Thursday, April 11, 2013

Container Planting Root Crops

We have been very lucky this Spring despite the bipolar weather. For the last several days we have had overnight rain but the days have been nice enough to work outside. 
The soil in my yard may have lead contamination. My neighbor had her yard tested, and it abuts my property, so she was kind enough to share the information. The levels are perfectly fine for fruits and such, but not for leafy greens or root crops, so those require lined, raised beds or containers. 
This brings me to this week's project, making containers for beets and carrots that are deep enough, but not so heavy that I need a truck lift to move them. Adding a ton of vermiculite would be easier, but way more expensive and I haven't found a lot on how much crops like such light soil. Even then, the containers would be quite heavy. I learned this trick from a home gardening program years ago. Now, if you are super concerned about BPAs, you will want to use this to create your own type of drainage. Personally, I have done the research and do not see a problem with this method, but there are many studies out there and it depends on the ones you trust, don't judge me. *smile*

The first step, after finding a suitable container is to drill holes at the bottom to prevent water from pooling and causing root rot. Believe me, there isn't much worse than getting your plants going only to find a month or so later that they are not viable and there is no time to plant more. 

Drill holes in container

I chose to make smallish holes close together. I have seen folks make large holes, and they work too. I prefer it this way. Plus, the holes aren't as obvious. I just used an electric drill. This takes just a minute or two.

Fill the bottom
I gathered some plastic containers from the recycling bin for reuse. You crush them down well and then layer them on the bottom. It is that easy. Just make sure you don't put too much there because your plants need plenty of space to grow.

Cover those puppies
Ideally you would use a gardening cloth, but I was being incredibly lazy and thought that I was also being clever and reused some plain paper packing material from something I had shipped in. It is just newspaper paper without the print. You do this to avoid losing so much soil in between the plastic containers. The paper is going to disintegrate  hence me "thinking" I was being clever. It is going to work, I just don't know if it will for next year. Go with the cloth if you have it on hand, but do not use plastic unless it is very perforated as otherwise it will not drain, resulting in the aforementioned horror of root rot.
A nice, gentle watering
Ideally, one would research which soil is the best for the crop being grown, but who has time for that? Also, I am on a budget and these projects are already costing way too much. I am just using a garden mix made for vegetables and fruits. After filling the container a little higher than you want the soil to me, I planted beet seeds and very gently, dusted some of the soil over them. I want them close to the surface, but covered to maintain moisture and to keep it from getting too much sun while still staying fairly warm for sprouting. Then I gently drenched the top with water. I will have to keep this watered because I didn't moisten the soil before putting it in the pot. This time it wasn't laziness, just poor planning as I didn't have a container big enough to mix the soil and water together in first. 

I did make that baking mix, but forgot to photograph the process because things have been pretty crazy here. I would like to make some biscuits or something anyway before giving it the seal of approval. I am also going to try a brownie mix because it has to be better than the boxed type.

Also, if the pain subsides, I will be going out and planting the bok choy I started inside. Again, I hear that this is not recommended generally, but given the climate here, it seemed like a good idea to attempt anyway. With the bak choy I will plant my green onions (which take forever to grow it seems) and radishes. I also want to start some radicchio. 

Once the pallets that my soils and manure have been sitting on are cleared off, I will be attempting a horizontal lettuce and greens garden. Stay tuned! 

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