Comments on my SWC fertilization plan?
My first row of SWC buckets is set on my Larry Hall designed Self Watering Rain Gutter Grow System...now comes the doubt...the worrying...the panic! Ok, no panic.
For fertilization in the mix I used what I had on hand...Espoma 5-3-3 organic. I know organic solids are not recommended for SWC's or any container for that matter I guess but I had it here. I tend to be cheap, so I figured why not give it a go.
My mix is the Raybo special 3:2:1. I made my own "potting mix" to closely resemble miracle grow for the 3 parts ( I used peat, compost, and perlite ). I have the decorative groundcover pine bark mulch for the 2 parts, and perlite for the..well...perlite 1 part. I also mixed up a few buckets using actual miracle grow mix for the 3, in the 3:2:1 for comparison to my much cheaper home brew mix.
I am not using a plastic mulch. I will add straw, pine bark mulch fines, or wood chips once the summer gets closer and temperatures begin to rise.
I decided to place the fertilizer ( 1/2 cup for a five gallon bucket ) and agricultural lime ( 1/2 cup for a five gallon bucket ) about a 1/3 of the way down as I filled the bucket with mix, trowel it in another few inches mixing things up a bit. I than added the remainder of mix. I also set up one 30 gallon tote and used 1 1/4 cups fertilizer and 2 cups lime applied in a similar fashion. ( I used less fertilizer in the tote per gallon of container because of my first observation...explained below ).
First observation...a substantial amount of the fertilizer made its way past the landscape fabric and out the bottoms of my buckets. The gutter turned a similar color brown as the fertilizer ( much lighter in color than the mix ).
Second observation...my first two or three buckets have been set all week and all three pepper plants look fine and showed no signs of any transplant shock. After a day or two or warmer temps, the top of the mix was drying out, a few inches down it felt " less than wet" which I believe is the correct feel. I am using a three wick setup for my pepper, squash and eggplant buckets, using a nylon/polyester cord.
So, my plan now is to watch and wait. I plan on brewing up a few gallons of aerated worm tea with a small dose of added fertilizer each week and applying with my sprayer.
Weekly or biweekly applications of water soluble fertilizer will probably be required as well. I am thinking that with no plastic mulch cover my 5-3-3 may continue to find its way out of the mix.
Any thoughts on what I have done so far?
Does anyone out there in the "internets" have an opinion or experience with mixing fertilizer into the mix rather than using a strip in a SWC?
Here's a few photo's of the largest section of SWC's. Yes thats a junky old pallet and lattice support structure to level my gutters...I said I was cheap!