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Veggies in containers  RSS feed

 
Nicole Merrill
Posts: 16
Location: Helena, MT
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Hi all!
I'm looking into whether growing our veggies in containers would yield more than out in the garden. We've got pretty bad soil, LOTS of weeds that just keep coming back, strong winds, grasshoppers, prairie dogs...
We have recently turned a school bus into a "greenhouse" and I've got a bunch of food grade 5 gallon buckets that I would love to turn into self-watering, wicking systems. Has anyone tried growing lots of different veggies in these types of containers?
I currently have tomatoes growing in grow boxes (the ones with the water reservoir in the bottom) and they're doing great. But when I do Google searches on this, I get conflicting information. Some say it's best to use growing medium like the type for hydroponics, and not to use regular potting mix. I looked up Pro-Mix BX and although it looks like a good product, it's a bit pricey . Can it be reused from one year to the next? Also, does anyone know how many 5-gallon buckets a package of that Pro-Mix would fill?
Thank you!!
 
Dan Boone
gardener
Posts: 1770
Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
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Hi, Nicole!

It would help to know where you are -- a lot of us edit our Profile information to show that. Of course your mention of prairie dogs narrows it down a bit.

Here in central Oklahoma I have an awful lot of veggies growing in containers -- 5 gallon buckets, discarded nursery pots, old coolers bought at garage sales and drilled for drainage, broken trash cans, blue plastic barrels cut in half, large rusted out cooking pots, old coffee urns, stacks of used tires, you name it.

For the most part I am just using the local dirt in my containers, but the containers still work better for me than planting in the ground. The first advantage is that gophers don't get into my containers. The second is that rats and mice are much less likely to eat my produce -- the higher I can keep my containers on stacks of pallets and such, the less rodent damage I suffer. Finally, I can improve the drainage of my clay-heavy soil by putting layers of mulch-like materials in the bottom of my containers (old hay, random weeds, wood chips, whatever I have).

I don't have any fancy purchased containers or wicking systems or growing medium. However my smaller containers (flower pot sized) can dry out in less than one day, so I do usually have them in some sort of tray that can hold water; I try to leave enough water in the trays so that even on a hot dry day none of my containers gets parched and makes my plants wilt.

I do plant some things in the ground and in constructed raised beds. Stuff planted in the ground rarely thrives for me here; the containers are MUCH more productive!
 
Blake Wheeler
Posts: 166
Location: Kentucky 6b
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I can't say it'll yield more in containers, though it'll definitely yield more if you constantly lose the crop growing in the garden.

Container growing works, but it just requires too much time with watering and maintenance for my taste. Set it up with a drip irrigation system and now you're talking. Easy enough to do, and depending on how many containers you have can be done fairly cheap as well. I could see how commercial potting mix could be a problem (gets soggy and nasty towards the bottom) but it works for growing potted plants, so I can't see how a tomato would be too different to not work. Potting mix would add up after awhile though. Google search "Alaska grow bucket" it's a free tutorial on how to do what you're looking to do. Haven't tried it personally but it seems like a decent enough idea.

Have you considered using this year to prep the soil for a future in-ground garden? If weeds are the issue you've got enough time in the season to get a few flushes of buckwheat down, and it'll literally choke the weeds out, it will protect the soil you have from the winds, and the biomass when tilled int will improve the soil for the next crops. The best way I've found to establish a garden is to simply get stuff growing in the dirt. The first try or two may not work but you'll learn and improve your gardens soil with each attempt.
 
Roy Hinkley
Posts: 241
Location: S. Ontario Canada
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Pro-Mix BX is a compacted cube of 60lbs dry. How many buckets? Dunno, guessing 10 full buckets at least, probably more. I'm pretty sure it's the best bang for your buck compared to potting soil. Most plants have shallow enough roots you wouldn't need a full bucket.
I think it says NOT to store wet mix for later - something about becoming more acidic so maybe you can't re-use. Maybe mix 50/50 with soil and mitigate that some. Experiment - what's the worst you can do? Kill everything? Been there.........

I think you have the right idea with self watering planters, they work best for me. Wicking cloth and a 5 gal bucket inside another, maybe use something as a spacer to get the inside bucket higher for a larger water reservoir.
I make one planter from a plastic 45 gal barrel. I can post some pics if you like.
 
Nicole Merrill
Posts: 16
Location: Helena, MT
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Thank you!!

Ok, I added my location. I'm in Helena, MT.

I have looked at the Alaska Grow Buckets, and that is one of the systems I would love to try. My hubby is very handy and usually able to whip up these contraptions for me relatively easily. He told me he understands the mechanics of this type of self watering system, and putty one together is on his to-do list . I keep adding to my pike of buckets, as I get them for free from local food businesses. Yay!

Thanks for the answer on the Pro Mix. I didn't realize that it was compacted. Knowing that, it makes more sense now. I would like to grow inside my greenhouse bus to protect the plants from our almost constant wind. I envisioned a 55-gallon drum to be used as a reservoir, and a whole mess of buckets connected into an array, so that they would all have a constant supply of water in their respective reservoirs.

I suppose the plant spacing requirements for each type of vegetable would determine how many plants I can grow per bucket. So, for example, I could probably fit three lettuce heads in one bucket, versus just one tomato plant, for example (thinking aloud, here, sorry).

I will post a link with pictures of my greenhouse bus...
 
Nicole Merrill
Posts: 16
Location: Helena, MT
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Here's the link:

https://merrillfamilyfarm.wordpress.com/2015/06/14/grand-tour-of-our-greenhouse/
 
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