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pamchesbay

Garden Photos: A Picture is Worth a 1000 Words

Pamchesbay
12 years ago

This forum is such an incredible resource for information - I'm blown away. I'm reading every post and am learning a lot about varieties, specifically your favorites and what varieties are more likely to thrive in containers v. planted in the ground.

So many people grow extensively in containers - this is not a system that I'm familiar with. I'm curious about how you set up your systems. I assume that your containers are in a central location so you can monitor plant health, water, etc. I am having trouble visualizing an area with 200-300 or more containers of tomatoes, peppers, etc.

I made a list of ingredients for potting soil (thanks Dawn!), a shopping list, and am doing an inventory of containers so I have a clearer sense of what I need to get and do before I can begin to grow in containers.

Do you have photos that show HOW you do what you do? I'm still amazed at this process, and think it is promising in Virginia.

Many thanks,

Pam

Comments (22)

  • Okiedawn OK Zone 7
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Sorry, I just don't do photos. Apparently the photo gene is missing from my brain and my body. Maybe someone else who has lots of containers will post photos.

    I don't have all my containers in one area, but I have them grouped in different areas based on how much sunlight or shade I am trying to give them. I also have to site them very carefully because we are on acreage filled with wildlife and I can't have any containers out in a wide open area or the deer come calling.

    The easiest way to care for them is to put down some surface beneath then---fabric type weedblock covered with mulch, wooden planks laid on the ground under the containers, thick cardboard covered with mulch, etc. Then, line up your containers on top of that surface, and if you keep it mulched and pull whatever weeds appear, you'll have a neat, clean area. To water, hook up a drip irrigation system with the line running from one container to another and the appropriate number of emitters set up at each container to ensure it is watered adequately. If you put your drip irrigation on a timer, it even waters the plants when you are out of town as long as your timer doesn't fail.

    Some of my containers are placed near the dog yard which is a sub-section of the back yard, some are near the adjacent patio, some are near the potting shed in the former "Peter Rabbit Garden" we built for our then-step-granddaughter, and some are actually inside the fenced-in vegetable and herb garden. I am debating how worthwhile it is to continue filling the containers in the Peter Rabbit Garden. It is right along our southern property line adjacent to a fallow farm pasture that appears to be a huge nursery for pest insects of every kind. My Peter Rabbit garden plants get heavy infestations of spider mites and grasshoppers long before those pests are an issue anyplace else. I may move those containers to a different location 100' away behind the big barn-style garage in an effort to make those plants harder for pests to find. That would put the big barn and the driveway and parking area between the insect-filled pasture and the containers. Of course, I can't move the raised beds that are right there, but they are mostly early crops (potatoes, onions, and 4 February-planted tomato plants in a 200-gallon stock tank) that will be harvested by the end of June (for the potatoes and onions) and the tomatoes will be harvested for as long as they produce well. Most years the spider mites get the Peter Rabbit Garden plants by late June through mid-July.

    Most of my plantings are not in containers yet this year because it is supposed to be a good, rainy spring but not a flooding wet one (I hope). Most of my plants are in raised beds. If it were an El Nino year like 2007 and I was expecting tons of flooding, I'd have more plants in the containers and less in the ground. I've only got about 35 tomatoes in containers right now and about 12 to 15 pepper plants and a few herbs. They're all scattered around--some on the patio, some beside the dog yard and some in the veggie garden. I have about 150 empty containers sitting around, some with a growing medium in them, but most without, waiting to be planted. The empty ones are mostly stacked neatly, empty, in the garage. I dumped the soil-less mix out of them last year and used it to enrich the raised beds. How many of those I re-fill and plant this spring will be dictated by our budget. Right now, today, my energy is going into building two new 4' w x 12' long raised beds in my fenced veggie garden. They are in an area where I've always planted at grade level, but that soil has been wet since last fall and every time it is almost dry enough to plant, it rains again. If I don't get these raised beds built and planted, I likely won't be able to grow anything in that area of the garden this year because we keep getting rain once or twice a week here. Rain is good, but as you know, with slow-draining clay, too much rain is not good at all.

    I actually prefer raised beds to containers because they don't have to be watered as often, but April is hard on my garden, particularly April 29th. One April 29th, we received 9.25" of rain and most of that fell in 4 hours. The effect of all that rain on slow-draining clay that sits downhill from higher ground lasted for two months and set back my tomatoes and peppers a great deal. Then, about 3 years later, also on April 29th, we received 12.89" of rain which fell over the entire 24-hour period. That's why I have containers---so I can grow something in a year like that when the garden is flooded, wet and likely to stay that way a long time. So, the number of containers I plant varies from year to year depending on what the weather is doing. Last year, expecting horrific drought, I planted very little in containers which probably was a good decision. This year, expecting moderate rainfall, I have planted some containers but not a huge amount yet.

    I could change my mind at any time and plant "more" plants in containers because I have a couple hundred tomato plants in my greenhouse awaiting good homes and almost as many peppers.

    I suspect that if you want to see some nice container set-ups, you might want to go to the Container forum. A lot of the people there grow only in containers or mostly in containers and some of them have posted photos in past years.

    Or, go to the Tomato Forum and do a search to find photos of Raybo's Earthtainers. He posts photos often.

  • Pamchesbay
    Original Author
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Dawn, I appreciate the advice and suggestions you give more than I can say. The culture on this forum is so positive and helpful, and I know how much time giving this advice takes. This is an example of the Internet at its best.

    I'm making raised beds too. I may have mentioned this, I don't recall, but a couple of years ago, our neighbors expressed interest in a community garden. DH cleared a 60' x 60' area, tilled it, fenced it in. The neighbors worked for a couple of hours one day, planted way too much seed, then lost interest. I tried to keep up with the work and weeds. We were in a drought, I had to water at least once a day, and the "garden" turned into a huge mess. Took many days just to clear the debris that winter.

    I decided to "retire" that garden, and make raised beds closer to the house - that's what I've been doing this winter using a modified lasagne bed system - a layer of cardboard, a taller layer of partially composted wood chips, layers of dirt and compost on top.

    After I started reading posts in the OK Forum, I decided to revive the old garden for crops that need more protection from wind (tomatoes, pole beans) or that need a lot of room - like sweet potatoes. I was searching GW for info about sweet potatoes, followed a link to a post about trials you did for Gary, and I've been coming back to learn ever since.

    When ya'll share seed lists and discuss varieties, I have never heard of 95% of the varieties you are growing - and I want to grow many of the varieties so this forum has been a fantastic learning experience - photos or no photos.

    I can't imagine how many years it is taken ya'll to learn so much!

    Thanks for the suggestions about the Tomato Forum, I'll look for Raybo's Earthtainers.

    Take care,
    Pam

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  • melissia
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Look up the self watering rain gutter on youtube ... There is a previous thread where I posted a picture. (I'm on a phone and can't do all the nifty stuff the computer can or I'd post a link).

    Also I've done a garden plot based on Back To Eden -- it's a free online movie -just google it - it's too late to plant in one this year, but you could get an area ready for fall.

    If I get close to a computer, I'll come back and post links : )

  • mksmth zone 7a Tulsa Oklahoma
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Dawn. It may be advisable that you and I should never meet. My birthday is April 29th. LoL

    Mike

  • Okiedawn OK Zone 7
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Pam, It has taken us a whole lot of years to learn what we know....especially if you count in dog years. :)

    Mike, So, it's your fault! Wow. At least now I know. I just thought for some reason our part of Love County was cursed on April 29.

    So, what scares me is this: the first flooding rain storm on April 29 was in 2006. Then, three years later, it happened in 2009. So, here we are....three years later. I think I'll start building an ark, and then I can pack 2 of each kind of plant onto the ark on April 28th, just in case....

    If I am not too busy swimming for my life on April 29th, I'll post a thread to wish you a Happy Birthday.

    The worst part in 2006 was that my then-college-aged son was on the road headed to the fire station so they could take out trucks and close down flooding roadways. Another firefighter was behind him on the road. Then, on the fire radio, I hear the second firefighter ask my son something like "Where'd you go? Are you there? Did you float off the road?". Those are not words a parent wants to hear. (He was fine, but his car wasn't.)

    Around here, we get anxious around April 29th.

    Dawn

  • mksmth zone 7a Tulsa Oklahoma
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    wow dawn that really makes one think that this being the 3rd year since, that you may need to build that ark. I hope not.

    I hate to add insult to injury but this will be my 33rd birthday, YIKES!!!

    Oh man I better leave the forum before I cause some serious problems.

    Glad your boy was ok!

    Mike

  • Pamchesbay
    Original Author
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Melissa, thank you! Youtube has good stuff. DH spent hours looking at videos about beekeeping. I hadn't thought about using it for watering and gardening.

    I found Back to Eden and included the link in case anyone wants to see it.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Back to Eden

  • owiebrain
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I always love seeing Craig's driveway garden. Linked below.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Craig's (nctomatoman) driveway pots

  • Okiedawn OK Zone 7
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Mike,

    33? Well, you're just a spring chicken. I'm old enough to be your mother. So, now you know you have to treat me with the respect you normally show aged persons. : )

    Pam,

    Thanks for the Back to Eden link. I'll try to find time to watch it on one of these rainy days when I cannot be outside. I'm about to head out to the garden right now.

    Diane,

    I love Craig's driveway garden too. If I had that many plants along my driveway, the photos would include deer and rabbits eating the plants. I love the wildlife, but there's far too much of it in my yard this year, and I mean that in a bad way.

    Dawn

  • soonergrandmom
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Dawn, Back to Eden is the film that I recommended to you several weeks ago. I love Paul's ideas and I am so glad that he wants to share. I think I watched it all the way through three times, then have watched it a couple more times....up to the Pennsylvania part. I really didn't see that it added anything to the film to show me what they did wrong. LOL I hated the music and it over powers the other content in several places, but Paul's methods are so good that I endured the music and the lady with the weird voice that drove me crazy, long enough to watch it several times.

  • susanlynne48
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I will save that video to watch as well, and Diane, I love Craig's setup and have taken a lot of ideas from him in growing tomatos as well. He gets such humongous plants in those itty bitty containers he uses. I am using a lot of the Sunleaves Gro Bags this year, too, the 10 gal. size. I like that they have the white, reflective exteriors, which is very helpful in the heat of our summers.

    I am not quite so sophisticated as some in container growing, Pam. I have 20 of the 10 gal. gro bags to use, but I also have a 25 gal tree pot, a 30 gal plastic garbage can, and 3 20 gal plastic hampers or buckets with handles from Lowe's (about $5 or $6 apiece). I drill holes in the sides close to the bottom, and in the bottom. I also have an 18 gal container from Walmart, which is what most of the folks on the Container Forum use for the self-waiering containers they set up. They are a light gray color.

    I frequently read posts on the Container Forum, especially those by Al Tapla (posts under "Tapla") who has 2 different container soil formulas he has used after much study and application, the 5:1:1 mix and the Gritty Mix. Some of the threads are very long, but worth reading. Another is his study and application of fertilizer and he recommends a 3:1:2 formula, in that plant's can only use so much NPK and no more. I have simplified it here for sake of brevity, but his posts are very interesting,

    Susan

  • Okiedawn OK Zone 7
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Carol, Well I guess that explains why it sounds familiar. I am just so time-challenged lately and haven't had time to view anything. It is always busy here in April, but more so this year than most. With all the rain, we spend half our time trying to mow, weed-eat and also trying to hack back the jungle-like growth from the woodland that is threatening to engulf and overtake the northern side of my fenced garden plot. Inexplicably, we have abnormally busy with fire calls at what is the worst possible time for a gardener to be called away from the garden.

    Susan, I love the SunLeaves bags. They're the only grow bags I use.

    Dawn

  • Pamchesbay
    Original Author
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Melissia, soonergrandmom - I watched most of Back to Eden last night, it's remarkable and gave me lots of ideas. The power company sends tree trimmers through to keep power lines clear. Last time, I bribed them to bring me chips with donuts & cookies, but the real hit was a product we give out with orders - a pen & highlighter combo. Within a couple of weeks, I had mountains of chips. I used the front loader to turn them but still have LOTS of chips - and the tree trimmers are likely to come through again this winter so I need to use them up.

    Also went to YouTube and watched several videos about growing stuff in bags and other containers - some were good, others not so much. More good ideas.

    I'm ordering Sunleaves grow bags today. I need to find a simple, effective way to secure them so wind doesn't knock them over. I'll head over to the container forum after sun goes down and can't work the garden.

    Thank you! I wouldn't have known about Back to Eden, and didn't think about YouTube if you hadn't suggested it. Takes time to watch them now, but these strategies will save a lot of time on the back end.

  • mksmth zone 7a Tulsa Oklahoma
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Wow

    thank you for posting the link to Back to Eden. That really has opened my eyes to a new way of thinking. Tulsa has piles and piles of wood chips and yard waste compost that I never even thought about taking advantage of until now. The only thing I would like to add is I dont think that we in oklahoma would be able to sustain a garden in that manner without occasional irrigation, I could be wrong, but last year would have really tested a garden that was like Pauls.

    Mike

  • Pamchesbay
    Original Author
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    With rainfall, it's feast or famine. In Tidewater Virginia, we've had less than 6" of rain this year, and that was in Jan and Feb. We had record breaking heat in March, less than 2" of rain. No rain at all in April, none forecast.

    Most years, when I walk across the field in March & April, feels like a wet sponge. This year, dust flies. I put soaker hoses down in part of the garden, need to add a lot more. I stopped planting seeds until I can get more hoses down. Climate people don't predict this to change any time soon. Bummer.

  • soonergrandmom
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    My rainfall last year was 48.65 inches and I still had a very dry summer. This year our rainfall has been much less than normal (11.51 so far), but my garden has never dried out. This is because of the leaf cover that I put on it last fall. I don't mean just a couple of inches, I really piled them on. When I am ready to plant, I rake back the leaves and plant into the damp soil. After the crop is up a few inches, I push the leaves back over the ground again as mulch. The top of the leaf cover looks dry, but as I dig down, it is very damp, and the soil below is damp and filled with earth worms. The leaves were chopped, but didn't break down over winter. The lower portion that was near the soil appears to have broken down quite a lot, but the top portion did not break down much, but they did pack down. Most of my garden didn't even get tilled. I just dug a hole and planted. I also added compost in the Spring to some beds and to each tomato hole as I planted.

    Our county offers mulch, but the one load that I got was horrible. I think your best bet is from the tree trimmers if you can get them to leave it for you. They were cutting trees in my yard, and I asked for the mulch, but they didn't leave it. In my area they are private companies who have contracts with the electric providers. In the film, Paul says that it is important to have a mixture that was made from both leaves and wood. That makes sense to me.

    I use leaves every year because they are readily available, but this is the first year I have used them in this quantity. I think I have 14 trees so I have always used my leaves and sometimes a few from my close neighbors, but this year, my neighbors about a block away brought me theirs and said they would keep me in leaves every year. I don't have a years experience to see what the plants will do, but they seem to be doing great at this stage.

  • Okiedawn OK Zone 7
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Pam, Your weather this year sounds like our weather last year. We only had about 23" of rain for the year and half of that fell after September 1st. Of the 11" that had fallen by the end of August, 7" fell in May alone, so there wasn't much rain except for in the month of May. The year before I think we had 50-something inches, but our average is about 38" and summers are always incredibly hot and dry. Since we moved here, we've had a year in which the total rainfall was right at 18.5" and have had as much as 44-52" in the rare wet years. It swings so wildly from feast to famine that it blows your mind.

    Since it was wet all autumn (well, wet compared to the preceding months) and we have had almost 14" of rain this year at our house, I've had a hard time getting the planting done because the soil is perpetually wet. I hate to complain because at some point the rain will stop and we'll likely be incredibly dry after that and I'll be wishing, hoping and praying for rain.

    I always use wood chips when I can get them, and tons of leaves and grass clippings, and old spoiled hay and straw. With wicked clay you have to use every single bit of organic matter you can get your hands on and it is never enough since heat eats compost. It was so dry last summer that the mulch in my pathways barely decomposed at all, which is really unusual. I think it would be hard to use too many leaves, as long as the leaves are chopped or shredded so they don't pack down tightly into a flat sheet like full-sized leaves do.
    Our climatology and weather are going crazy.

  • elkwc
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Just skimmed through the posts quickly. I will just add my 2 cents about woods chips from tree trimmers. If they are fresh and alive you are probably fine. A local tree trimmer who used to be a coworker offered to sell me chips from his trimming work a few years ago. He also grinds stumps up. Many of these were from dead limbs, trees ect. Luckily I turned him down. A few coworkers and some others bought some from him. The borers, ect that killed the trees, limbs he had removed were still alive and infected trees in their new homes. The bad part is I never thought about that danger. Guess I assumed the chipping ect would kill them and also didn't think they would still be in the dead wood. The extension service I understand put out a warning about using the trimmings from dead/dieing limbs and trees. Just thought this info might be of interest to some. Jay

  • chickencoupe
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Excellent point, Jay!

  • Pamchesbay
    Original Author
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Carol, I want to thank you for the link to "Back to Eden." I've used some of his strategies, but learned so many more. Like extreme mulching. ;-) I'm learning to do things differently. Our annual rainfall is usually in the 45-50" range - highest in winter months so we are in trouble this year. Some years, we get a boost from hurricanes in Aug and Sept but we can't count on that. Our well water is awful so we designed a rainwater harvesting system for the house and use well water for the garden. We are VERY frugal and have bought water a couple of times during drought.

    Dawn, I agree about climatology and weather. In January, the climate experts said that La Nina let up, and precip and temps were supposed to return to normal by March. Didn't happen.

    Jay, the power company contracts with Asplundh to keep the power lines clear. I learned that the demand for chips is high - the guys said they would bring chips but didn't until we started giving out pen highlighter combos - so funny. I also learned that I had to get their attention when they were close to us - they don't want to drive any farther than necessary to get rid of chips. Ah, the games people play! ;-)

  • mksmth zone 7a Tulsa Oklahoma
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Well Dawn

    will the 3 year flood happen this April 29th or has the fact that its now known to be my birthday broken the curse? LOL.

    Mike

  • Okiedawn OK Zone 7
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Mike, My forecast has a slight chance of rain for that day, so maybe your birthday is breaking the curse. I sure hope so.

    On the day the 12.89" fell, I was watching the weather closely and was expecting a good 3-5" toad-strangler. Then Scott, who clearly watches the weather and saw something that told him I was about to get hit by a monsoon, posted something here to warn me it was coming. Man oh man, he was so right! I watched in awe as rain fell and fell and fell. Since my rain gauge only records 6", I kept running out in the rain and emptying it out so it wouldn't overflow.

    I don't want to have 6 or 8 or 10" or more in one day, but it is dry here and the big pond is empty and the clay ground is cracking out in the pastures. So, if rain falls, I'll be happy to see it.

    I couldn't even complain about it (though I am sure I did!) in 2009 because we'd just had that horrible outbreak of wildfires all across the state on April 9th of that year and our county desperately, desperately needed rain. We just didn't need it all in one day.

    Dawn