Saturday, April 30, 2011

Rubbermaid Container Garden

This is my "recipe" for a Container Garden using Rubbermaid containers.  It is a cheap and effective way to garden, and is very easy to get together.

First, decide what plants you would like to grow and the amount of space you will need.  Consider the region you are in, the space available, and monetary investment.  Google is good for gathering information, as well as your local Extension Office for answering any questions you may have.  Once you've decided, purchase the necessary Rubbermaid containers.  Luckily, there are plenty of color and size choices out there.  Do remember to try and avoid see-through containers though, as algae can grow there. 

Second, prepare your containers.  Drill 3/4" holes in the bottom and around the bottom sides of the container.  You can use the lid, placed up-side-down, as a good drainage catcher, but make sure you have something to lift the container up off the lid so that air can get underneath, and so that the excess water will actually drain.  I used deck banisters cut in half.  I used a few pieces per container, placed them on top of the up-side-down lid, and then placed the containers on top of that.  I was also mindful of where the drilled holes were in relation to the banisters and tried to make sure that none of the holes were blocked.

Third, start filling.  I used marble chips in the bottom of the container to fill up some space, and also to allow for more draining.  They are relatively inexpensive, and cheaper than the potting soil, so I filled them up about 1/3 of the way.  Next, I used Miracle Gro Potting Mix.  I filled up the container the majority of the way to the top (roughly 3-4 inches from the top) with the potting soil.  If you are growing tomatoes, you should also mix in some peat moss.  This will aid in the acidity of the soil, and will  also make it light and fluffy.

Fourth, start planting.  At this point, you are ready to plant.  Make sure you provide each plant with enough space to grow, and support where needed.  Tomato cages are a wonderful thing, as well as trellises.  What kind of support you will will depend on what you are planting.  To plant, I create a small valley with my fist... wide enough to allow the plant to go down, and deep enough to go to the base of the plant.  You will want to make sure that the top of the soil in the plant pot is below the level of the soil.  Crush roots very gently, place into the hole, and then cover with soil.  Make sure none of the leaves are touching the soil - this promotes disease.  And if they are, feel free to pinch them off.

After I finished planting, I added a layer of mulch on top of the soil.  This helps retain water and also protects the soil... and it also looks good.  :)

And there you have a container garden.  
Remember to water well and watch them closely.
Oh, and talk to your plants - it makes them happy! 


Edited to add:
I would recommend this form of gardening for your non-food-bearing plants.
The discussion regarding the release of toxins from the plastic containers into the soil and thereby the food is an interesting one that would require more research. And if you have insight, please feel free to share in the comments!
But all in all, still a great option for a garden!

Garden Change of Plans

About two weeks ago, my mom got a call from the Exterminator.  Apparently, the guy who came out to spray for our monthly mosquito control, accidentally sprayed my vegetable garden.  Gasp!  Luckily though, they are the sort of company who will own up to their mistakes and offered to replace the plants.   They use a chemical called Talstar Pro, and although it may not hurt the plants, the manufacturer can not "recommend" using the chem on fruit and vegetable plants, and therefore, we needed to replace them.

After the initial shock wore off, I came to accept it.  I sent him a detailed list of all of the plants I had, where I got them, and etc.  I got them at local markets and organic vendors, and I had a feeling that replacing them exactly was going to be a challenge, and I was right.  Apparently, the company had a Home Depot account so he would be going there to get the plants.  I decided that was okay - I just wanted to grow something after all. 

Well that Monday when we got home, it was pouring down rain, and we looked on the back porch, and there were 16 new plants sitting next to the containers, looking very sad.  Leaves drooping, some cut and bent, and overall very sad.  I was beginning to regret my decision to agree to letting him get the plants for me.  And what's more, I was willing to take a chance on my original plants because they seemed to be doing so good.  I wasn't ready to give them up at that point.

By the end of the week, I had called the Cobb County Extension Office and explained my dilemma to them.  They called the manufacturer for me and confirmed that they could not recommend keeping the plants or the soil.  It looked like I was going to have to scrap my original garden, and start again, with the plants he provided me...

But then again, I wasn't exactly okay with what he got me.  So I called Home Depot.  I explained the story to them as well and asked if there was a way to exchange some of the plants for different ones.  They said that would be fine.  And so, as of today, we have a completely different garden than what we started out with weeks ago.  We have:
2 cucumber plants
2 crook-neck squash plants
2 straight-neck squash plants
3 Jet Star tomato plants
1 Better Bush tomato plant
2 Big Boy tomato plants
1 Black Prince tomato plant (heirloom)
1 German Queen tomato plant (heirloom)
1 Lemon Cherry tomato plant
1 SunGold Cherry tomato plant (heirloom)
1 Cherokee Purple tomato plant (heirloom)
1 yellow pepper plant
1 red pepper plant
1 green pepper plant
1 sweet banana pepper plant

A lot of plants with the best of results in mind.  You know me, always hoping for the best!  So, today has been busy.  I took out all of the plants and threw them into the forest on the other side of the porch.  I emptied out the soil, some into the forest, and  some into a big bucket to save for flower planting, and tried to get as much out as possible.  I mixed the rest with the rocks at the bottom, and then rinsed everything really good with the hose.  And then I started planting.  We had gotten two more small, plastic containers for easier planting.  And I think I have a better layout than before, which is good.

I put the cucumbers in their own smaller container, with a trellis for them to grow on.
The squash also got their own container.  The others were doing amazing, and I think putting them in their own container will make them ever happier.
The squash and tomatoes.  Pre-exterminator.
The German Queen got it's own smaller container, and cage.  From the picture, it looks like it bears big fruit, so I thought putting it on it's own was a good idea.
The Big Boys, Better Bushes, and Jet Star all went into the bigger container, with two cages. 
The Peppers also went into their own container, but I added the Black Prince in the middle, with a cage as well.  I can't wait to see the colors in this container - should be pretty!
And then the Lemon Cherry, SunGold, and Cherokee Purple went into a smaller container with a cage.

I'm still a novice at this whole gardening thing, but I think I have a fairly good idea of what I'm doing.  I have a lot of resources at work, and here with Google.  And I think I handled my minor set-back well.  It's one of those things that happened for a reason, and now I have more variety, which is awesome!  :)  The herbs are still doing great!  The cilantro is almost two feet tall now, and everything is thriving!  Love it!

I'll keep you posted!

P.S.  I have to say that I am extremely pleased with our Exterminator for coming to us with the truth and taking care of everything!  He has been extremely helpful, and nice about the whole thing!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

It is begun!

The past few weeks, I've been doing a lot of research to get my garden going.  We are going to be doing a container garden on the back porch of my mom's house.  There is a lot of space, and a good amount of sunlight in the right spots, so I think we will have something good going.  :)  I've been interested in gardening for a few years now and since there really isn't yard space, I'm excited that there's a lot of room on the deck to use.  And I think I have a really good container system going.  I opted to use Rubbermaid containers for the veggies, and different sizes of pots for the herbs.  It creates a really interesting visual scene that will be fun to watch progress!  In a few days when I have a few more minutes, I'm going to post a step-by-step of how I put my containers together, and I hope it will be helpful for others.  This is something that I would have liked to come across in my research, and I'm putting it out there so others can use it as well!  :)


We spent last Saturday gathering up everything, and then Sunday, we put it all together.
I am very pleased with the way it turned out, and am happy to say that I have even noticed some growth, minutely, in the few days since everything has been planted.  I went over there today to check on them, water, and add some mulch.  It makes me so happy!  Everything looks great, and the herbs are absolutely delightful!

We are growing 5 different varieties of tomato (Mr. Stripey, Big Boy, Cherry Red, SunGold, and Cherokee Purple), squash, romaine lettuce, and some herbs (thyme, cilantro, basil, chives, and mint).  I'm super excited to see them progress throughout the season and cannot wait to have pots overflowing with herbs and veggies!  Optimistic much??  hehe

I'm going to keep track of the progress here.  It's the best and easiest way for me to journal, and I will add pictures, so that it's pretty to look at.

The Herb Garden

The Veggie Garden
 Stay tuned for more news from the back porch.  :)