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emgardener

Zero Cost Organics versus Foliage Pro

emgardener
13 years ago

I wanted to see if I could raise decent vegetables in a container without any purchased potting mix/amendments or fertilizer. And then compare that to the best SWC mix I know & foliage pro fertilizer.

I found under some pine & redwood trees, some really good soil mix. Many years of needle droppings produced a 3-4 inch layer of almost peat like substance. I used this as the container mix for 3 18-gallon totes.

Zero Cost Soil Mix:

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I used the heaviest mix, most peat-like stuff, for the eggplant tote:

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I added in extra leaves & needles to the pepper tote:

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For the basil tote (no picture) I added in even more leaves to make a lighter mix.


I added a drainage hole a few inches up the tote and put a 1/4" tube in the hole. This allowed me to divert any drainage off my deck, down to new citrus tree.

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I put the 1/4" line into a chopped up 1/2" line piece and covered it with landscape fabric, in order to keep it from clogging up. Has worked well, no clogs.

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This citrus tree enjoys the runoff from the totes:

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The mix for the traditional SWCs was 1:1 bark to turface. This mix is more gritty than ideal. I've found a 60% gritty, 40% peat (or very decomposed bark) to be the best. This seems to correspond to Raybo's 3:2:1 mix. Most store bought mixes are mostly peat or ground up bark. So adding the extra gritty parts makes it close to a 60:40 ratio.

I used an all gritty mix, since I want it to last for many years.


For the traditional SWCs I used Foliage Pro fertilizer exclusively. Just added some whenever the leaves looked like they needed it.

For the Zero Cost Organic totes, I used about 6 cups of wood ashes and HLF (human liquid fertilizer, i.e. urine). Since I was using HLF, I did need a way to divert any runoff to an acceptable location. Thus the 1/4" tubing for drainage.

The plants at the starting gate in May, ready to grow:

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The complete SWC & tote garden in May:

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The results as of August:

To my complete surprise the ZCO (Zero Cost Organic) plants are doing much better than the other ones! The SWC plants are doing well, but they are not as big or producing as much fruit. I had feared the ZCO plants would produce good plants but little fruit. But they are producing the most fruit.

These plants only get about 5 hours of sunlight a day, so they certainly aren't as big as Raybo's or other pictures I seen here.

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My conclusion though is that the tote plants are doing better simply because they have more soil mix to grow in. Not because of the mix or fertilizer regime. The SWCs have about 10 gallons of mix versus the 18 gallons for the totes. The SWC plants all started fruiting earlier, a sign they were stressed. Next year I plan to compare ZCO with foliage pro in only totes, so I'll get a better comparison.

My big surprise though is that the ZCO setup, produces a good fruit set. I didn't expect this.

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