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Comments on my SWC fertilization plan?

Posted by suburbangardenMD 7 (My Page) on
Fri, May 4, 12 at 22:03

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!

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Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Comments on my SWC fertilization plan?

I am not familiar with the gutter resovoir method you are using but all SWC methods I have seen call for NOT mixing ferts in through out but placing in strip, usually near the top. Also, some sort of capping (plastic) is used on top of container to prevent ferts from washing out in the rain, as they do in regular containers. I use organic solids in my Earthboxes and have for years.


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RE: Comments on my SWC fertilization plan?

My concern was definitely the loss of the fertilizer when it rains...I saw that first hand when I started setting buckets up and saw all the water draining was the same color as the fertilizer. I may end up capping the containers with plastic mulch as is recommended by the EB and Earthtainer.

You mentioned that you have been using "organic solids" fertilizer in your SWC's for years, I assume that you have gotten good results. What have are you using?


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RE: Comments on my SWC fertilization plan?

Initially, I ordered EBs with Organic planting kits. I dont have anymore of that but I assume it is based on bone meal, blood meal, feathers, etc. I was using staight peat as a potting mix as I thought that is what was needed. I grew several crops of toms that way. Now, I add some bark, perlite and potting mix, along with peat, sometimes a handfull of worm casting but I go pretty easy on "compost" type or "manure type ingredients, again, I am reusing my mix and I dont want it to go all soggy on me. Since I grow primarily tomatoes I like to use Tomatotone but I have used any number or organic ferts available at big box store or nursery. I also add dolomite lime. I add a teas of calcium nitrate in the watering tube weekly to help against BER. Toward the end of my long season if I am trying to get that last round of maters, I sometimes add some liquid ferts, seaweed or fish based.


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RE: Comments on my SWC fertilization plan?

Awesome, thanks for the reply.

I was thinking that because I have the gutter reservoir, and a portion of my fertilizer may have been washed into the reservoir, that it may still be available to the plants as the season progresses. Its not a totally closed system as some of the drain hole don't empty into the gutter, but about half of the bucket holes do, and a good bit of the tote's do as well so there may be some there for later use.

Thanks for sharing your experiences.


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RE: Comments on my SWC fertilization plan?

Its a great set up, please continue to post as the season progresses.


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RE: Comments on my SWC fertilization plan?

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Here is a link that might be useful: Top for some containers


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