Doing it all wrong.

RachaelA(4b)May 19, 2013

Hi. My name is Rachael and I'm about as novice of a gardener as it gets. It seems though that I have screwed things up before they even got started. I've always wanted a garden but because I live in a rental ( so I can't tear up the lawn for a raised bed) and am of small means, I just didn't think it was possible.

Trying to figure out a solution, I thought of containers on a table. My Dad was able to build me a wonderful table and I thought I had it made. Haha, not so. Then began the journey of trying to find containers I could afford and after weeks of fretting, I finally found them. Hooray !! Victory !! Or not. I had had some seedlings I had started ( and consequently killed ) and I had picked up a couple veggies here and there. I was SO excited, let me tell you, I have been on what I can only call a gardening high.

When my flowers sprouted I was ecstatic. I'm not so concerned about them though, I just got a value pack of seeds and a wildflower mix and hoped for the best. I wanted my own food though, I wanted it fresh, knowing what went into it. No grocery store, no traffic, no crowds - perfect. I like none of those things lol

So, I got to work hauling 19 three gallon buckets of black dirt ( yep ) and about 4 garbage bags of it, hauling it from my Moms house to mine, back and forth, loading and unloading. Taking my seedlings ( flowers and veggies) in and out of the house like a mad woman, protecting them from our wacky frosts.

I thought "I can DO this though, I have dirt" ! That was they key. The table, the pots and the dirt was supposed to be the trifecta of glory just waiting for plants to be lovingly planted in and on them. I even went through quite the ordeal sawing through a whisky barrel lid to make a rain barrel because I pay for my water and rain water is free! I thought I had yet achieved another victory. Here I am, thinking I'm a big deal problem solver because I've gotten all these ducks in a row. Well...

1. Black dirt. In containers. Now common sense told me it seemed too muddy, so I bit the bullet and bought a couple bags of potting soil. I had some seed starting mix left over so I mixed it all together. Then I found so old cactus mix, and thought it was just what I needed, well draining and all. Which brings me to 2.

2. Layers, I guess an inch of cactus mix on the bottom won't make a stitch of difference concerning how well my soil drains. Lovely.

3. Black pots, full sun, from noon on.

4. Crimson sweet watermelons are HUGE, have to bring those to my Moms house because I don't have to room or means to deal with 25lb watermelons.

5. Now I need 5 gallon buckets because broccoli and cauliflower are evidently huge plants. If they even have enough time in the first case.

My biggest issue I think, is the soil and manhandling my plants that I have already transplanted. From what I've read I have no recourse but the re-pot them all using potting mix, right? I'm tapped though, I spent the last little bit I had on peppers and onions ( yeah onions, I can't help what I like but I didn't know I'd need a bathtub to grow them in lol) today and I would need a whole boat load of potting soil to replace the black dirt/potting soil/seed starting mix/cactus soil mix I've used and have yet to use. I don't know what to do. This isn't even the whole ordeal, but a majority anyway. I just had to voice my frustration and if anyone has any out of the box ideas on how I can fix this or even commiserate I'd be grateful to hear it.

This post was edited by RachaelA on Sun, May 19, 13 at 18:33

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feel your frustration Rachael , and understand it too, we have all probably done what you have done in regards to containers.

uum maybe just try a few pots of 5.1.1 mix and see how you go.

I know from experience these things take time to achieve having the best garden isn't an over night matter.

as for the soil you used in the pots maybe let them go and see what happens, nothing is wasted in gardening in experience wise, then we can go looking for better answers if what we are doing doesn't work so well.

so all is not lost, gardening for me is an exercise in patience and learning to wait :)

so maybe just try find some good bark , a supplier of perlite and peat and some soluble fertilizer and make a few pots of that and see how you do?

I am sure others on here would be able to tell you where to find what you need in your area.

your doing better than most I think because you are willing to learn and change and that's all we need to do to grow great flowers and veggies :)

don't beat yourself up its all part of the process :)


    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 4:21AM
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Thanks BZ, I would love to try the fancy 5-1-1 mix but... I have no idea where to get this stuff firstly and as I understand it, it needs time to blend and meld and get all happy, right? Well, it's going to rain off and on for the next three day and I am very worried Im going to drown my plants :-/

Maybe the next best thing, or maybe 2 rungs down.

If I somehow managed to find pine bark fines ( which is doubtful in my area, ill likely find just mulch )and some potting mix and shuffle those things together in equal parts, would that at least be better than what I have?

Or, now bear with me. Straws. Like insert the straw into the soil, retract and blow out the soil and replace the straw? So I don't drown them, channel the rainwater away, maybe lol?

It's Sunday and I don't have much time, so I'm going to hope my better-thing-suggestion of the potting mix and pine bark. :-/

I'm completely willing to do it any which way that works. I just pretty much spent what I had set aside for a garden already before I found out about all this stuff. I just want my plants to grow and eat from them. The thought of losing what I have invested so far is incredibly awful to me.

I have to inflate the tires of my car every few days or so. I was supposed to get a couple new rims because I guess repairing the bead only lasts so long. I got a garden instead. When I throw money down the drain, I can't help but beat myself up for it. Truthfully though, if I would have read this all before I started, I probably wouldn't have because I'd feel way too intimidated.

Edit: Wow, I have no idea even how much I need or how to attempt to figure it out. Maybe ill just try the straw idea. I'm a fairly neurotic gal and its kind of stressing me out, just waiting for a raindrop >.

This post was edited by RachaelA on Sun, May 19, 13 at 11:34

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 11:21AM
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Hi Rachael

best to look after the car 1st :)

garden 2nd or 3rd.

I understand worrying about how everything will turn out, I do that too, but it has not changed anything :( still it doesn't seem to stop me.

gardening is a hobby for the most part i think, not really a money saving venture in my experience anyway, maybe I am doing it wrong :)

I have a week or so of rain coming too and was starting to worry about this and that, all I can do is my best and leave the rest up to nature to work out :)

when you get some more money to play with for the garden maybe then you will understand more about the bark perlite & peat mix and where you might be able to find some :)

if you have somewhere under cover to put your pots when the rain comes that might help for now. if not just let them be not sure the straw will help much, then just see what happens, they might do fine only one way to find out hey :)

hang in there and get your car fixed 1st :)

take care


Here is a link that might be useful: try reading this a few times

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 12:25PM
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Don't beat yourself up too much! I have two black thumbs and have learned that plants can be pretty hearty if you take care of them even a quarter as well as you have taken care of yours.

I dated a very smart man once that said everyone should have a hobby that helps culvate a weakness of theirs. My weakness is patience. I have *no* patience, which is why gardening is good for me.

Keep it going, don't shock your plants too much, and see how it goes. If anything, it is not a waste. You still have pots and you have gained knowledge. Next year will be a breeze.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 4:43PM
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BZ, the car will get her rims before winter, as long as the hours I work pick up this summer.

My main hobby is not this, I'm a photographer ( not a paid one either, despite my best efforts. lol ) My garden buddies not only hopefully will give me food but beautiful subjects that mean a great deal to me. I take macro pictures and the blossoms on a tomato plant ( as an example ) are simply exquisite to me :) I didn't think this was going to run me the cost of new photography equipment but such is life I guess. Despite the setbacks, I hope it will ultimately be very satisfying.

The water retention thread is what threw me into this loop in the first place ! I was like "YIKES! What have I done? "

So my wonderful Momma ( Hi Momma if you ever read this ♥ ) and I went out today and despite my searching, the mini pine bark and pine fines are nowhere to be found. I ended up with a huge bag of MG potting mix and two bags of perlite.

Then I found something better, I hope. Once it's out of its cube it should be a good amount of good plant stuff? lol

It's called Lambert LM-3 , I've put the link at the bottom. I know its not 5-1-1 but it's got to be better than what I have going. My plants are pretty much in mud at the moment. I reiterate a YIKES :p

I am curious though, as I look on the site, it says Drainage - average. I have two bag of MG Perlite ( 8 dry quarts per bag? ) . Should I mix this into the Lambert and at what ratio?

Uaskigryl - You're very sweet, thank you. I'm doing what I can. It's amazing how much you can come to care about your plants. As for black thumbs, I've killed cacti ( well succulents ) and I thought I was doing everything right lol If I can kill a cactus, I imagine I sure can kill a tomato plant lol

I am also a little low on the patience, and I like things --just so, you know in my control. Plants, veggies --flowers I can only control so much and nature to an extent just does what she does. Not being able ( and also being overwhelmed by the vast amounts of information to digest ) to control everything is a bit of an uncomfortable place for me lol

When I transplant ( which is pretty much when I know if I should mix in the perlite or not ) what would you suggest I do with them afterward? It's going to be rainy all week, should I put them back outside? Fertilize them ( I have Scotts 10-10-10 and some seaweed stuff ) and then put them outside? Keep them in the garage for a few days? Fertilize AND keep them in ? Decisions decisions lol

I do want to say broadly speaking that this forum ( these ) has been an IMMENSE help and resource. I'm not generally a poster of things but I have been reading here off and on for a long time. I may have to visit the bulb forum soon because if I thought I was lost with container plants, bulbs are a whole other deal. Anyway, I sincerely thank everyone who contributes to this place. Hopefully some day I'll know what the heck I'm talking about and can help someone along the way as well :)

Here is a link that might be useful: Lambert LM-3

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 6:32PM
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Hi Rachael

sorry for clucking away there about the car, just know for me its the best tool I have :)

your getting there perlite, only 2 to go, so your one better off than yesterday :)

MG is good for getting seedlings up and going.

I have read on here countless people going through what you are going through trying to track down materials for bark mix, I am still looking for the best source to buy from you know most for least and also best.

keep looking its out there somewhere :)


    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 7:25PM
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I have personally used 5 gallon buckets and had drainage problems. A 1/2 inch hole drilled every 4-6 inches arond the bucket 3 inches from the bottom works wonders. If the dirt is so fine it comes out, push a coffee filter in it to hold in your dirt. And onions in the pots that are 6-8 inches deep and rectangular (dollar tree $1 each) work great. Again use 1/2 inch holes for drainage only 2 inches from bottom and the optional coffee filter, and viola instant fix. But during dry spells you may have to water. I love both methods. I use both. Good luck. And don't stress over it. If you do then you just spoil the fun of gardening.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2013 at 11:28PM
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Breathe! LOL :-)

Given your constraints at this time, go with what you have on hand now, which appears to be MG potting mix (?) and/or Lambert. Whichever of the two you have, my suggestion would be to mix half and half of that (potting mix) and perlite and go from there.
The mixes do have perlite, but never enough to affect drainage, in my opinion.

As this won't drain as well as the mixes you read about here, do be careful watering. It's not mud, but it's not all rocks or bark, either.

Prior to trying the soils here, I grew plenty of plants in mixes like this. They did fine -- and while I would say my plants do better now, I only know that because I tried new mixes. I really didn't have any complaints with the results from before.

After the plants settle, start giving it a little fertilizer once or twice a month. DO NOT OVERWATER, and remember to water FULLY once until it's pouring out the bottom rather than a little many times due to fear of overwatering. Depending on your weather and location of the plants (not to mention pot size and type of plant itself), this could be 3-4 times a week or once every 7-10 days -- all depends. Unfortunately, that part -- you will have to figure out. (And I'd venture to guess that is where most of us have erred most often!)

But like others have said -- never spend on gardening what you need for necessities. This is not a fun hobby if you are betting your last penny on the plant, weather, your green thumb and the plant gods all cooperating.


    Bookmark   May 21, 2013 at 8:32AM
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