Container Gardening

ClissAT

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As a follow-on from my original thread about Gardening on really poor soil:-
https://www.selfsufficientculture.com/threads/gardening-on-really-poor-soil.832/
I am posting an update about my successes.
I also am having success with the bathtub no-dig gardens which are positioned in the actual vegie garden.
This is the link to that thread if you want to read it:-
https://www.selfsufficientculture.com/threads/no-dig-gardening.1002/

In late January this year I was prompted by drought to lift all the plants in my ornamental garden that I wanted to save. With little water remaining in the dam & no rain in the forecast it was important not to waste all my previous efforts to grow a few colourful flowers & shrubs. :eek:
Also I wanted to try growing edible greens that way too.

So I embarked on a process of making large wheel barrows of potting mix using a mix of ingredients then breaking that down 50/50 with dried & compressed coir. I used the best ingredients I could afford as an investment in the future ease of growth & delight the garden would hopefully give me.

I bought lots of very cheap colourful large containers mostly from Bunnings & used many other large objects to set the containers on to bring them up to a better working height for my bad back. I utilized all the old outdoor chairs I had laying around. I call it 'Chair Art'! :D Then I realised I would need huge volumes of potting mix to fill the containers so I had the idea to fill them halfway with sugar cane mulch which seems to have worked very well.

I also used that method in the no-dig bath tub gardens I did in the vegie garden. Those beds are on their 3rd planting now with pretty good yields even after the birds & bugs got their (un)fair share! Now I have built netting frames over those tub which excludes all but some rats which I got by other means.

But I wanted to do more experiments using the colourful plastic containers so I bought a few punnets of lettuce, beans & a red pawpaw. The yield from the lettuces is huge considering they are only 4wks old. I have been picking good sized leaves from around the outer of each of 10 mignonette lettuces for over a week. Now that I have to loose a fair bit of weight for health reasons I am eating a lot of lettuce daily. This is up there with the best lettuce I have ever grown.

I found a huge 100lt black plastic container in the tradies section at Bunnings for I think $14, :thumbsup:so I figured it would be big enough to start a red pawpaw with other veg planted around it while there was room. Eventually I'll move it to a bath tub bed where I have another one growing too. I got a punnet of green beans which are now beginning to flower so my anticipation is high for some extra sweet & juicy beans. I just love to graze on the juicy crunchy freshness as I work around the garden in the mornings.:eat:

I have made these 2 collages of photos I took today :pic:showing how I made up the various containers now with mature ornamental plants, annual flowers & the greens, all of which are doing very well, even through the dry then very wet periods we have had this year. I rarely have to supplement water with dam water because I have created a well in the bottom of each container because I put the drain hole as high as halfway up the side. The cane mulch soaks up the rain water & the plant puts its roots down into that well. Also the fertilizer I add to the mix ends up down in the well rather than washed out the bottom so it is still available to the plant as needed.

container gardening collage.jpg flower containers collage.jpg container gardening collage 2.jpg

If you open these thumbnails in a new window you will see them at full size & be able to read the wording I put on each photo.

The left hand collage shows most of the ingredients in my potting mix. I have run out of one ingredient being Searles organic compost. But the mix can be made without it as I did today. To bulk it out I add the coir fibre or as I always knew it to be called 'compressed coco peat'. Most of these ingredients can be purchased at Bunnings although I tend to use my local rural feed barn when the price is right. I check online to see the Bunnings price then when I go shopping I check if my local hardware or the rural store have specials as that will usually make the price cheaper so I can buy local. Also you will see I made a booboo when creating that collage in that I added the same photo twice. Oh well these things happen! :facepalm:

The recipe is 10parts Searles Premium Potting mix, 5 parts Searles Compost, 4 parts Searles 5in1, 1 part Katek organic super pellets (or you could use Dynamic Lifter would be sort of similar), 5 parts powdered cow manure. I thoroughly combine that in a large barrow then add the soaked coir at the ratio of 50/50. Again I shovel that to thoroughly combine in the barrow. The coir is soaked in rain water as per pack instructions.

I fill & lightly pack my plastic container with sugar cane mulch (which I buy by the round bale) then position it in its final location so I don't have to lift & carry the heavy filled container. It needs to be well filled with sugar cane mulch because the weight of the potting mix compresses the mulch down to halfway. Then I begin to shovel in the potting mix. Due to my particular situation of having the possibility of needing to water with the bad dam water, I add a mix of blood & bone, gypsum & potassium which offsets the undesirable side effects of the dam water. A small amount of that mix has to be added every 4-5 waterings or the plants show the bad effects (yellowing leaves, dropped or small fruit) almost straight away.

Then I top up the container with the potting mix & press it down a bit as it is a very fluffy mix. I plant as normal & apply one light watering with rain water. The coir will hold all the moisture it absorbed while being soaked, plus the cane mulch acts as a sponge in the well to hold all the fertilizer & water applied. I drill one drain hole with a 12ml drill bit half way up the container. Even during the recent heavy rains from the cyclone, I found my containers drained well & no plants suffered. I have not had to water them for the intervening 4wks since that cyclone rain. Now we have had some more rain over this last weekend so all the containers are fully topped up & wont need watering for another 4weeks. The exceptions are the containers with the lettuce in which need a small shower of rain water from the watering can each week. I catch rain water off my carport roof into several containers for that reason. That way I am not using my precious household tank supply unnecessarily.

Although the potting mix is quite expensive, it is certainly paying for itself & I expect it will require a small top-up before the next growing season in spring. Also the cane mulch is slowly rotting down in the bottom of the containers so it will be added to the batches of mix I make up in spring. The annuals will be finished so I can turn out those containers to get the composted cane mulch, add new mulch to the bottom & start again.

For my needs, this is a far better alternative to the energy sapping, joyless slug of daily watering on rock hard ground with poisonous dam water. :(
Gardening has again become a very productive & rewarding hobby for me & I am producing some nice veg. :D

It's all good! :thumbsup:
 
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Comfort

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Have you looked at wicking bed gardens using IBC and 200 litre drums both cut in half.

The wicking side will help you with the water side. No top watering once plants established so very effecient. Half an IBC is 500 litres... I pay $40 for the IBC and $10 for the blue barrels. .. so halve each for a per container cost if you have someone that can cut them in half.

You could run potting mix in them but they are big enough for bulk delivered gardening soil. You could setup wicking arrangements in the containers but it is a lot of work for so many.
 
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Flatland

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Thanks know what you mean didn't know they had a name. That's my thing to learn today
 

ClissAT

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Have you looked at wicking bed gardens using IBC and 200 litre drums both cut in half.

The wicking side will help you with the water side. No top watering once plants established so very effecient. Half an IBC is 500 litres... I pay $40 for the IBC and $10 for the blue barrels. .. so halve each for a per container cost if you have someone that can cut them in half.

You could run potting mix in them but they are big enough for bulk delivered gardening soil. You could setup wicking arrangements in the containers but it is a lot of work for so many.

Hi Comfort, yes you make some very good arguments for the wicking system.
I will admit, my 'experiment' has gotten a little out of hand!:D
But as the saying goes, When you're on a good thing, stick to it!:p
To a certain extent I would say my method of having the cane mulch in the bottom is quite like a wicking system anyway. Just using different materials.
The plants certainly are getting their roots down into that wet mulch.
Some finished annual flowers that I pulled out recently had roots right down in that mulch.

re the IBC's, yes I will certainly be using them particularly for fruit trees.
I plan to cut the top third off some, plant the tree in the larger portion & use the smaller part for a garden bed up on a new pedestal at my waist height.
When they are cut down, the bottom part retains its metal pallet but the top part looses that support so I would have to make a new pallet of some sort or put it on a wooden pallet perhaps.
The sticking point is the amount of 'soil' or potting mix required.
I have tried 'garden soil' or 'premium vegie growing mix' from all my local landscaping suppliers & been very disappointed with all of them.
In general they either go very hard pretty quickly or, due to being made from composted bark fines, they break down & disappear within several weeks.
That would not be any good for permanent trees.
So at this stage my potting mix recipe is working in my current containers, but due to the expense, it will be probably next year before I can afford to make up that much mix.
And yes I will try to get it in bulk from the various companies that make the mix ingredients that I use.
Or perhaps I can convince my local rural store to sell me whole pallets of bags of ingredients. :idea:
 

Comfort

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Any good garden soil should have enough organic matter to stop it going hard....

If you cant buy better somewhere else, then add mushroom compost, coco coir, compost etc and it should stay loose and rich. I reckon if you still have a problem add some perlite and vermiculite.

In my barrels i have a higher ratio of these organics and vermiculite than soil.... still not suitable for your smaller containers though
 

ClissAT

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Here is a collage of how my container grown vegies are thriving & loving the better growing conditions.

Winter container garden collage.jpg
 
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Mark

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That's some very healthy veggies you have growing there @ClissAT

That fan pea trellis looks cute and doesn't those zucs look amazing! Ours are only small and suffering a little in the cold but at least they're still surviving... There's no way I could grow any caps atm though...
 

ClissAT

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BUSH RATS!! :shock:

This is a photo I took this morning of my container garden & I am as proud as punch of how well everything is doing in it. All are bearing fruit/veg on time & full sized. I have already eaten the green peas as they bore early & are now finished.

I covered the capsicum yesterday because something was eating the leaves & the young fruit.

container gardening 3 July cropping.jpg


I always do the garden rounds each morning but on these cold mornings the rounds start a little later so it was almost midday by the time I got to the round-a-bout gardens. I was looking forward to picking 3 various types of zucchini, a young broccoli & some lettuce.

I took some photos then went in for a closer look.
E-v-e-r-y fruit/veg was eaten!!
There were green & yellow zucchini, capsicum & broccoli ready or in baby stages. :fighthey:
All my expensive potting mix, fertilizer & hard work has been for naught! :cry:
They even dug in my bulb pots on the other side of this round-a-bout garden & rooted out or ate flower bulbs (some hippeastrum bulbs I paid $15 each for).


bush rat damage collage.jpg



I went back to the older garden beds & discovered similar carnage.

I have had a rat problem in the tomatoes up on the verandah for some time & have been setting rat traps using pumpkin seeds & getting the occasional ratus ratus.

Last night in the early evening I heard a trap go off but it sounded more of a thud rather than a sharp snap & rattle. I grabbed a torch, put the light on & ventured out to see a HUGE FAT guinea pig sized agouti coloured rat ambling away to scurry down the verandah post to the ground.

I'll bet it's got a fair old headache today because the trap must have got it across the head but it got itself out of the trap just by its sheer size because I took maybe 30-40secs to get out there & it was not in a hurry.

They must work as a tribe & go through enmass to consume all in their path because they have eaten everything. Pawpaw leaves, rose shoots, the veg, 100's of tomatoes right down to pea sized immatures spread all across my gardens, house & orchard including those covered by bird mesh, pansy flowers, tomato leaves, seed potatoes, flower bulbs. I'm sure I'll find many more things they've eaten as the days go by. :cry:

So it is off to town now to buy a cage type possum trap. Obviously a cage type rat trap will not be big enough. :fighthey:
 

Mark

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Our garden gets damaged by rats also but it's not too bad - still annoying though! I've lost several tomatoes this month just as they're ready to pick...

Sometimes, I have to resow every kernel of corn because the buggers dig them up and eat them :cry:
 

ClissAT

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Sometimes, I have to resow every kernel of corn because the buggers dig them up and eat them :cry:

I admit to being a bit thick at times! :p I remember planting pigeon pea & pawpaw seeds a few yrs ago, then wondering why they didn't come up. So I planted more & when I checked a couple days later it looked like the soil had been disturbed. Still the penny didn't drop until that second batch didn't come up either so I dug for the seeds but couldn't find any.

Slowly realizing the seeds had been eaten...... der........:whistles:

Hopefully from tomorrow I'll have a possum trap to get them in.
Last night they were at my tomatoes on the verandah again.
These rats are so big & in no great rush to evade me either!
Gosh you could get a feed for 4 off one!
I haven't seen native rats so big since going to FNQ!
Maybe they are growing so big due to all the good tucker I so generously provide for them!
Well they better pack their little backpacks cos they're off on the big bush adventure if they get in my trap! :sneaky:

And if that doesn't work I have designed a cage made from old racking system legs that will bolt together & fit onto a bath tub with a door in one side. It will be covered with 1cm square budgie mesh. I can make it about 1.5m high.
At least I will be able to grow one or 2 decent sized tomato plants in that.
F:censored: blighters!