Container Gardening

Sarah and I have been training our green thumbs for quite awhile now and we’ve had mixed results most of the time. Our first garden was at our house on Old Post road in San Angelo where we had a small garden of lettuce and spinach in the back, and a few rows of broccoli in the middle of the front yard.

Small Watermelon plant in a circle mound

We attempted watermelon with no results.

When we moved to our house on Carlton Way, we didn’t really have much room for a garden in the ground so we decided to try our hand doing a container garden. We had a lime tree, tomato, basil, carrots, herbs, lettuce, and strawberries. Each of those met varying degrees of success as well. Carrots grew extremely well in the earth box, and basil did too, and while some herbs grew we never got enough yield on any of them to eat.

Basil and Strawberries going strong

Basil looking great right here.

After we moved to Colorado Springs I decided to learn more about why my plants weren’t producing like I wanted. My main concern was the lime tree since prior to the move it dropped most of it’s leaves and was looking really pitiful. I was determined to keep it alive so I got a book on citrus from our new library and have since nursed it back to health.

Then in my travels I came across the idea of cloth pots. These pots allow roots to grow through the pot wall into the air, but the trick is when the root hits the open air it stops forward development and branches behind the wall. The result of this is a much denser root mass that avoids the problem of root spiraling that happens in plastic pots.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about Grow Bags.

So I learn about this and think, “Hell yeah, this is the next level. I’ll be able to grow even better plants now.” I’m excited by this revelation in urban gardening and decide to tell my good friend Will about this on skype. Will is actually working on his own earth garden at the moment using raised beds and has a blog about it now. I like to think that Sarah and I had a pretty solid hand in helping Will and his Fiancee Britt get into gardening. We all shared a garden at their house last summer. It also came with mixed results sadly(We’re all learning more and more as we go along).

Lettuce for days

We know how to grow lettuce at least

Back to that Skype conversation I was telling you about. As I’m telling Will about these cloth bags I came across a blog talking about using reusable grocery bags as planter bags,

As I started reading more I began to realize that these two teens in boulder had crafted a low cost way to make earth boxes which are “self watering containers.” I had heard of these before and even have my lettuce growing in one right now but didn’t fully understand how AMAZING THEY ARE.

These containers are watered via a tube that passes through the soil to a water reservoir in the bottom of the container. This allows two incredible things to happen, 1: The potted plants water themselves PERFECTLY. As long as there is water in the reservoir the plant will pull as much water as it needs and not a drop more. 2: The nutrients in the soil are absorbed into the plant and left in the soil as the roots draw up the water vs. being flushed out of the soil by traditional top down watering methods.

On our trip to the library yesterday I found two books at the library that have really started changing the way I plan to garden come spring time. The first is “Incredible Vegetables from Self Watering Containers” by Edward C. Smith. He breaks everything down and explains why gardening in this method yields great results, I’m learning a lot with this book.

The second book is “Crops in Pots” by Bob Purnell, which covers many of the same topics as the first book but has one standout difference, the planting “recipes.” I call them recipes because they read like a cooking recipe but instead of cooking the food together you’re growing it in a pot that waters itself. One example was the Blueberry bush with lettuce, a beautiful arrangement that also works well due to the varied heights of the plants grown together.

I can not wait to start our spring garden using these methods. I’ll make sure I document the progress as we go along. Mostly because I’m a bit of a narcissist, but I figure some people (my Mom?) may be interested in reading this.
To finish this post here are a few photos from our current garden.

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7 thoughts on “Container Gardening

  1. Looking good Devin. Just put some Rosemary, basil, chocolate mint, parsley, and a few other randoms in the ground. I’ve got some garlic that’s sprouting so I may see if I can expand my garden a bit just to accommodate the need for more vegetables.

  2. Live in an apartment, so have had to resort to container gardening…I’ve had pretty good luck with more things I’ve tried. Only things that haven’t done so well so far are dill and kale. I’ve also read about the self-watering via tube technique in a basic gardening book I picked up a few years back. Haven’t really had the time or space to try it though, so hopefully it’ll work well for you!

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