I came into work this morning and a thoughtful coworker harvested nearly 3 dozen 1.5 US gallon (5.68 litre) buckets for me from a local deli. Any suggestions on what I can grow in them?
Unfortunately IMO not much in containers that small. Some leaf lettuce, a little spinach, a few radishes.
5 US gallons is the minimum recommended for most vegetables and even that has limitations.
Thanks Dave. I found this site which suggests similar things, as well as cabbage, bush cucumber, green beans, parsley, chard, and cherry tomatoes. The location they would be planted in has full sun. I presume I would have to create a small reservoir in the bottom to keep them from drying out...?
Here is a link that might be useful: Linky
This post was edited by MarcGuay on Tue, Apr 16, 13 at 10:53
If you really only want to grow 1 small head of cabbage or enough green beans for 1 meal for 1 person then that's fine. But it is such an awfully lot of work, care, and attention required to work that most people quickly decide using such small containers simply isn't worth it. Especially when just by using larger containers you can more than double the returns for less than 1/2 the effort.
The article you linked makes it pretty clear that in container gardening - there is a Container Gardening forum here that will be of more help - the size of the container is crucial to success and the bigger the better. So don't let the fact that you happen to have these small ones limit your potential for success.
Here is a link that might be useful: Container Gardening forum
Don't try to create a reservoir in the bottom. With such small containers, you would have to make the reservoir pretty much the whole container, which would give you nothing left to plant in!
Instead, make a reservoir OUTSIDE of the containers. Google the awesome method using rain gutters or, for something much simpler, get a few kiddie wading pools and set ten or so buckets in each (whatever fits).
Either way, make 4 holes in the bottom of each bucket, AT LEAST big enough to put your finger through. Smaller holes will not work.
You could actually grow pretty many beans and peas per bucket, as those plants have tiny root systems. If you can set up a sturdy trellis next to the tubs, you could put 3 pole or runner bean seeds per tub.
Chard might be too big, unless you have an extremely short growing season. One lettuce per tub, one parsley, 4 or 5 cilantro, one clump chives.... herbs seem to fit best.
Or you could use the buckets to organise your garden tools, soil amendments, seeds, etc., and get larger containers for the garden :).
Dave, thanks for the warnings, I'll set my expectations reasonably low. :)
Nila, I appreciate the tips. I was just about to see if I could cut out the bottom of a bucket and stack them, using the bottom one as a reservoir or something. I'll check out the gutter style. Thanks.
I wonder if they would be useful for irrigation; drill some small holes in them and bury them near the tomatoes? (Something like the link).
There are some people who have done reservoir systems with 2 buckets, the top bucket being held up by an object like a brick, with a wick drawing the water upwards, I might give that a shot...
This post was edited by MarcGuay on Tue, Apr 16, 13 at 14:09
I don't know many veggies for that size, but you could do many different types of flowers and herbs. Lots of flowers are edible and the herbs would be a great supplement to any plants you grow in the ground or larger containers.
I've successfully grown basil in that size pot. One per would probably be advised, though I've actually grown 2-3 per before. Each plant stayed fairly small, but it was fine for my purposes.
A kiddie pool full of little pots actually sounds like a really fun experiment. :)
Basil sounds perfect for the spot, which is actually on the roof of our garage. I thought that to be structurally safe it would make sense to put the pots around the edge where they'd have the most support from the concrete walls... This would make the kiddie pool idea, no matter how priceless the neighbour's faces would be, a bit worrisome... :)
Thanks to you both.
If I stacked them into a huge pyramid (I counted, there are 40 of them) - any suggestions on how to keep them hydrated? I could have 1 out of every 4 serve as a reservoir and run t-shirt wicks into them or something?
One other thing to keep in mind is the type of potting mix which will work best. Potting mixes vary dramatically in their moisture retention, ability to wick moisture and also in the space available for air within the potting mix. You might need to do a little experimenting to find the best one for your conditions and crops.
I would suggest trying some fancy baby greens or even "micro" greens along with leaf lettuce and some of the Asian greens. I grew some pretty good leaf lettuce in moisture-retentive potting mix about 2 1/2 inches deep this winter/spring (in the bottom of a recycled container for supermarket barbecued chicken). I had intended to transplant it, but other priorities developed. Might just plan to leave it in small containers next winter. I would recommend Savannah hybrid mustard in cool weather (though I would pick leaves before they got too big).
And speaking of cool weather, gardening in small containers (at least here) is MUCH easier in cool weather than at the height of summer. You might be able to extend your season a little by moving some containers to protection on frosty nights.
In warm (but not hot) weather, green beans would be one of your better candidates. There are varieties recommended for containers, including Masai. For tomatoes, I would stick with varieties developed to grow in small containers.
I'm not an expert in container gardening. Hope someone comes up with some watering ideas for you.
>I could have 1 out of every 4 serve as a reservoir and run t-shirt wicks into them or something?
Is your climate extremely wet in the summer? On the garage roof, each pot will need a whole pot worth of water each day in the summer. More for large, leafy plants.
That means one reservoir for every pot, and you filling each reservoir every day, unless you get several inches of rain that day.
I really think you should look for another watering method. The gutter thing, with a float valve and a continuous supply, or a soaker hose or drip tape on a timer, set to run for 45 minutes twice a day. The latter will work for a pyramid, too.
I know the SWC people rave about their method, but sometimes that's because they don't have a lot of practical experience.
Larger containers would need much less water.
>I was just about to see if I could cut out the bottom of a bucket and stack them, using the bottom one as a reservoir or something.
They will be very tippy and unbalanced -- the soil and the plants will weigh much more than the water even when the reservoir is 100% full. Likely to blow off your roof.
Thanks everyone. We don't have particularly wet summers, it tends to get quite hot and humid in the deep of it. The roof of the garage is not easy to access and things that need babying are not my cup of tea, and I'm also not interested in putting in the work/time/money required to build a hydration system like the gutters or drip timer, so I'm thinking that shady greens and herbs with the buckets in a kiddie pool is what I'm left with. Unfortunately we don't have a lot of space left in the backyard (the rest is raised beds) for this sort of thing... Maybe we could put it in the park behind the house and see how the city reacts when they see it...
I love the park reclamation idea!
I also love kiddie pools as an easy watering system.
A soaker hose costs $7.99 and a timer is maybe $10. Plus you have them for years. If you use the hose for top-watering it's way more fiddly and takes more daily monitoring than filling the pools does. But if you have the soaker and timer PLUS pools underneath, so the soaker fills the pools, it can be pretty low-maintenance. May not be worth the setup and initial tweaking, though, compared to just filling the pools by hand.
BTW, don't FILL the pools :). your plants would drown. I cut holes in my pools about 2" from the bottom, which makes it easy to fill to that depth and lets excess water from rain drain out.
In a humid climate, and with small containers, it's not impossible that soaker hoses without reservoirs, e.g. on the roof, could be made to work efficiently. It depends on your tolerance for messing with the system for the first few months :).
Hi folks. Not sure if this is getting old or off topic but I have very little to do at work these days and the buckets are still sitting next to my desk (thankfully they don't smell bad, despite their previous foody contents and not having been washed).
In the amazing attached drawing (MS Paint > Photoshop) there are two buckets on top of each other, the top one being held up by a red brick. There is a hole in the bottom of the top bucket and the snaky thing is a wick. Assuming that this is done on the ground in a non-windy location and the brick is thick enough to support the upper bucket, any idea if something like this actually keep the water moist if I filled it up every few days?
This post was edited by MarcGuay on Wed, Apr 17, 13 at 14:44
Are the buckets IRL the same size and shape as each other?
One brick-depth of water, minus the brick, would give you water for half a day, out of the wind. Less for leafy plants. So you would be refilling them 2-4 times a day. You seem to repeatedly underestimate how much water plants in containers, in the summer, need.
If you stack bricks to get more space for water, the result would be very tippy. That's what I thought you meant before. If you have a lot of buckets packed tight together (in a block, not just a row) they might hold each other up. You would still need a perimeter of concrete blocks (not bricks) though, or other tall and solid support.
I'm a very slow learner, especially when it's just theoretical - I appreciate the patience. That's a crazy amount of water. Yes, the buckets are all identical. I'm not sure what you meant by "If you stack bricks to get more space for water"?
I meant if you put two bricks on top of each other, in one bucket.
Yes, containers, and especially small containers like yours, use an enormous amount of water. That's why people don't garden in them.
I still think you should use the buckets for storage instead :).
We're looking into getting some 5 gallon containers from a local restaurant that serves pickles (fingers crossed) and possibly using these smaller ones as the reservoir if they fit inside.
After all of the research I've done and the help from y'all, it's no wonder that my first attempt at container gardening last year, which consisted of 3 tiny plastic planters on the deck here at work, with no reservoir, not even a dish underneath them to keep excess water from running away, failed so miserably. I think I had 1 pea and 1 cherry tomato over the whole summer. It's an entirely different art from gardening in the ground.
Use the 5 gallon for the reservoir and the small bucket for the plant. Then you will only have to water every 2 or 3 days.
Better yet, go to a big box store and get some 10-20 gallon containers for $5 each. Or get them at yard sales, if recycling is a requirement.
5 gallons is still too small for efficient water usage and for healthy-sized plants. A tomato plant, for example, needs bigger than that.