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Posts Tagged ‘containters’

Flexible Plastic Containers in my Small Kitchen Garden

Have you seen these flexible plastic buckets in your local department or gardening store? I did some math and found that they hold up to severn and a half gallons. They seem to be sun-tolerant, and the handles make them easy to move around on a deck or patio during growing season.

I’m always experimenting with low-cost, simple ways to extend my small kitchen garden. One of my greatest frustrations has been the expense of buying or building planters to handle vegetables with large root systems. Cheap, durable planters that hold five or more gallons of soil typically cost $15 or more, and it’s common to find prices over $35.

Thankfully, lower-cost products have emerged in recent years. Grow Bags are “pots” made out of material that resembles plastic garbage bags. Depending on how many you buy at once, you could pay as little as 20 cents apiece for these bags in the five-gallon size. They are free-standing and hold their shapes when you fill them with soil.

Slightly Upscale Plant Containers

I appreciate the low cost of Grow Bags, and might use them for gardening in spaces where there isn’t a lot of traffic or where I can hide them from view. A company called The Seed Keeper Company produces a “burlap girdle” you can wrap around a grow bag to provide some eye appeal, and you’ll have a five gallon planter that costs under $10… not bad.

These flexible plastic buckets are water-tight, so I drilled five quarter-inch holes in mine before I filled them with potting soil.

But three years ago, I started noticing flexible plastic “all-purpose” buckets (with handles) in local department stores. In season, these usually go for $5, and they hold seven and a half gallons if you fill them to the rim. One display for these containers showed them holding canned or bottled drinks in ice, or tools for gardening… but typically there’s just a stack of nested buckets with that $5 price tag. In early winter, our local Walmart usually drops the price to $4.

I’ve bought three buckets to try as planters and they work pretty well.

Gardening in a Bucket

Clearly, whoever manufactured this $4 bucket didn’t intend it to be a planter; it doesn’t have drainage holes. Before I planted, I drilled five holes in each bucket using a ¼ inch bit. I filled each bucket with commercial potting soil, and planted as I would in a garden… one planter received five bell pepper plants, and another I planted with carrot seeds (I’ll tell the carrot story in an upcoming post).

The buckets spent most of each summer day in direct sunlight—when there was sunlight (it was a very rainy year). They performed as you’d hope for a seven-gallon planter, and looked pretty much unmarred by the season. In October, the buckets were flexible and strong; I was able to lift them by their handles without trouble. Based on that experience, I would recommend them to anyone looking for a vaguely attractive low-priced container for deck or patio plants.

Five bell pepper plants in six gallons of soil might have been pushing it a bit; I’ve found a two-gallon planter is pretty good for a single pepper plant. So, next season I might plant my flexible plastic buckets with only three pepper plants apiece. Incidentally: If you want to get an early start on peppers, set seedlings outside in containters three or four weeks before your last frost date, and lug them into your garage, back hallway, or garden shed when overnight lows head toward freezing.

But there’s more: Last week I carried one of my buckets across the yard and dumped stuff out of it. With the bucket empty, I dropped one handle so the weight of the empty bucket transferred entirely onto just one handle. At that moment, the bucket snapped off of its handle and fell to the ground!

What changed from October until now? The temperature dropped. Apparently, when these flexible plastic buckets get cold—I’m talking about 24F degrees cold—they get brittle.

For now, I’m sticking with the recommendation: for $4 or $5 apiece, these utility buckets make great planters if you put holes in the bottom. I did some research and found that they come from a company in China called Ningbo Bonny E-Home Co, and chances are you won’t find a brand name on the bucket itself. Bonny apparently makes the buckets out of recycled plastic which makes them more appealing to me. I’ve found them at Walmart and Big Lots, and I suspect they’re available at other department and garden stores as well.

If you decide to try some of these flexible plastic buckets in your kitchen garden, try not to use them when the temperature drops.

 

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Soda Bottle Carrots: a Very Small Kitchen Garden


Seventeen days after I planted carrots in a sawed-off soda bottle, young carrot tops had sprouted on the windowsill in my basement.

I encourage people who have little space that they can still grow small kitchen gardens. To that end, on May 1st I cut the top off of a two-liter soda bottle, filled the bottle with soil, and planted carrots in it. I described this project in a post titled Small Kitchen Garden Carrots in Containers. I mentioned my container carrots again on May 18, and again on June 17. It has been an interesting project, and I encourage you to try it. I want to relate what to expect.

Mature Container Carrots

After three months of growing, a carrot of nearly any variety should be mature. By “mature” I mean the carrot plant has sent up a flower stalk and is making seeds. I would rather eat an immature carrot than I would one that has flowers. In fact, I’ve only let my carrots flower once, and I vowed that season never again to do so.

After three months of growth, my container carrots have pathetic tops. These are no better than a third the height of my in-ground carrots. I planted the in-ground carrots fully a month after the soda bottle carrots; and woodchucks have dined twice on the in-ground carrot tops.

So, my container carrots—a variety that matures in 65 days—ought to be dropping seeds all over my deck. That’s hardly the case. Rather, the carrot tops started to look stressed some time in June, and now they look very stressed. These stressed plants have very short tops compared to free-range carrot plants. Those tops have fewer fronds than my in-ground carrots do, and many of the carrot fronds are turning yellow or purple or some other color that isn’t green.

The good news is that those sickly-looking carrot tops protrude from very pronounced orange carrot shoulders. It should follow that there are whole carrots in the soil beneath those shoulders, albeit rather small carrots.

Pushing Plants

When my container carrots started to look bad, I took some steps to pep them up: I pulled a carrot to provide a bit more space in the soil (I’d planted 11 seeds). I also made a mixture of compost and water and poured it into the carrot container to provide an infusion of nutrients. The carrot plants weren’t impressed.

So, I decided that the container carrots are done: there are too many carrots growing in too small a space. I harvested them to put the poor things out of their misery. My suspicions about crowding were oh so right: I shook the soil out of the planter, and it came out in a cylindrical brick. You could use several hundred of these carrot planter bricks to build a small sod house.

The good news: my soda bottle carrot plants have shoulders!

The largest carrots were only four inches long, but it’s clear they would not have grown longer. Regardless, they taste grand as all fresh, young carrots do.

More Small Kitchen Garden Carrots

This carrot experiment was very satisfying. You know what I did? I cut the top off of a three-liter soda bottle, filled it with soil, and planted some carrot seeds in it. This time, I planted fewer seeds… in a bigger container. There may be only 70 days remaining in our growing season, but I’m hoping to get bigger carrots from this planter than I got from the first one.

If I don’t? No matter. It’s still likely to produce a handful of three-bite carrot snacks. Not bad for such a small kitchen garden.

As my soda bottle carrots slide out of the planter, I feel considerable heat in the soil. I’ve often touched the side of the planter to gauge whether it was overheating in direct sunlight, but it has never felt as hot as the soil does in my hand. I suspect being pot-bound was only half the stress my carrots experienced. The insulating plastic of the soda bottle concealed from me the extent of the greenhouse effect taking place around the carrots’ roots. The root ball has me musing about growing pre-formed sod bricks… it would be so much easier than cutting them out of prairie grass.

 

I always marvel that so much of what matters in life involves dirt. No, OK, I’m a purist: I grow food in soil. But when soil ends up on your hands, your clothing, your kitchen floor, or YOUR FOOD, it’s dirt. These little snackers are sweet and delicious.

More thoughts on growing carrots in a small kitchen garden

  • Grow your own in local skips – Gardeners are being encouraged to grow carrots in skips on building sites and tomatoes in hospital car parks under new plans to increase the amount of land available for grow-your-own vegetables. The Government is setting up a national …

  • How to Grow Carrots – How to grow carrots in the vegetable garden: fresh-carrots. carrots like a sunny spot; dig soil in autumn & break soil down to fine, crumbly seedbed before sowing. carrot-bed. sow outdoors from March to August – if in March cover with …

 

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