A while back I started my garden. Then I ran off and did an intensive bit of computer stuff making a whole lot of graphs, and now I’m having a rebound day in the garden… Not only has a lot of the overgrowth been turned into “fresh compost pile”, but I found my pile of Construction Tubs. These are very large, durable, black plastic tubs typically used for things like mixing plaster or grout. While I’ve used them for that, I also discovered that I could grow onions if I used one to catch excess water and keep the pots moist via wicking it back in.
I live in a semi-desert area of California and water tends to evaporate quickly. Especially for small pots and shallow rooted plants like onions, that can result in failure if you are not watering every day (or sometimes 2 x day for starters). Not having that time, some things tended to die. Then I learned to use the tubs to keep any overwater and provide it via wicking.
The conventional wisdom to to put stuff in the bottom of the pot so the roots don’t sit in water. Lots of talk of “drainage”. That likely matters a lot where it rains a lot. Here it just doesn’t matter. (I’ve done it). Here, where water is scarce, you want to capture any over watering “runoff” and save it. The tub does that. You also want starter pots to NOT dry out in our sun and wind. Having water in the bottom of the tub for 1/2 a day or even all day does that, too. My first success with Jackson Wonder Lima beans was also in a “big pot in a tub”. I grew “Little Marvel” peas (about 6 inches tall!) in such a tub. Only when you have a lot of rain does it result in plants being too wet.
So I’ve taken my pots of squash and bush beans and today put them in a tub. The brown pots have about 1 inch “legs” on them, so any excess water will need to be higher than that to do any “wicking”. Mostly these will be protecting the redwood bench from water runoff. I may put some starter pots in them between the big pots if needed, but mostly it’s just to tell me when I did too much water and protect the bench. I may also put a pot that does ‘wick’ in with each brown one and spread out to more tubs. (That is already the case for the first and last tub in the photo – only the middle one has 2 brown legged pots). Onions on the side of the squash & beans? Set on the ground, the tubs also prevent any weeds trying to grow up under / around the pots. Here’s what it looks like now:
I’ve also “potted on” the two smallest squash. They are getting the biggest pot all for themselves. Now we’ll get an A/B test of what matters most, the fastest start or the biggest growing tub. I’ve grown 5 of these small 8 ball squash in a pot this big, and it was way over crowded (but was for the purpose of making this batch of seeds from the survivor of Darwin’s Garden ™ ;-) I think 2 will likely be OK, though one would be ideal. The shoe is for scale and is about 11 inches long. (Yes, I have big feet ;-)
This can be moved most anywhere now. I have it covering a bald spot in front of the BBQ at the moment. In 2008 (when the center of 5 plants was chosen to make this seed batch) I had it by the front gate and would just pick a squash for dinner as I got home from work. Nice that ;-)
With the number I have planted now, it’s Way Too Many Squash on the horizon. One or two will be allowed to “run to seed” and that will reduce the yield a bit. I’m also going to try out my food dryer (Christmas past…) and see about canning summer squash ( I think it likely is too mushy but “we’ll see”). There’s always the freezer ;-) Worst case I’ll just convert a pot to something else when I’m too over supplied…
After the “lettuce in winter” video, I decided to give it a try. But this being spring I don’t need the cloche. I’ve used the base of an old (deprecated) hydroponics tray as the ‘tub’ for it. This is a smaller bag of soil (0.75 cuft) but the lettuce I’ve chosen is a smaller one also. Since I’ll be feeding it with Miracle Grow, and that’s nearly a hydroponics mix, it ought to be fine. It’s experimental anyway.
These seeds are a red lettuce “Sea Of Red” from Renee’s Garden seedsman packed for 2010. Yes, we’re going to find out if lettuce seeds in the fridge for 9 years sprout OK, or not.
I’ve also moved out of the baking dishes for my starting table. This is what I usually do, starter pots in a tub. I try to water them until there’s about 1/2 inch of water in the bottom. That then helps the pot to not dry out while the seeds germinate. Yes, that’s a plastic coffee tub, used for bigger things, and with holes added in the bottom. The white “cups” are one quart sized styrofoam from “Smart & Final” at $4+change for 25, or about 16 ¢ each (and reusable). I poke a pen into the bottom to make holes, then write what’s in it on the rim. Even if the ink fades or washes off, the indented name remains…
That’s my motivation for recovering the garden space. When all those pots sprout, I’ll need space to “pot on”. I figure I’ve got about 2 weeks to get the squares cleared and the dirt turned / prepped. If not, I’m gonna need a lot more big pots and tubs ;-)