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13 April 2014 @ 02:14 pm
more gardening  

We went forth and got some reinforced plastic container-gardening bags, and yesterday Young Indiana and I filled two of them with seed potatoes and compost. The plastic is strong enough that the bags will hold their shape even if violated, so I did two layers of potatoes by way of cutting holes around the middle of the bags. I’m given to understand that root vegetables will grow toward the light if it’s made available, so we’ll see if that works. At least I’ve tried.

We’ve got carrots and lettuce and tomatoes to sow, too, although with the tomatoes I’ll probably at least try to grow them from seeds to seedlings. Today we sowed several rows of herbs and planted five rather pathetic-looking strawberry plants, all of which have gone into the mini-greenhouse that I need to jury-rig some kind of improved cover for, because the cover is too snug and the plastic is old enough that every time I try tugging it into place it tears somewhere. Perhaps a couple of big transparent garbage bags. :)

I’m disproportionately pleased at even trying to grow stuff. I really don’t know why, except there apparently really is a heavily hippie-dippie part of my brain. “Maybe it’s your farming roots showing through,” Mom said. “Both your grandfathers were farmers. For generations back.” :)

If I manage to persist and not just kill everything through neglect, maybe in a year or two I’ll get something like one of these garden towers, which look like a pretty great way to do small-yard gardening.

At the moment, though, I need to find another cardboard box top or something of its ilk to put my little starter-seedling toilet roll ‘pots’ in so they don’t all fall over, and then I can get the tomatoes and stuff going. :)

(x-posted from The Essential Kit)

anthony_lionanthony_lion on April 13th, 2014 02:20 pm (UTC)

I once got hold of 1.25" PVC pipe of the type used in electrical installations(inside walls), and cut it into 2.5" long pieces.
Bunch them together with a rubber band, stuff them with dirt and set the entire bundle upright in a low tray.
Add water to the tray, then poke a hole in the dirt in each tube and put a seed in it.

If you want, you can take a clear plastic container and place upside down on top to work as a greenhouse.
(Or better, cut off plastic water bottles and use instead as they're likely to be taller, and allow the plants to grow for longer before you have to remove it)
The PVC is smooth, so it's easy to push the entire dirt plug out when it's time to plant it somewhere.

The PVC pipe is also available in bigger diameters.

My tomato plants(bought as seedlings) are now at the 1' mark...
If you find a variety called 'sweet million'(or something. Latin name Lycopersicum Pimpinellifolium) you may want to consider it.
The fruits are small, less than 1.2", but plentiful, and it can be put in a hanging pot. The local gardening centre marked it with "very sweet and tasty. Popular with children!"

Carrots can grow pretty well in cut-off milk/juice cartons on the windowsill...

My mini greenhouse is homemade, and exactly so deep that it fits a 33L plastic container(I use them for composting... ) and the walls are made of plastic panels used in regular greenhouses.(The types that consists of two layers with a lot of parallel 'walls' between them)
You may be able to find such panels somewhere.
If you otherwise like the greenhouse you have, just cut the panels to fit on the outside and fasten them with zip ties and if needed, add some clear silicone to seal the gaps.

The tower looks nice, but costly.

There's a few interesting books about 'square yard gardening' on Amazon.
( I don't HAVE a square yard of garden, though... Anything I grow is on my verandah or in my windows. Quite a limited area in other words.)
I'm even considering digging out the mishmash of cut-up soda bottles, chains and tubing I call my windowgarden again, to see if I can manage to get some chilis or other 'goodies' growing...
Chrysoulachrysoula on April 13th, 2014 04:44 pm (UTC)
Another term (or at least close sibling of) for 'square foot gardening' is 'French intensive', I believe. You start with an expensive mix of compost, peat and vermiculite (or something) and then apply compost every year and in return you can put plants much closer together. It's basically container gardening in 4x4 shallow containers.

Anyhow. Gardening is cool! I love sitting outside amidst future food, the greenery waving around me. And it provides all sorts of insights into How Things Work, like when you make decisions about tradeoffs: when you realize if you let that zucchini get BIG you get a lot more food for your gardening effort-- but everybody says they're BEST when tiny and tender.
anthony_lionanthony_lion on April 13th, 2014 05:15 pm (UTC)
If you skip the 'expensive mix' part...

The real lesson is that modern vegetable farming is rather inefficient in using the space because they require that you set aside lots of space for the tractor wheels, and everything is spread out to fit between those wheels.
The lesson from 'square yard' farming is that you can plant stuff much tighter if the work is done by hand. And it doesn't have to be a square yard, either. It can be a rectangle as long as your garden. It's just that you want to have a walkpath on two sides that is wide enough for you to stand on your knees and reach out over the farming area.
(Half a yard is about as far as it's comfortable to reach that way)

And yeah, gardening is cool.
And for me it's a necessity. I work with so much high-tech stuff that I just need something to 'keep me grounded' sometimes.
Chrysoulachrysoula on April 13th, 2014 05:47 pm (UTC)
Have you _frequented_ the square foot gardening forums? :-) Heck, even in the book Square Foot Gardening, he claims you're not entitled to use the term 'square foot gardening' unless you use his exact mix of soil-- which IS expensive (compared to existing garden dirt). They are very, uh... intense.

I'll be growing in more standard spacings this summer in my community garden because I can't afford to amend land that isn't mine. The impression I've picked up is that plants definitely tend toward smaller in square-foot gardening; I know that in my bed last year the suggested spacings were a little bit ludicrous. There's also stuff about the roots, which can spread much farther than the plant above ground. The idea behind Mel's Mix (it's branded if you don't want to mix it yourself!) is that the 'soil' is so loose and so fertile that the roots don't NEED to spread out nearly as much to get sufficient nutrition-- although of course the plants' above ground spread is hurt by being so close to their neighbors.

Anyhow, I like square foot gardening, and will have two beds dedicated to it this year, but there's more to the traditional spacings than just tractor-wheels. It has a lot to do with not being willing or able to apply compost over every inch of ground (for whatever reason), as I am discovering!

(This year I'm learning a lot about root development. I've learned that starting stuff indoors isn't nearly as much about the stems and the leaves as it is about the root development. This explains various discrepancies I've noticed in the past!)
Deborah Blakedeborahblakehps on April 13th, 2014 03:40 pm (UTC)
I have a huge garden, although it is going to be less huge this year due to energy and time constraints. Empty yogurt containers make good seed starters for things like tomatoes, which get bigger.

Have fun!
mevennenmevennen on April 13th, 2014 06:19 pm (UTC)
Our rather old tomato seeds actually came up, so I'm going to put those in the greenhouse when they have grown a bit. T put potatoes in last week. Good luck!
anthony_lionanthony_lion on April 13th, 2014 06:42 pm (UTC)
Seeds can actually be stored for many years and still sprout as long as they were stored dry and dark. (Low temperatures also helps.)

The cucumbers(Rinish Pickling) I'm growing this year had a 'sell by' date of Sept. 2009. The bag listed an 80% sprouting rate.
3 of the 4 I seeded has sprouted, so I hit 75% this year.
I like pickles... But I want them with 'a bit more zest' than the usual stuff you can find at the stores, so... every few years I try to pickle some myself...
(Some of the Asian imports are very good, but they aren't sliced. Cucumbers that has been sliced before pickling gets a different texture.)
martianmooncrabmartianmooncrab on April 13th, 2014 06:30 pm (UTC)
I have an old round trash bin that I am going to make into a potato tower...

good luck with your urban farming..
Dreamshadowmorgie on April 14th, 2014 12:47 am (UTC)
Pics or it happened, but I didn't see it! ;)
kitmizkit on April 14th, 2014 08:09 am (UTC)
*laughs* I'll post pictures when things start sprouting, maybe. :)