a grid of 5 gallon containers?

If so, I would plant the chard alone in its own 5 gallon container, as it gets quite large... I usually give 4 chard plants a 6.5 gallon bucket and even that can get cramped when they really get going (but we eat a lot of chard so that helps).

I would love to see pics of this setup! I could see myself doing this someday if we don't buy a house with a yard soon!

Kudos to an awesome first garden! I started container gardens out of necessity (as a renter) and I really love it, although mine is far more primitive in terms of watering/containers.....

Here is a link that might be useful: My Container Garden Blog

    Bookmark   April 20, 2012 at 11:50PM
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emgardener

gthumb21,

double wow!

Very aggressive for a first container garden.
I used to use a float valve system also, it makes watering very convenient.

Few things you might want to try.

You might get better results with 1/2 peat and 1/2 perlite. After a decade of using SWCs and trying different mixes the 50:50 ratio peat:perlite(or turface) worked best. 70% peat might get quite soggy, which may cause plant problems (which usually don't become obvious until later in the season). Raybo's 3 2 1 mix is basically half peat and half lighter stuff. Garden supply sells a self watering container mix that I have bought. It is a very fluffy peat and perlite mix. If you still have unplanted containers try a lighter mix.

Also you might want to try a 32 gallon SWC just to see if results are better.

Eggplants do well in wetter soil and hotter soil, so they are a natural for SWCs.

Good luck and post some pictures.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2012 at 12:54PM
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gthumb21(5b)

thanks I will try your suggestion on a different soil mix. I will try to post pictures later on.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2012 at 9:31PM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

No offense intended, but I suggest you make any photos you post no more than 500 to 600 pixels wide. Your very impressive garden map is so wide that I am having trouble reading the comments because I have to scroll. The width of an image controls the width of the text. You could post a thumbnail that links to a larger image off site if you want to avoid that.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 12:52PM
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gthumb21(5b)

Ok, here is an update. I have planted a few more things. The sugar snap peas are barely hanging on -- we had a severe wind event a few days ago, and the transplants were not very happy.

My summer squash, green beans, sweetie tomatoes, and matina tomatoes all outgrew their seedling trays. They were moved into the cold frame last night. There is only about 4-5 more days of potential frost outside, and it is a very light frost (31 degrees or above). They seemed to be fine last night, and there was a light frost on the ground outside of the cold frame.

I designed a self-watering planter stand which enables me to put the 36 6" standard pots on capillary mats inside the cold frame, so I don't have to keep watering them every day. I made the mistake of not watering the plants when I transplanted them last night, and the capillary mats therefore didn't wick any moisture up. I thought the soil that I just mixed (with water) was going to be wet enough, but I was wrong.

The summer squash is already flowering, so hopefully I can transplant them again in 3 weeks to their final 5 gallon containers.

Outside the cold frame, the strawberry plants still haven't produced any strawberries yet, even though they are flowering. They just seem to die off after flowering. The lettuce is starting to take off -- the arugula is already flowering (we had a warm week a few weeks ago, and I think that did it)! I am just going to let it flower, since I have heard that it is basically pointless to try and stop it. The swiss chard and romaine are looking great, and the spinach that is facing direct sunlight (on a 12 side hole container bucket) is doing great. Brussel Sprouts are doing great and look very healthy so far. I am just starting to see some seedlings emerge on the carrots that I sowed last week.

Here is a picture of the garden layout as of 4/27/2012:

As you can see, it is a bit moved around. Probably not the last time. I have added plans for trellis along the back 4 rows, to grow vertically, with each plant successively taller so they don't shade out the rest. I originally was thinking about growing these plants out of side containers but I think I am going to play it safe and grow them each in their own 5 gallon container. Maybe I will do one with the hot peppers like that.

As always, I would love feedback and suggestions.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2012 at 2:39PM
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gthumb21(5b)

Installed "wiggle wire" yesterday on the cold frame, to hold the 6mil plastic that is draped over the 5 3/4" PVC, instead of staples. Happy I did it, because we are having 30 mph sustained winds here in Maine today. She's holding up like a champ. Next 3 nights are 30, 31, and 31 lows (our last chances of frost for the 2012 spring). Will bring in the snap peas into the cold frame for the next 3 days just to be safe (nice to be able to do that).

Also in the cold frame: Tomatoes, Green Beans, and Summer Squash all look like they have transplant shock (to be expected), but are otherwise still ticking. I checked the capillary mat, and it seems to be wicking now, so that is good.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 5:06PM
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suburbangardenMD(7)

Not only does it sound like you have an awesome setup going...you are so organized with that layout!

Incredible, can't wait to see pictures as things progress, please keep the forum posted.

I was going to post my little setup at some point, but I am on my third year and dont have anything so nice going!

Question for you, hows your sock wick working so far? Sounds good form what you mentioned. I decided to go with something other than cotton, nylon/polyester cord. I set up a test bucket today with three cords, knots and about a three inch frayed end for each inside the bucket, three strands down into my reservoir.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 7:38PM
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captiveroots(6A)

Good idea to deal with the wind! I am in Western NY and it has been very windy here lately, which tender young plants do not appreciate!

What type of strawberry are you growing? I am growing Ozark Beauty, and they seem to be taking well (got the bare roots at Home Depot). The reason I ask is that most strawberries fruit in June or July in our northern climate. The Ozark Beauty is an ever-bearing type, so it fruits a few times over the course of the summer, albeit a lighter crop than a "June bearer" that gives you a ton of fruit, but only once. Either way, I wouldn't expect berries this early.

I posted some pictures of my strawberries today (see link below).

Cool idea on the lime tree as well! I am thinking of getting a Meyer Lemon in a couple of weeks, but I am hoping that a local nursery might carry them so I am waiting until mid-May.

Here is a link that might be useful: Pics on strawberries in my container garden

    Bookmark   April 28, 2012 at 12:54PM
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gthumb21(5b)

Quinalt is the one with berries forming on it right now. The Ozark and Sequoia have flowers but no berries.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2012 at 6:18PM
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gthumb21(5b)

Quick question about trellising...I can't figure out which way to go. Should I use a tomato cage for each 5 gallon container, or should I build a trellis with stakes in the ground and line up my containers along it? I'm worried that my individual tomato cages will blow over in the wind.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2012 at 6:28PM
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gthumb21(5b)

Well, I decided to go with the advice of the kind of Square Foot Gardening, Mel Bartholomew, and build the trellises out of metal conduit and use steel reinforcing rods in the ground as supports. Everything is so cheap to do it this way, and everyone says it works. I bought a conduit bender and after a few messed up tries, I finally learned how to bend conduit :)

I am going to run 5-6 5 gallon containers underneath each trellis. One for peppers, zucchini, green beans, cucumbers, peas, and of course tomatoes.

As far as the seedlings in the hoop house, they made it!! We had 4 sub-freezing nights, and they did great. My self-watering trays also are working! I didn't have to water any of the 36 6" pots at all. There is some mold growth on the flower pots, but nothing I can do except open up the hoop house every day for ventilation. But the plants don't seem to mind it, and they are definitely looking better than 4 days ago.

In the house the sweet peppers, jalepeno peppers, serrano peppers, kale, beets, peas, green beans, stevia, chives, basil, cilantro, and green onions are doing great.

Will plant the basil, cilantro, and green onions in the next few days, along with some bonnie herbs that I picked up at home depot last month (dill, parsley, cilantro, lavender, rosemary, and mint). Of course, I will keep the mint separate :)

The cold-weather crops are doing awesome with this cold rainy weather lately. Romaine, Buttercrunch, Swiss Chard, Spinach, all look ready to start harvesting (which we are going to do this evening for dinner).

The brussel sprouts are doing well, and their stems are getting very thick already. Pearl onions and Yellow Carrots have germinated and are starting to peek out of the holes of the black garbage bags I have over each of the 5 gallon containers.

The arugula is growing, but the leaves look very small. It already bolted a few weeks ago (crazy!) and I have been picking off the flowers. It is definitely working as the leaf production is still going, but I think it would have been looking better had we not had that warm spell 4 weeks ago.

The snap pea transplants have made it, don't know how, with 40-50 mph winds and sub-freezing temperatures, with no hardening (whoops).

The self-watering system has been hands-free. Working amazingly well.

Will see if I can get some pictures up soon.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2012 at 3:11PM
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gthumb21(5b)

Ok, here are some videos I just took...

    Bookmark   May 2, 2012 at 5:41PM
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captiveroots(6A)

Gthumb21,

I like the way you grew the lettuce! I planted mine in a long white planter, and I always struggle to get a decent harvest (maybe I don't thin it enough).

Below is a link to a picture of my setup, which is more basic in terms of watering needs.

From what I've heard, most plants do really well with bottom watering. Although I don't have a ton of experience with it, my understanding is that it's the idea behind those tomato planters you see for sale in the hardware store all the time.

I'll be interested to see how your system works!

Here is a link that might be useful: picture of my container garden setup

    Bookmark   May 7, 2012 at 2:01AM
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gthumb21(5b)

Here is the May 2012 update:

May 2012 Update Video

Everything is planted!!

Here is a link that might be useful: May 2012 Update

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 3:59PM
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howelbama(7 NJ)

It is a very nice setup, just curious why you went with containers when you have all that land?

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 9:36PM
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jll0306(9/ Sunset 18/High Desert)

(each container is siphoned together to a float valve bucket that is gravity fed by a rubbermaid roughneck trash can)

Kudos to you for this thoughtfully designed garden and detailed description. I have an aquavalve I intend to use in a similar application. If I may ask a dumb question though, how do you see your tube holes so you don't have leaks?

Thanks,
Jan

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 12:31PM
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gthumb21(5b)

Jan,

The holes are actually above water level. Siphoning does not require that the hoses stay below the level that the liquid is at, so long as they maintain a vacuum.

On that note, the vacuum part has become very tricky. Because of the large nature of the garden, it has become very burdensome to make sure that the siphoning isn't broken. And it has done so a few times, causing hours of work to re-siphon each and every container.

So I am going to just switch to a standard irrigation hosing for the rest of the year. It was a nice try, and would work great for a few containers, but it goes against everything that I try to do, which is to make things simple!

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 12:55PM
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gthumb21(5b)
    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 1:52PM
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