Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Dig Your Roots in Deep

Ladybug in my Garden Window

     My lease will be up in under 2 months where I am currently living. My husband and I will not be renewing it as we hope to be able to move into a house with a large yard. Either way, my gardening will continue year round. The house we hope to get has a greenhouse in the backyard that the owners may leave for my use. Just thinking about the possibility of having an actual greenhouse makes me smile ear to ear. My limited space would be a thing of the past.

     With all the rain we've had the past week I've had plenty of time indoors to spend on my plants. I finally got my first round transplanted into the recycled 2-liter containers and hung up in the grow room. I learned that hanging more than 3 per vertical strand is too heavy so I will keep making them in sets of 2 and 3.

     Making the recycled planters is quick and easy (not to mention cheap.) Rinse an empty soda bottle (any decent size plastic bottle will work), turn it on it's side and use a rotary tool (or whatever tool you like) to cut the round top opening where the plants grow. Directly opposite the hole you just made drill 4-6 small holes for drainage. These drainage holes will face the ground and prevent your recycled planter from collecting too much water (which will kill your plants.) I drilled 8 holes total to tie strings that hang the planters. Two on the top left, two on the top right, and 4 holes directly opposite those on the bottom.

     Before putting any soil in them I covered the holes on the bottom with rocks. Not doing this results in soil running out the drainage holes over time. I used rocks that I found around my house. Most of them were about quarter to half dollar sized. Minimal amounts of soil will wash away now.

     When I water I start on top and let it run down before watering the lower containers. In this way the garden is very efficient on water. The only waste is what comes out of the bottom container of each column. This of course is slowly being eliminated as I stack metal canisters of carrots and radishes under them. My garden consumes about 12 oz of water per day right now.

      As I am trying to do this on a budget I have been looking around for ways to make my own fertilizer at home. I accomplished this by using vegetable waste that would normally either be thrown away or fed to my worms. For my first batch I boiled the odds and ends from all the fresh produce used in a chicken and vegetable soup. I had the green vine from tomatoes, the peel of 1 yellow onion, celery tops, bell pepper core, and garlic peel that I threw into a pan with some water. I simmered this vege waste for about 2 hours then transferred it to the fridge to cool overnight. The process of cooling will help leach some of the nutrients from the waste as well. The liquid should be a mostly transparent amber color.

     The next morning I strained the cooled vegetable water poured it into an empty 2-liter bottle. My bottle was about 1/4 of the way full so I mixed it to the top with tap water. When I use this mix to fertilize I cut the strength down even father by mixing it 1 part fertilizer to 3 parts water. By the time the fertilizer is fully mixed and ready to use it has barely any color at all. There shouldn't be any large chunks of waste matter in your mix when finished. Cheesecloth, nylons, or a very thin old t-shirt can all help strain the mix to get chunks out. The finished watered down mix can then be used to water your plants like normal. I plan to fertilize once a week with this to start. I will adjust as needed and let everyone know if this worked well or what changes need to be made.

Recycled Planter hung with 2 nails
    To make sure my planters didn't fall I stuck two nails in the wall an inch apart. One planter hangs off both. This allows me to hang 3 recycled planters per column without worrying about the weight making it fall. If I need to hang more I will simply have one column of 3 hung above another column of 2 or 3.

     At this point in time I have Radish, Carrot, Basil, Chive, Parsley, and Spinach in large containers and all of those except spinach started new for the next rotation. I'm beginning to see which plants need to be started in advance and which ones work better if they aren't transplanted. Spinach, Basil, Chive, and Parsley work fine to transplant. Radish and Carrot I will most likely start directly in the large planters from now on. If I have excess of anything I plan to make use of it by bartering with people I know for other things. One of my friend's mothers likes to cook with fresh herbs and has already expressed interest in fresh or dried from my crops. My own mother will take spinach. The carrot and radish will be used in my house no question. Excess vegetables are a blessing. Even half rotten is of value to me now that I have a working vermicompost.

Full Double Rainbow in front of my house