Gardening In Construction Tubs & Pots

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:

Pots in construction tubs – beans & squash

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 ;-)

8 Ball squash in a big pot – about 2 foot

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.

Lettuce in a soil bag in a “tub”

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…

Sprouting Pots in Tub

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 ;-)

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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29 Responses to Gardening In Construction Tubs & Pots

  1. E.M.Smith says:

    All three of these seeds were soaked for 24-36 hours before planting out. All three of them are now sprouting / showing through the soil:

    Frerry-Morse Radish: Icicle, short top. Packed for 2011. $1 / packet.

    American Seeds Garden Bean: “Cherokee Wax (yellow bush)” Packed for 2008. 10 ¢/pkt. About 80% germination so far.

    Botanical Interests Chinese Kale: Kailaan, White flowered, also called Chinese Broccoli. Packed for 2011. $1.69/packet.

    For the radish and the Chinese Broccoli / Kale I’ve not kept germination rates, since the seeds were so small, I just sprinkled them into a tub at ‘reasonable spacing’. I’d guess the radishes at at least 90% and the Chinese Kale / Broccoli has just started to emerge, so no idea.

    Soaking seeds makes a BIG difference in how fast they germinate. Soaking then starting in a pot kept warm in the house is even faster, but these were outside with night temperatures in the 40 F range. No real surprise the colder temperature plants sprouted first and the warm season plants I’ve seeded out are not yet sprouted…

    FWIW, I’ve “recovered” about 1/3 of the garden space to “mowed” state. Now comes the work of weeding / tilling / spraying / “whatever”. But at least I can see the cement tile walkways and the dirt squares ;-) Even if they do still have some grass / weed layer on top…

    I didn’t get the California Bay Laurel taken down yet. I did get it to a bare trunk to about 10 feet up and one major secondary trunk (about 3 inches) from the root mass cut down. The smaller shaded tree now gets full sun for much of the day ;-)

    Oddly, the Sven Saw (any saw really) tends to really want to stick in this tree. It gets about 80% of blade width into the cut and slows then at 100% in the cut starts to bind. Even on the top cut of a limb where stresses ought to be opening the cut. I’m going to need an axe, or maybe a SawsAll ;-) to take out the main trunk. I think the tree may have some kind of sticky sap that binds the “saw dust” into a goo along the cut.

    At present, I’ve uncovered the old herbs square and was delighted to find Horseradish leaves trying to sprout / grow (they will do better now that they get sun ;-) and that the Rosemary had survived (even if looking a bit, er, pale green). The purple sage, alas, is no more. I’m planing on starting a regular sage from seeds (since I have them): Botanical Interests “Sage Garden Broadleaf”. Packed for 2011. $1.89 / packet. (Wonder what prices are now?…) Those seeds are already soaking as of an hour ago ;-)

    That square still needs some weeding, but it will be “by hand” not Roundup or spray.

    6 other squares are now mowed flat. 3 had some Lilly bulb shading most of it, so mostly free of grass, but some Bermuda is present. The other 3 are basically solid Bermuda and the walkways between them are covered in it as well. I’m off ot buy a couple of gallons of Roundup this weekend… Yeah, I ought ot have sprayed first, waited a week, then mowed,… but it will put out fresh leaves fast AND it’s a “high cut” so 2 to 3 inches of leaf ought to be “enough” to get the Roundup in.

    There’s another 4 squares that just need a bit of a mowing, then removal of a couple of “tree / shrub weed stumps”. They have had Saint Augustine grass grow over them, so much easier to deal with. It looks like giant Bermuda, but has shallow roots. If it dries, it dies… Or just pull it up fairly easily by hand. From Saint Augustine Florida growing in sandy wet areas originally. At one time the whole back yard was that. It’s a nice grass. (Them some Bermuda seeds blew in for God Only Knows where…)

    I’m fairly certain all that can be done well before “potting on” is needed for the things in the starting tub pots.

    Even if not the best way to do it, just the feeling of accomplishment at seeing it flat and mowed and where the walkway stones are laying is a big motivator to keep at it. It really feels like something is almost done… even if I know the “shovel time” is much more work than the mower.

    I’m also quite pleased at how many seeds from 2008 to 2011 kept just in a jar in the fridge have held up reasonably well. I do expect more failures among some of the other packets (that were in baggies in the lower drawer, and many were self-saved to maybe not ideal moisture when packed). But as usual “We’ll see”. As I have about 100 years worth of seeds saved, it would not break my heart if 1/2 of them were “duds” now. It would take me a decade or two of planting / trials just to get through those in the house fridge and the yard fridge before I could even get to the Seed Freezer. (About 2 drawer file cabinet sized, and stuffed with jars of packets).

    So on my ever growing ToDo list is: Test germinate various genre of seeds, write up the conclusions, and toss the duds, grow the victors, and give away a bunch. Things like I have dozens of different tomato types in the freezer and we no longer eat tomatoes as they make the joints flare up with an arthritic feeling. Similarly, I’ve never mastered cooking eggplant, so my 1/2 dozen kinds of their seeds ought to go, too. Then there’s my canonical collection of Indian Corn seeds from various Thanksgiving Displays. Probably don’t need them anymore ;-) Rinse and repeat… IF I’m lucky, I can get it down to “one suitcase” worth to pack of to Florida “When that day comes” ;-)

    I intend to just grow out all the various radish seeds I’ve got. Dozen+ kinds at least. Since I like radishes, they grow fast, and I can “turn” a batch about every month, I think I can get through them ;-) Similarly a lot of the leaf greens. Cutting lettuce & etc. They tend to not keep well, so I’ll likely have a fair number of “dud” seed packages from the refrigerator set (similar to onions in that way), then those that do sprout will be noted for future buys and then grown & eaten ;-)

    I’m also going to (finally!) do a full on Winter Garden this coming winter. Fava Beans (broad beans), turnips, etc. That will use up some of those kinds of seeds and / or tell me what’s a flop. But that’s for 1/2 a year from now… Right now I need to go price RoundUp ;-)

  2. H.R. says:

    @E.M. – Here’s how I’m starting my seeds. I couldn’t locate my small starter pots, which I finally did run across yesterday while looking for something else, so I bought this Jiffy Professional Greenhouse seed starter. I gave $6 and change for it at Walmart.

    It’s nothing you couldn’t do a half-dozen other ways, but I thought I had nothing, so I snagged one. It does work a treat. My seeds have sprouted already and are showing above the surface. I’ll be counting the germination success/failure rate tomorrow.

    Here’s a 4-minute video of what I bought.

    Oh, since I now have the supply of pots located, I’m going to do those herbs in pots as discussed on the Spuds/Trellis thread. I have some nice-looking pots that will do the job.

  3. E.M.Smith says:


    Nice! I’ll have to see if they have them here.

    I generally start mine in a Tupperware Sandwich container with a folded wet paper towel in the bottom. As we’re short on those right now, I’ve just been soaking seeds overnight in KFC Side Dish “disposible” plastic dishes, then potting them in minimal soil in old 6 packs (or more recently into the quart styro “cups” from Smart & Final).

    I have a set of saved egg cartons and was thinking some potting soil in them would also work for small seeds, but being basically a lazy bum have not done that yet. ;-)

    I prefer soaking / starting seeds indoors as it generally works better than outdoors. Stable temp and all.

    FWIW, I once worked for a year in the Schwab building in downtown San Francisco in a cubicle well removed from any windows / views on something like the 15th floor up… Talk about “sterile” and lifeless… Being basically tied to the soil and plants emotionally… after a few months I brought a baggie of potting soil to work, used some styrofoam coffee cups, and set up a small “seed starter garden” under the “over work surface” fluorescent lights. each week I’d start a couple of cups, and take a couple home to plant out… It worked very well. Both for giving me “starts” and for giving me a feeling of still be some tiny bit connected to the Earth ;-)

    Usually had about 1/2 dozen coffee cups of dirt at the back of my desk surface… but nobody seemed to notice ;-) The guard at the exit did notice I would carry out two coffee cups with something green poking up every so often, but seemed to enjoy it…

    They are just lucky I didn’t set up an hydroponic grow in a quart jar and have cherry tomato harvest at my desk ;-)

  4. Larry Ledwick says:

    Well I found out that I did not get a garden plot at the apartment complex drawing, so not going to be doing a lot of gardening. I still have to check with the community garden down the road but our recent blizzard stripped all their signs off the board so will have to figure out the phone number to call to see if they have plots available.

    I have used egg cartons (have about a dozen of the 18 egg recycled paper type just sitting in the corner, also have used the tupperare disposable sandwich containers and the little 3 oz paper dixy cups.

    Some hard to sprout seeds need to be scarified (hull scratched up and abraded) before they will sprout reliably. To do that put a bit of sand paper in side a tin can and the seeds and shake the whole thing around a bit to put some wear and tear on the outer covering of the seed like it has been around the block a few times in the soil. Apparently some seeds have a near water proof out layer and only sprout after they have had some time in the field to be appropriately abused to allow that defense to be breached so they can absorb water to begin the sprouting process.

    I might just sprout some seeds this year for the sole purpose of getting time lines on how long it takes for them to sprout under certain conditions, and maybe try a couple in pots on the balcony to see if I can get them enough sun to grow. On the extreme east end of the balcony there is a small spot that has sun until about 10:00 – 10:30 before the eves shadow that are after that the balcony is in bright shade from the reflected light off the building across the street, so it is possible with a bit of creativity like reflectors to increase light levels I can get enough diffuse sun for them or using artificial light get them to grow a bit. Or worst case carry the pots out to some other location during the day.

    No great loss if it does not work and will give me some time to tinker with things to see if I can get it to work. Would also be useful put together a list of open shade plants to see if any of them will be happy in that environment.

  5. H.R. says:

    Larry L: “Would also be useful put together a list of open shade plants to see if any of them will be happy in that environment.”

    Now that would be interesting; “How low can you go?” By that I mean I am wondering if you can get a yield from some veggies that are normally planted and grown in full sun but instead are grown with X hours of sun because a tree or something shades them in the morning or the afternoon.

    No doubt there’s a chart of results out there where someone has run various veggies with 1, 2, 3, etc. hours of sun and then shaded them for the rest of the day. But I’d imagine the results would vary a bit due to other factors so such a chart would only be an indicator for any other specific location.
    @E.M. and Larry: The Mrs. gets vicious on saved containers, so I was lucky to find those old pots. I’m a pack rat and she’s of the opinion that if you haven’t used something in the last few months it should be pitched. I’d swear she would pitch a bottle of 200-year old brandy because “Nobody has touched it for HOW LONG?!?” ;o)

  6. Larry Ledwick says:

    It looks like some of the most important vegetables can be grown in shady conditions.

    There are a surprising number of vegetables and edibles that will grow in shade. This isn’t an all-inclusive list, but it provides some options to get you started.

    Asian Greens
    Brussels Sprouts
    Green Onions
    Herbs – most
    Mustard Greens
    Sweet Potatoes

  7. Bill in Oz says:

    Larry, That’s an interesting list of shade tolerant plants. Thanks !

    I’m still doing my Autumn/Winter garden here. It is the best time for brassicas, turnips, carrots, chard, peas lettuce mustard greens, broad beans garlic etc which all struggle and give up during our hot Summers…In fact I have long thought that our Autumn Winter is for us here in South Australia ( on the edge of the desert ) our natural growing season as usually there is rain and no need to irrigate which is essential in Summer.
    (This is NOT true so far this year; it is still dry as dust in the top soil & the subsoil.. So I am soaking each bed before I sow or plant things. )

    Naturally the colder temperatures slow things down..But I still get a feed fro the garden

    PS : EM : I cooked a big stew with lamb chops, spuds and vegetables from the garden tonight..Following on from your idea of using a lamb roast left over. No roast lamb yet..But the cut up chops tasted great !

  8. E.M.Smith says:

    @Bill in Oz:

    Yup, chops will work too! Stew is a bit tastier if you brown the meat for about 3 min / side first

    But I often don’t bother…

    There are many food plants where their natural habitat is under-story in a forest. Much of the world is either desert (very specialized food plants like tepary beans), tall grasses (so grains and sunflowers and some climbers), or forests with medium to heavy shade and the occasional meadow.

    Consequently many food plants are evolved to “get by” with less than full sun. Since the hydroponics indoors guys need to buy their light, they are in the lead on figuring out how much plants need. See:
    where a guy sets out how to measure it…

    How to Calculate Daily Light Integral
    The DLI for an indoor growroom can be calculated based on readings from a hand-held light meter that records PAR in micromole/m-2, or in foot candles, the more old-fashioned unit.

    Steps for using a foot candle meter:

    I find lumins or ft-candles just fine and don’t see why micromole/m^2 is any better, personally… Counting up individual photons seems a bit much…

    Daily light integral (DLI) describes the number of photosynthetically active photons (individual particles of light in the 400-700 nm range) that are delivered to a specific area over a 24-hour period.
    The daily light integral (DLI) is a function of photosynthetic light intensity and duration (day) and is usually expressed as moles of light (mol) per square meter (m−2) per day (d−1), or: mol·m−2·d−1.[1][2] In other words, DLI measures the number of photosynthetically active photons (photons in the PAR range) accumulated in a square meter over the course of a day.

    DLI is usually calculated by measuring the Photosynthetic Photon Flux Density (PPFD) in μmol·m−2·s−1 (number of photons in the PAR range received in a square meter per second) as it changes throughout the day, and then using that to calculate total estimated number of photons in the PAR range received over a 24-hour period for a specific area. In other words, DLI describes the sum of the per second PPFD measurements during a 24-hour period.
    Effects on plants
    Up to a certain light level DLI is strongly and positively related to the photosynthesis of a leaf, the relative growth rate of a whole plant and the productivity of a crop. Each type of plant has a different DLI optimum for growth. DLI also changes leaf morphology, allocation of biomass to leaves, stems and roots morphology, and the timing of flowering. DLI is directly correlated with plant quality, and a minimum amount of DLI is required for marketable horticultural plants. Measuring DLI over a growing season and comparing it to results can help determine which varieties of plants will thrive in a specific location.

    But the bottom line is that chlorophyll (and other XX-phylls…) only really use red and blue light, not green-ish nor much in the yellow range (which seems strange given that the sun in yellow.) The thought is that since photosynthesis evolved in the oceans, blue light goes deep and those floating near the surface get more red so those two were favored. (Maybe…)

    You can buy panels of mixed red and blue LEDs just for plants (why waste energy making colors they don’t use?…) FWIW, IIRC, it’s about 25 W of LED / sq.ft. for decent indoor vegetables… but varies by plant.

    From that “Maximum Yield” link again:

    Light Requirements for Different Crops

    The DLI has a significant impact on a number of plant variables, including root and shoot growth, stem thickness, plant height, branching, flower amount and flowering timing. All these factors have a big impact on yields and overall crop quality.

    For propagating seedlings and many young cuttings, a low DLI of 6-8 mol/m-2/day is recommended, which should increase to 10-12 mol/m-2/day for older transplants, flowering annuals and small herbs.

    Many shade-loving indoor plants and ornamentals require a relatively low DLI. African violets and phalaenopsis orchids prefer an average DLI of 4-6 mol/m-2/day.

    Many ferns perform best at a DLI of 4-6, cyclamen at 6-8, fuchsias at 10-12, chrysanthemums at 10-14, petunias at 16-18 and cut-flower rose plants at 18-22 mol/m-2/day.

    For butterhead lettuce production, plants need a DLI of approximately 14-16 mol/m-2/day for high-quality head formation, while iceberg lettuce requires even higher levels.

    Larger, warm-season plants such as tomatoes, cucumbers, capsicums and eggplants require DLIs of 20-30 mol/m-2/day for maximum production. The actual optimal light levels depend on density.
    Higher-density crops produce more inter-plant shading and require a higher DLI to completely penetrate the thick canopy.

    So just from that I’d say Larry L. ought to have little problem growing leaf lettuce, edible ferns (yes, there are edible ferns…) and likely most of the things on the shade tolerant list above.

    Handy unit converter:

    Rounded, sunlight has a Ft-Candle to Photons conversion ratio of 0.2, while Gro-Lux lamps are 0.3 and high pressure sodium (a decent color mix for plants) is at 0.13 and a cool white fluorescent is at 0.14 and, interesting to note, an incandescent halogen bulb is 0.2 also.

    That doesn’t address the Watts needed to make the lumens or ft-candles… just converting the light density total to effective colors for plants light intensity.

    “What vegetables can I grow in partial sun/partial shade?”
    cherry belle radishes
    But what if tall trees, fences or permanent structures keep your yard shady all day? Or your balcony container garden receives little to no sunlight? “What vegetables can I plant in shady areas?” is the number one gardening question customers ask me at the farmer’s market. Here’s a list of edibles that tolerate partial sun/partial shade:

    Loose leaf lettuce
    Walking onions
    Violets, edible flowers
    Swiss chard

    So there you go… Or just put a grow light on a stand over the stuff. (Can even be indoors shining out through the glass if wind is a risk).

    Looks like about $23 to $112 and 75W to 1 kW of LEDs (in the mixed blue and red type).

    I did OK using a “Shop light” with 2 x 40 W tubes in it on about a 3 foot tall stand (Cinder blocks). Were I doing it long term I’d have spent the money to change the bulbs to Gro-Lux, but I was a poor college kid then ;-)

    Lack of sun is no reason not to grow stuff. If you have the bucks, for $180 you can have a small herb and lettuce garden on the kitchen table:

    AeroGarden Ultra (LED) with Gourmet Herb Seed Pod Kit
    by AeroGarden

    Garden year-round. Grow fresh herbs, vegetables, salad greens, flowers and more in this smart countertop garden
    Up to 7 plants can be grown at a time. Plants grow in water…not soil. Advanced hydroponics made simple
    High-performance, full spectrum 30-watt LED lighting system is tuned to the specific spectrum that allows plants to maximize photosynthesis, resulting in rapid, natural growth and abundant harvests
    Interactive LCD screen control panel tells you when to add water, reminds you when to add patented nutrients (included), automatically turns lights on and off and provides timely tips and on-screen help functions
    Includes 7-Pod Gourmet Herb Seed Kit that contains: Genovese Basil, Thai Basil, Thyme, Mint, Curly Parsley, Chives and Dill & 3 oz. patented nutrients (enough for a full season of growth)

    There are other folks selling cheaper versions, or the DIY path with a $30 light panel, some mason jars and seeds…

    I would be doing that except I’m short of interior space and have more than enough dirt…

  9. E.M.Smith says:


    Just ask her how long it has been since she wore her wedding dress… or looked at the family pictures…

  10. Larry Ledwick says:

    I already have 6 LED grow panels similar to these. The seemed to work fine for some test sprouting of lettuce, radishes and a few other things a couple years ago, but it was just one panel set over some sprouting cups to see if it would work.

  11. H.R. says:

    Nice try, E.M. – As best I know, the wedding dress is gone and she did 3 hours of family photo viewing, going back to the great-grandparents, for three hours on Thursday.

    I’m sticking with the Jiffy pots :o)

    BTW, that video of the jiffy pots showed a 5 x 10 unit but I bought the 6 x12 version at Walmart. That was the only size they had. I didn’t even know they made those kits in different sizes. When I get a round tuit I’m going to visit the Jiffy site and see what all they have.

  12. E.M.Smith says:

    One other benefit of the tubs that I forgot to mention: All sorts of “creepy crawlies” are kept out of the plants. Only tiny snails can make the curve under the rim, and they tend not to make the long climb, so it tends to prevent snails topping all the young plants… slugs too seem to not “make the bend”.

    @Larry L:

    Well then, you have what it takes to augment the patio IFF needed ;-) At least for a couple of square feet…

    FWIW, off the package of lettuce I’m testing in the “bag in a tub” method:

    Renee’s Garden Cutting Lettuce “Sea Of Red” $2.79
    Packed for 2010

    Unlike other red lettuces that fade in the sun, Sea of Red’s color just gets more intense.
    Growing Notes
    Sea of Red will thrive in mild weather with consistent moisture. To extend the growing season into hot weather, sow in light shade or erect a canopy of loosely woven shade cloth over the bed.

    That from a color challenged lettuce not using the red end effectively…

    I think if you spend the day reading seed packets at the local garden store you will find more like that. I’d also guess that things often grown over winter, when light is weaker, would also do well. While I don’t like the big “Horse Bean” style of fava beans (you must peel each bean – yuck – and the taste is a bit odd to me) I have a small ‘white bean sized’ fava from the local Persian Grocery that I grew one winter. Did great, no peeling needed, and a more neutral flavor. I’d bet fava beans, peas (snow peas in particular) and some regular beans would do fine. (Beans expect to start in the shade and climb up something anyway…)

    Root vegetables, such as beets, carrots, and potatoes will grow in partially shaded areas that have less direct sunlight, but will appreciate at least a half-day of full sun and some partial shade.

    Leafy vegetables, such as chard, spinach and salad greens, are the most tolerant vegetables that grow in shade. In fact, keeping these plants shaded as the season heats up will help them last longer. Plant these crops in areas on that are moderately shaded during part of the day or receive filtered or dappled sunlight all day.

    So IMHO you ought to be able to get various saladings, then some Chard (that’s both an edible leaf and the stems are a vegetable in it’s own right) and still have a square foot of carrots with the added grow lights you already have. That would solve your “just need a couple of carrots” problem ;-)

  13. Bill in Oz says:

    E M Yes, of course ! Sauteing the meat with garlic & onions is the way I did it ! Still half a pot left for later on today.

    Re Shade : There is a tall hedge of 4-5 Cypress pines on the North West boundary planted by my neighbour decades ago for ‘privacy’. I’ve cut the branches on my side of the boundary to maximise light and cut the roots coming into my garden to prevent them taking nutrients and moisture.. But they have just grown taller. I need an arborist to top them at about 25-30 feet. But other things on the to do list have priority at the moment.

    Glad to see that garlic does not mind a bit of shade. I have about 10 varieties this year to plant. I’ll put some of them in beds that get a lot of shade.

    And no supplementary lighting is not the way to go in my gardens. Power here in South Australia is way too expensive…Too much wind & solar power being pushed onto the grid.( by regulation ). displacing reliable cheap coal & gas fired power generation

  14. H.R. says:

    I weeded and turned the garden yesterday and then covered it in black plastic to make sure the weeds don’t come back. I decided against using Roundup or a small thermonuclear device as I thought it might disturb the neighbors ;o)

    Yesterday into last night we caught the edge of that storm that hit the South really hard and is now hitting the Northeast. We had some strong winds with gusts up to 40 mph and the temperature dropped to almost freezing. It just goes to show why 3-4 days of nice weather does not mean it’s OK to plant.

    I might push my planting up to the first week of May if the 10-day outlook is favorable. The 10-day forecasts are pretty good for temperature within a few degrees. They just suck at forecasting precipitation even a day or two out. But that would only matter for an outdoor wedding. It won’t matter either way for the garden.
    I caught my first fish of the season Saturday evening using my little rubber spiders on the surface. I’ve caught fish on the surface in every calendar month with those rubber spiders. I have been catching fish, but I’ve been using worms under a bobber.

    Those polar outbreaks seem to have changed the game this year. The fish have been very sluggish until just the past week because the water was chilled several degrees cooler than the typical Winter. The water has just been too cold for them to come up to the surface.

  15. E.M.Smith says:

    Hmmm… “Fishmometers?”

    First date of good fishing as thermometer?….

    I’ve got sprouts on my Kalards hybrid, the radishes, Cherokee trail of tears beans, basil, Chineese Broccoli, and the Senposia hybrid greens.

    So far the onion, lettuce, oregano, and tobacco have not sprouted. They are much smaller seeds and much less likely to survive long storage.

    Onions and tobacco, especially, are notorious for only a one year viability in normal conditions, so I’m pushing it with decade storage even cold, if not deep frozen. I may need to try again with better saved seeds for them.

  16. E.M.Smith says:

    Well, my pessimism was just impatience. Today was greeted by new sprouts of onions, green onions (fistulosum, never bulbs) and Lutz Leaf Beet.

    Lutz leaf beet is a nice beet known for lots of edible foliage, like chard with a beet kicker. The beets supposedly do not get woody even at sizes like 6 inches in diameter. I’m hoping. Since the spouse won’t eat beets but likes chard, and I like both, it means I could grow a beet for both of us ;-) I also have some “perpetual spinach beets” started and sprouted. They are mostly for the spinach shaped beet leaves – i.e. smaller than chard and not much stem.

    That just leaves tobacco, oregano, celery and lettuce as not germinating / sprouted. The oregano was only started a few days back so could just be slow. Ditto the celery.

    The celery was from a Utah type “6 pack” from a commercial provider that I let a few run to seed, so no big deal if they need replacing. I have a reddish stemmed one I’d rather grow ;-)

    Tobacco is a PITA to get started in the best of times. The seeds are like dust, so any dirt over them at all kills them. Then they need some UV exposure to be activated, but not allowed to dry out. Talk about a hard combination. I’ve planted a few hundreds of fresh seeds in a pot only to have just 2 or 3 “take”. Not a big deal. This was a volunteer in the garden in 2015 after I’d let most of it die out. Used for a natural insecticide (planted around the perimeter various leaf miners lay their eggs on it, that never hatch, and lord help any bug that takes a bite ;-) I can always order more should I choose.

    Lettuce is supposed to be “good” for about 5 years in good storage, so they ought to be fine, but just are not sprouting. No idea why yet. It could be that the temperature isn’t quite perfect yet, or soil pH or who knows what. It is also possible the seeds were not well stored before I bought them. (I’ve seen places with the seed rack in full sun – the heat alone will damage the seeds). I’ve just sprinkled all that was left of the packet over the soil bag and watered it in (in case I had the first batch too deep) with a goodly sample in my “damp paper towel” sprouting tray to test germination. I have a different lettuce I’ll use in a week if this is still a dud.

    The sprouting of the onions in particular is satisfying. One is a green bunching onion that forms perpetual beds. Mine had finally gotten established when the family “cleaned up the garden” and removed it… I’m going to reestablish it but in a big tub. The other is “My Mix” where I’d planted several different bulb onions and let them cross. Survivors of hard times and less than ideal sun / light length. Different onions only make a bulb after the day crosses a genetically programmed threshold, so these were selected for this latitude. I’d also had some “multiplier onions” in the mix (they spread by having the bulb divide into two parts – like shallots). Where most bulb onions are selected to NOT double, I wanted to deliberately introduce those genes and try for a bigger multiplier onion. That the seeds are viable saves that whole effort. I’ll be starting more of these later.

    At this point I’m having a lot more germinate than I’d expected. Looks like “jar in the fridge” is a pretty good method.. Some of these may have spent some time in the freezer. I did tend to ‘rotate jars’ to the fridge portion when I was thinking of planting some. But mostly these are all from the fridge only. I didn’t put much in the house freezer (and they were mostly jars of lots of beans from a harvest – to assure no bean weevil eggs survived). So that’s the good news. The bad news is that if most of my “vegetable crisper” drawer of seeds are viable, there’s no way I can grow them all out…

    That was one of the things that surprised me about seed saving. I’d figured it would take a lot of work or effort and space to save enough seeds. The reality is that you are rapidly supplied with way more seeds than you could possibly use. One large beet, run to seed, gives a quart or more of seeds. That’s a lifetime supply for a home gardener. Repeat the next year… Similarly, a few onions run to seed give you enough to plant the whole garden in onions. Think of just ONE corn cob. How many corn plants does that yield? So I rapidly outgrew the small porch freezer ( about 6 cu. ft.) and then the small office fridge sized refrigerator ( 3? cu. fit.) stacked on top of it. The excess spilled over into the house fridge.

    Consider that a single quart jar can easily hold 20 to 30 packets of small seeds AND 2 or 3 packets of large seeded things like corn or beans. That’s more varieties than most home gardeners will plant in a few years. All you really need is a quart or two for a “survival garden” and I’ve got many cubic feet…

    Well, OK, I’m going to audit a bunch of them. Pitch the stuff I’ve decided never to grow again or unlikely to need, plus the ones that are past germination… Like that 2 quarts of beet seeds, and the half pound of Amaranth. It was interesting. It does “grow like a weed”. I’m just not going to harvest a pseudo-grain that’s the size of the head of a pin in enough quantities to matter ( I’d rather have potatoes & beans in an emergency) and while the leaves ARE edible “when young” they get a lot of fiber quick. I’d rather have a bunch of chard or regular bean leaves. Then there are the 20+ kinds of “winter squash” some of them in jar sized lots. I don’t really need all them. I saved seeds from many that I bought at the store, so they are likely first to go. Nothing really special about them and I’m just not going to plant 20 acres of squash… There are a couple I really liked a lot that are keepers. Time for some selective editing of the gene bank here…

    Hopefully, between that and finding what has survived the storage, I can this this lot down to just one small freezer worth.

  17. Larry Ledwick says:

    Your results are encouraging, sounds like my little 1 dram vials will keep for a very long time in the freezer.

    I picked up some bunching green onions the other day at the Target store and will see how they fare on the patio when I think the freeze season is over. (can still anticipate snow and cold for another 40 days or so.

  18. cdquarles says:

    @EM, yes, when you can catch various kinds of fish do give you an idea about the water temperature. Around here, several nice days in January into February let you catch crappie. As it rolls into March and April, you start seeing shellcrackers and bass. If it has rained enough recently, you’ll get catfish. Summer gets a mix, depending on sun, shade, cover, water flow and turbidity. As autumn approaches, the fish types go from the warmer water actives to the cooler water actives. You can catch fish year-round; not unlike growing crops. Plant greens in the autumn, plant the rest in the spring; harvest year-round. You do need to get varieties known to work well in your Koppen zone if doing this outdoors. Indoors is a bit different.

  19. E.M.Smith says:

    Yesterday I was overly busy with GHCN graphs and didn’t check the garden pots. Today I find that the Tobacco has popped up, looking like tiny little tomato sprouts. Also the Basil is “up”. Some carrot seeds I’d added to one bean pot have also started showing.

    That leaves only the Celery, lettuce and Oregano as not sprouted yet, and they were started after many of the others (about the same time as the tobacco).

    I put a bunch (dozens) of the lettuce seeds on a sprouting bed (paper town in plastic tub, wet, kept at room temperature so ideal for sprouting) about a week back. Nothing. They usually have at least a couple sprouted if they arn’t all dead. So I’m pretty sure the lettuce is “toast”.

    So all in all I’m surprised at how much is viable after very long storage times in less than ideal conditions. Things like baggies in a bottom ‘fridge drawer or “just a jar in the fridge”.

    As these were “working sets” in the fridge, I can’t say exactly how many times they might have done a freeze / thaw or ‘fridge / warm-up cycle (thermal cycling isn’t good for longevity) but it is significantly more than zero I know some of these packets I’ve taken out of the fridge a few times in prior years. Similarly, some of these have 10+ years in storage. I don’t remember exactly each one’s history and some may have spent a few years in a freezer jar “way back when”.

    Still, none of these are the “deep archive” of sealed canning jars in the outdoor freezer that doesn’t do a defrost warm up cycle.

    Some data for recording:

    Carrot – American Seed (bought at Walmart IIRC, that or CVS Pharmacy on clearance) packed for 2008 (so a decade+ old) original price 30¢

    Tobacco – “Volunteer” seeded out August 2005. That’s 14 years on seeds that are notorious for a 1 year viability. I think these spent from about 2005 to about 2014 in the freezer compartment of the regular fridge (so defrost cycled but frozen in the jar)

    Celery – “Utah” from a 6 Pack bought at “OSH”. Orchard Supply Hardware has gone out of business now, FWIW. These are dated November 2000, so at 19 years, that’s pushing it hard for refrigeration only. If they don’t make it, I’m OK with that. These were mostly just for testing storage conditions anyway. When I have “way too much seed” because some generic plant was allowed to “run to seed”, I’ll put a bulk packet in poor storage and a small amount in deep storage. That preserves maximum variety in the deep set while gathering information from the poorer storage. usually that has resulted in just way too many seeds when I grow a new batch from the poor storage after 1/2 decade and it’s Just Fine and makes ANOTHER big batch of seeds. (At this point I think it has been over a decade since I used anything from the archive freezer that does not defrost cycle. Thus my deciding to “thin things out” now…)

    Basil – “Albahaca Dulce” – American Seeds (definitely from Walmart) 50¢ date 2011 so 8 years old.

    Oregano – American Seeds (Walmart) $cent;50 also 2011 so 8 years old.


    I’m pretty sure the Oregano will eventually sprout. I’m also pretty sure the Celery is expired (but we’ll see… I’d given up on the Tobacco until today, and just left it out of a sense of “well maybe”). Later today I’m going to seed a different red lettuce and see if it’s expired too. Then I need to transplant some of the sprouts from the small pots into a bigger home ;-)

    So, given the less than ideal storage, thermal cycling, and extreme age of some of these seed packets, I’m pretty sure that a mason jar of fresh seeds, stuck in the freezer of a regular fridge, only needs to be “refreshed” about once in a decade to have a viable Preparedness Seed Package. I can say from personal experience that One Quart is way more small seeds than anyone can need. You would have to fill it with large seeds like beans and corn to fill it. Personally, I’d suggest 2 quart jars. One with all the small seed stuff where the packets are about as thick as the paper, and one filled with the big seeded varieties (but fewer of them) – beans, Lima beans, Favas, corn, squash… and I’m running out of things that are Must Have ;-)

    Wide mouth jars are easier to load with packets, and I’ve used the wide mouth pints for most seed packets. The Ferry Morse are a bit too tall, so the tops need to be folded over or use a larger jar ;-) I have a Small Mouth Mason jar full of all sorts of packets in front of me at the moment – a jar saved from some Marinara sauce long long ago, and it works too. A bit harder to get it absolutely packed with seed packages (fold them long ways to get through the neck, but don’t crease them, you want them to spring back open once inside). That’s what some of this set of seeds was stored in. (Others were in a baggy in the drawer) So it isn’t like this needs a lot of special equipment or money. Buy a jar of fruit or pasta sauce, wash it when done, stuff seed packets in it and put it in the freezer. Done. (Come back sometime in the next decade to grow them out ;-) Don’t wait 20 years ;-)

  20. Larry Ledwick says:

    By doing that you are also selecting for plants that produce storage hardy seeds. ;)

  21. H.R. says:

    I just sat down to do some catching up here. I had been cleaning out a drawer that was full of product manuals such as the garage door opener, the washer and dryer, the Kitchen Aid mixer, etc., and I ran across a little over a dozen seed packets of flowers, herbs, and ornamental grasses.

    It certainly wasn’t an intentional act on my part, but I have a seed archive. Color me surprised, as I had no idea I had any seeds other than the ones I just bought. I’ve only looked at one packet so far and the date on it was 2008.

    I’ll try to sprout some of them. There are a few herbs I didn’t buy this year due to space considerations and we could use some of the flowers for the butterflies and bees if the seeds will come up. Nothing ventured, nothing gained so I’ll give them a go. Anything at all that sprouts will exceed my expectations.

  22. H.R. says:

    wOw! More packets than I thought… What the hey, here’s what I found.

    Ferry Morse – All dated 2001 so little to no hope

    Burpee – All dated 2001 except one dated 2002, still not looking good
    Blue Fescue Ornamental Grass (2 packs)
    Sunflower (Mammoth) dated 2002

    And 2 packs each of wildflowers which were a giveaway from our Metroparks, dated 2002
    Black-eyed Susan
    Coneflower (purple)

    Looks like I have 18 packs of bad birdseed, but it will be interesting to see if any germinate.

    BTW, WTH is my Metropark system doing with my tax money having custom-printed seed packets made up to give away to yahoos like me who didn’t plant them? Is there nothing a government body can’t think up to waste taxpayer money on?!?

  23. E.M.Smith says:


    I had lentils that were stored at room temperature in a jar for 16 years sprout and grow just fine.

    Give them a shot, and reward the survivors with letting them have sex and set seeds… then put those in a special packet for a decade from now ;-)

    @Larry L:

    Yes, it does. That’s part of the process / goal. BUT, be careful about other traits….

    I had a nice small tomato that volunteered next to the shed, in the shade, where I’d not grown any tomatoes. I did a couple of “decade or so” selections. Got a plant that grew and grew and even made some tomatoes. UNfortunately…. it was spindly and with sparse leaves on long lanky stems and made a few sparse “cherry tomato sized” tomatoes. I’d certainly selected (way hard) for seed longevity, but not for making anything you would want in a food garden….

    Moral: You must select inside your long lived seeds for those with good garden production….

  24. E.M.Smith says:

    I’ve potted on some of the Chinese Broccoli, Basil, Kalards, and the Cherokee Wax Beans. I’ve also tossed the lettuce test germination with 100% failed to germinate (seeds sprinkled on folded wet paper towel in a KFC reused food tub / lid) after more than enough days at a nice room temperature as it was starting to get some fuzzies… So I’ll be replanting the lettuce bag experiment.

    I have actually bought a packet of brand new lettuce seeds today. 50 ¢ at Lowe’s. “American Seeds” brand – all the Ferry Moris packets were more around $1.60 to $2.25 (“organic”).at the same store. FWIW “American Seeds” seems to pack a more limited set of “Classic” (i.e. not hybrid nor patented for most of them) varieties, so not a lot of “special” things… but I usually don’t need “special”… I did buy a Ferry Morse Cilantro packet for $1.59. Why? Because my Mechanic sometimes has BBQ Tri-Tip in the back area and I’ve been invited a few times – sliced thin on a tortilla with a handful of cilantro and some salsa… I’ve gotten rather fond of it and BBQ season is coming ;-)

    So sometime in the next few days I’ll turn over the soil in the bag (so anything that ‘blew in” is on the bottom) and reseed with some more / different lettuce. I’m going to start a test germination of my “other red lettuce” packet and if it fails, I’ll use the fresh stuff. So probably about 4 days to know for sure and plant.

    FWIW I also did a roundup spray of the weedy areas in the garden in back and it’s been about a week. Things are starting to brown off. So I’m ready to turn that soil and “pot on” or really “plant out” some more of the started sprouts.

    Inspection of the first potted squash and beans (square pots in picture above) show they are making their first flowers. Figure a couple of weeks to first / earliest beans and maybe even some “baby squash” ;-) We’re about 4 weeks since potting on, and about 7 from starting seeds (or about 50 days), which puts these about 2 weeks slower than the package claims (but is that from planing, sprouting, or setting out potted starts?). Or maybe it has just been cold and overcast here a lot this spring (it has…)

    So basically stuff is going well and happy, with signs of “producing soon”, maybe ;-)

  25. H.R. says:

    I’m doing Cherokee Wax Beans too, E.M. They are about 10″ – 12″ inches tall now. I’m going to put those beans on the trellis.

    I also got a cucumber for the trellis that I’ve never grown, never seen grown, nor have I ever seen it in the stores. It’s a round yellow cucumber and supposedly gets only somewhere between lemon-size and hardball size. It sounded like the perfect size for completely using one up in a salad for the Mrs. and me. It ought to make an attractive addition to a salad with that yellow color. Other than yellow bell peppers, I can’t think of any yellow salad veggies off the top of my head.

    I set everything outside today to harden off. The long range forecast for my area looks like we’re not going to get a late Spring frost this year, so I taking what I think is a very small risk by planting early this year.

    I was outside grilling asparagus to accompany the Easter ham today and I took a stroll up to the garden. We have two nice asparagus shoots that weren’t there Friday. Growing up, we had an asparagus bed that was 10′ x 10′? 15′ x 15′? Anyhow, once asparagus starts coming up, you go out and cut every day until it all gets away from you. A shoot that was 4″ yesterday is 16″ and too tough the next day. You can almost watch asparagus grow. I loved having a big bed of that stuff.

    I’m about to pop the black plastic on the garden sometime this week so I can plant. I’ll post how well it worked, or not if the weeds shoot up from roots that didn’t get fried. We’ll see.

  26. E.M.Smith says:

    Just a note on some more seed starts:

    Seeds Of Change “Cascade Giant Stringless Snap” snap pole beans, dated 2001, that only had about 8 seeds left in it was soaked on a paper towel starting bed in a sandwich plastic container. 4 of them strouted very energetically, the others had 2 that started to mold (usually means they were dead) and a couple that looked like the root was starting to poke out. They’ve now been planted out. This package was in the ‘Fridge from about 2010 or so (when I planted the others from the package). Before that I’m not sure. I don’t think I had it in the freezer but who knows.

    Also a self packed few ( about 5) peas: Snow-Peas (grown near sugar snaps) from Woolworth Nursery 6-pack. Seeded out 4/2002 and in the fridge since then. Looks like all but one sprouted. There were only about 5 in the package. Given the pack date in April, these will have been left growing over winter here and then when spring came I found it had a hidden pod I’d missed when doing the last pick before frost… ;-) Thus also the few seeds. So definitely a Darwin’s Garden ™ plant ;-)

    These guys will, IFF I can keep the squirrels off them ;-) be allowed to run to seed for another round. I had some snow-pea / sugar snap cross that I really liked. They worked when used as fresh flat pods, and even as they filled out. Having the pod, peas, and even the shoots edible makes for a very nice emergency food plant. That it grows in the cool weather here also fills in part of the year that has rain.

    FWIW, Woolworth’s Nursery changed the name to Summer Winds, and then about a decade later went out of business (at least the 2 locations inside 20 miles of me where I used to regularly go). They were a very nice garden shop and I’ve not found anything as nice since.

    One other minor point: I DID find Bean / Legume inoculate at Tractor Supply. It was in a small plastic package like a seed package in the Burpee seed rack as “Pea & Bean Booster”. It may be that if you call it “Bean Booster” instead of using the proper “big words” the folks at Home Depot can find it in their computer… (It wasn’t in their seed rack…)

  27. H.R. says:

    Woolworth’s 5¢ & 10¢, when you needed something from the “Five and Dime”. Also called the “Dime store”, but everyone knew you meant Woolworth’s. From my recollection, it seems “Woolworths” was third choice when referring to that store.

    I know you could still get toys for 5¢ or 10¢ there up until the early ’60s and maybe into the late ’60s.

    Our local Woolworths had goldfish, tropical fish, little green turtles, parakeets (aka budgies), house plants, and garden seeds during the planting season. I think that was all that corporate headquarters was willing to risk trying to keeping alive.

    I did not know that they had branched out into garden centers, but they may have tried that on a regional basis and took a pass on our location. I dunno.

    I haven’t thought about Woolworth’s in years. Thanks for bringing it up, E.M.

  28. E.M.Smith says:

    We had a “Woolworth’s Five and Dime” in my little 3000 person rural farm town in California when I was growing up. Many a Christmas or Birthday present was bought by this young kid me then and there. I mean really, what can an 8 year old kid afford to buy for a parent? I also bought several pair of gloves from them. (It did get cold in winter and their vinyl or “whatever” gloves were warm ;-)

    I enjoyed the idea that I was still shopping at a “Woolworth’s of a sort” at that garden store. Even after the name change….

    I think they still exist in Australia / New Zealand or some such. I hope so…

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