I am seeing a lot of places where it says you can grow things in containers, such as tomatoes, etc. What I would like to know is, even though they may grow in containers, are the yields equal to or close to growing them in raised beds, or even just plain garden beds? I see garden shows where they put a lot of herbs & flowers in one half barrel, and it seems to me the growth of the plants will be stunted.
Does anyone have any experience in growing tomatoes in both containers & in garden beds? I'd like to know what your experience was concerning yields.
I grew tomatoes in the ground, several halcyon years ago, and the past two years grew them in pots. The tomatoes in the ground yielded MUCH higher than in the pots, but some of that was my own fault. The soil had been untapped for many years and had lots of nutrients in it; the pots were rather thin of nutrition and especially the 2nd year the plants just starved. So if you want to grow in pots make sure you feed the plants plenty.
Also from the ground I could tie them up on a 6' trellis which meant lots more branches which meant lots more tomatoes. From a pot already 2' off the ground I had to keep the plant smaller so I could reach the tips. You may want to put cherry, grape, or currant tomatoes in a pot, the plant produces much more fruit per foot of vine and most of these small-fruit tomatoes are determinate anyway.
I grow many of my veggies in pots. I target the 'bush' varieties. Tomatoes are a greenhouse item here, but I still grow them in pots, rather than bins. The veggies that do not grow in pots are in my raised beds. The summer temps are cool & wet, so raising the soil helps to warm it and ensure drainage. I even grow potatoes in barrels. We grew potatoes in a 4x12 raised bed one year, but I had better yield from the barrels (1/2 whisky barrels with extra holes drilled in the bottom). We dump the pots back on the dirt pile each fall after harvest, then sift it by the wheelbarrow loads in the spring, adding compost, 3-32-16 fertilizer, some peat, and some perlite. Sifting it also helps to keep it light and fluffy. From the wheelbarrow, it goes into pots. If keeping the plants indoors, I used new potting soil.
I've started growing cherry and bush tomatoes in pots this year. I know I won't get as many as my Dad used to get when he grew them in the ground, but it's only DH and me, so three pots should be fine. I hope they grow for me. I'm using large, empty cat litter buckets, that I've cleaned out and painted. I hate to throw a perfectly good bucket away after the litter's gone. lol
I just put a coat of plastic primer on them (it's very messy because it's oil based, so I probably won't use it again), then painted them my house color (it was leftover from painting the porch), then I wrote "tomatoes" on the side of it with a sharpie. I'm not very good at fancy painting. I'll take a picture of them tomorrow. I hope I dont forget. I've been pretty scatterbrained lately. :)
I've also used the buckets to store things in the shed, and to mix texture and paint together. I also store potting soil, and dry cat food in them. Anything to keep from throwing them away. lol
Your cat litter buckets are just like the ones I have. I, too, don't like to throw them away or put them in the recycle bin. Seems like such a waste, and they are so sturdy. Also, since they come with these dandy bails, they are easy to move if need be.
I got some paint at HD for them. It comes in a spray can, several different colors, and it is especially for painting plastics. It's called Fusion and works great.
I'm glad you posted this. Now I know I'm not alone in reusing the cat litter buckets! = + )
I've not tried the new plastic spray paint, but I'm very interested. It's good to know it works well. Now, we'll see how it holds up to the weather and the flexes that occur when moving plastic containers around. It would open up a whole new world of pot decorating!
I have also used the Fusion by Krylon. It works great to paint plastic buckets, barrels, butter tubs, cottage cheese containers and black nursery pots that you want to dress up. I used the kitty litter buckets to collect rain water and here in Texas the sun destroyed them in less than two years. Ive grown veggies in pots and in my square foot garden. In pots, the plants are so much more dependent upon my not forgetting to water them. I got very poor results even in self watering pots. The sun was so hot it dried out the plastic 20" pots in one day. In the ground, they were much more forgiving. My experience was with two different varieties of tomatoes and one variety of bell peppers. If I have a choice, it would be to grow in the ground but if I lived in an apt or condo, I'd put my stuff in pots or buckets rather than not grow them at all.
I've grown tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants in pots and in the ground. Tomatoes for me have yielded much more in the ground, but I think it's a watering issue. It is really difficult to give a tomato in a pot as much water as it really would like. I regularly grow peppers in pots, and they yield more for me in a pot than in the ground. Eggplants I get almost no yield in the ground and plenty in pots. The problem is partly heat (not enough where I am--black plastic pots really help), partly that my garden soil has a lot of rock fragments, and partly that most of my yard is in shade, whereas the driveway is all sun and the pavement also helps heat the pots further. If I had the choice, I would rather grow in the ground. But pots do allow me to grow some things I could not grow otherwise and they are indeed handy to move out of the frost if necessary.
For me, it's a question of disease. Here in New Orleans, fungal diseases are rampant, and I was never able to grow a really good crop of tomatoes in the ground. Last year, I tried earthboxes, and had disease-free plants for the first time, as well as a decent crop. This could be the result of starting with a sterile soil, as well as a constant supply of water.
The primary issues with growing in containers vs in raised beds or gardens is the soil mass and soil temperatures. Plants will do equally well in containers vs in the ground if you're watering and fertilizing correctly ... up until the point where the root mass becomes congested to about the stage where it can be lifted from the container with the roots and soil intact. When plantings become more congested than that, growth is affected. For tomatoes, that isn't necessarily a bad thing in every case because in many parts of the country (zones 4,5,6, maybe 7) the fruits that set after mid August won't ripen anyway, and since the photosynthesizing machinery is already in place when growth slows, o/a yields aren't affected that much. Still, it's best to grow in larger containers whenever possible to give roots room to run.
The previous needs to be tempered by how well you're able to keep soil temperatures down. Soil temps much over 80-85 degrees will slow growth and at over 95* growth becomes more seriously impaired. Growing in light colored containers, shading containers and soil, partially burying containers to help keep them cool, or putting reflective material in front of containers will all help reduce passive heat gain and allow roots to function more efficiently.
Tapla, thanks for that info. I think, based upon what you wrote, that my poor results with containers were that the containers themselves got too hot. I know they had to be always over 80 degrees and they could have been 95 on some days. I may try again in containers based on this new information. My containers were dark green. I will use white containers this time and try various ways to keep them cool. When the season ended, my tomatoes were not pot bound so I think it was the heat. Cam
I have read that growing vegetables in clay pots is better than in plastic pots because clay pots are porous so they breathe. I use mostly plastic pots because they are a lot cheaper than clay pots, especially the large ones. I am considering trying to compensate by drilling small holes in the sides of the plastic pots. Has anyone done this and could you tell if it made any difference?
Steady - Probably the most common limiting factor for conventional container culture is soil choice. If you use a soil like Miracle-Gro or other peat-based soils, it's not uncommon for those soils top support in excess of 3-4" of perched water. What happens is the plant colonizes the lower parts of the container with roots when the soil is drying down, but as soon as you water again, the lower part of the soil becomes anaerobic and the fine roots that live there & do all the work die. As the soil dries down again, the plant expends energy it might have spent on fruit, blooms, growth ... to replace the lost rootage. As you might imagine, this cyclic death and regeneration of lost rootage is very expensive to the plant. From the perspective of energy outlay, these soils that support significant volumes of perched water at container capacity are much more difficult to rear healthy and productive plants in.
Many people like the convenience of just grabbing any old bagged soil and planting in it, but a little extra INITIAL effort goes a long way toward minimizing effort down the road, PLUS, you get healthier plants and better growth.
'FRAM' is an auto parts manufacturer and in one of their old commercials they used the phrase 'You can pay me now, or you can pay me later', meaning you can tend to things in a preemptive way to avoid problems down the road. Growing in containers is much like that - you can make the effort to find or build a soil you know will work well, or you can try to 'fix' the troubles associated with heavy soils down the road. Either way, the effort ends up being about the same, the difference being with the superior soil you get better plants and less frustration.
HRP - growing in clay pots is decidedly better than plastic or other pots with walls that are not gas permeable. Clay pots allow gasses like methane, CO2, and sulfurous compounds to escape through walls and air to enter. They also allow water to migrate through the walls to the pots exterior, where it evaporates and cools the soil significantly when it's hot. Since little evaporation takes place when it's cool, they don't have much additional cooling effect when it's already cool. That water DOES evaporate from these pots faster is a GOOD thing. Pots that need more frequent watering see old soil gasses pushed from the soil as you water, bring in fresh air that enhances root function/metabolism.
We need to be aware that some will look at the comparison between clay and plastic or glazed containers in the light of being pretty, lighter vs heavier, expense ... but all of these comparisons are from the grower's perspective. From the plant's perspective, containers with gas-permeable walls are much preferred.
More important though, is what I referred to above in my post - soil choice. Your choice of soil will be the largest determining factor in how much difference a clay pot will make. The soils I grow in are always highly aerated, so I get excellent gas exchange, even using plastic pots, so clay won't make as significant a difference with these soils as it will with soils that are excessively water retentive, Still though, there remains the temperature consideration. Drilling a few extra holes might be somewhat helpful in improving gas exchange and causing additional evaporation/cooling, but it's not going to make a significant difference.
It depends. If the soil is comprised of particles that are too fine, the bottom of the soil will become soggy & remain that way, The effect isn't quite the same because the soil tends to remain evenly wet, so roots can't make inroads into that saturated and anaerobic soil.
If the range of particle sizes in the medium is just right, water tends to move from particle to particle and not fill the air spaces between the particles. For that reason, you can use soils in SWCs that are a little too fine to be used in conventional top-watered containers. If you imagine a big tub full of little sponges, all the size of ping pong balls, in your mind's eye you can see the water moving up from below by traveling from sponge to sponge. As the sponges get continually smaller and varied in size, eventually the spaces between the sponges will also fill with water. This is what you want to avoid. You want your soil to have enough small particles to wick properly, but not so many that the bottom stays soggy and anaerobic.
Other than the noxious gasses produced in SWCs with soils that are too water-retentive, the effect is more like growing in a reduced volume of soil. If you have an 18 gallon SWC with the bottom 1/3 of the soil fully saturated, it's like growing in 12 gallons of well-aerated soil. You WANT that extra 6 gallons of soil to be a healthy environment and available for root colonization.
On a size for size basis, closed-cell foams would be interchangeable with perlite.
I should mention in a technical aside that perlite doesn't really provide much in the way of added aeration to container media unless it is the primary fraction or part of a primary fraction made up of similar sized particles. To illustrate what I mean, think of a jar full of fine sand. Now add a handful of BBs and mix well. Do the BBs add any aeration? Do they make the soil drain faster or better? Do they decrease the ht of the perched water table? The answer is no. Not until the BBs become the largest fraction of the medium do we see them contribute significantly in this area.
Technically, what perlite does is take up space in heavy soils that would otherwise have been occupied by water. It reduces the amount of water the soil is capable of holding. Because of that the plant, assisted by evaporation (evapotranspiration), uses the water in the PWT faster and air returns faster. You can see the same picture in your mind's eye if you ask yourself how much perlite you have to add to mud to get it to drain well and be well-aerated? The answer is the same - you have to have a very large fraction of perlite and a small fraction of mud before aeration and drainage would be improved.
The reason is the small particles simply envelop the larger particles of perlite & the medium retains roughly the same flow through rates, aeration, and PWT ht as the finer particulates, as long as the finer particulates are the largest fraction of the medium. The perlite just takes up space so water can't fill that space.
Thanks, Tapla. I think we have tried to duplicate (intuitively) in pots what we see when we look at a plant g rowing in the ground, without really understanding what we were seeing. This info is very helpful in seeing what the objective is when trying to provide what the plant needs. I know Ive often pondered the directions to "keep evenly moist" not wet. and do not allow to dry out. I knew it would be wet when I watered it and it would eventually dry out, passing thru "moist" somewhere on its journey. We have a tough time duplicating or approximating "Mother Nature". Cam
If I were you, I would not use styrofoam to lighten soil. I would send it to the landfill, where it belongs. Otherwise, that stuff is going to be in the soil forever. It does not decompose. A good cheap item to lighten soil is rice hulls. They use it for horse stalls, and it is way cheap. You can get it at feed stores. And it is compostable, like wood chips.
Landfill...soil. What's the difference? My neighbors and I have found a place that re-cycles packing styrofoam but not that which has contained food so we were trying to figure out a way to re-use all his styrofoam cups. We were going to tear them up and use them to lighten soil if we could not find any drawbacks. Perlite seems to last a long time. Does it decompose or biodegrade?
We finally persuaded one neighbor to place packing peanuts in a closed bag before placing in the garbage bin. The truck would lift the bin, turn it upside down over the truck and the loose peanuts would float away and cover the neighborhood. They were really unsightly and difficult to recover. Have to be hand picked up. Now we know where to re-cycle those.
I hate those "peanuts." I have a business and lots of shippers use those things. I always bag them up separately because they take so much room.
It's great that you have somewhere to recycle styrofoam. We don't have anything like that here. However, I still would not put it in the soil. If it burns, it releases toxic gases, for one thing. I personally would not like to be gardening after someone who had put bits of styrofoam in the soil. Animals can eat it and their digestive systems can't break it down and they can die from it. It floats, so every time there is a good soaking rain, it will tend to come to the surface of the soil.
Perlite is made out of puffed up rocks. It degrades like rocks do. The best thing would be if your friend just quit using styrofoam cups. What about getting a steel cup?
Still loving the 5:1:1 in my eBuckets, but ran into a little issue early on, and wondering if you'd explain what happened.
I lined my 10-gallon planter bottom with paper towels cause the drain holes were sooo big, and I didn't want the mix washing out. Then I filled the planter halfway with the 3:1:1, and watered in til the water ran out the bottom. I continued filling, and watering inbetween. Then, I stuck my finger down into the mix to make my planting hole. The soil was totally dry. So I poked deeper and my whole hand broke through into what felt like a bucketful of water beneath a floating "donut"! I double checked for drainage, and saw that the paper towels were working too well, so, I poked holes through all the drain sites and the water started pouring out!
I was concerned, for obvious reasons, all having to do with drowning roots!
So, bottom line is, "if I don't see the water draining freely through the drain sites, somethings plugging up the system and I might end up with a floating donut in a bucket of water?
On another note, how do I tell if the wicking system is working adequately in the self-watering containers? To date, I've continued top-watering all the eBuckets. I stick my finger down about 1" and it's ususally moist. But the top of the soil is always so dry, and seems to dry up really fast. Also, the reservoirs seem to stay full. Just need to be sure the soil is "wicking" properly. Any advice is much appreciated.
Finally, I've never had a consistent fertilizing regimen, and I need one, especially with watering so often from above. I added 2 cups of 13-13-13 and 1.5 cups of dolomitic lime pellets to each 10-gallon container at plantout. That's it. So when do I start using the Miracle Grow water soluable (or the liquid at double strength) on the tomato plants?
Okay, this may be a really dumb idea, but I'll float it out there anyway. Air-popped popcorn.
On the "pro" side
Provides air pockets
Takes up space
On the "con" side
Would decompose quickly
Collapses when wet (but even collapses pieces would be lighter than rock)
Initial pieces might be too big (but would probably collapse pretty well with first watering)
Might attract vermin, if pieces are on top of the soil -- this might be the biggest problem
While perlite/vermiculite are no doubt far superior, I'm just wondering if popcorn could be a "poor man's perlite."
Or...maybe I'm just hungry, lol, and my mind is doing strange things.
Lisa, I had to stop putting unpopped kernels of popcorn in my compost because the mice loved it too much and then I saw a really big rat. That was my last straw. So you are probably right and the animals will dig it up to eat it so they might destroy your plants in the process. Hey, you get points for thinking outside box. I think it's like "you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find the handsome prince!" The more ideas, the closer you are to a solution. Cam
When I was a very young boy I used popcorn kernals to blow through a straw that was my make shift blow gun. Of course my mom made me blow it out in the backyard, nature did it's job and I ended up with 2 or 3 corn stalks from which I harvested 3 or 4 cobs. After dying them I had my mom remove the kernals and she popped them for me. I still remember that it was the best tasting popcorn that I have ever had.
Does a "raised bed" garden have to be on soil? As opposed to cobble/stone, brick etc. I am moving to a condo, and have the space and the sunlight on my cobbled.. patio. I was thinking of a 4x4. (One person.)
corgilvr - I can't think of a reason why you couldn't put a raised bed on your patio. It will probably have to be deeper than one sitting on soil. I assume the patio is at ground level? If not, you might have a weight issue.
This is just my theory, but I seem to be obsessed with drainage.
You might want to tilt the base just 1/2 - 1" over 4 feet, and arrange some heavy plastic film or a tarp on the bottom and a few inches up the sides ... except for the low corner. Let that drain off the porch, or even thread a wick of some rayon fabric out of that corner and down off your patio, to discourge pooling and perching of water. It might give you a few extra inches of root zone by assuringt the roots can use ALL of the soil.
And keep salt from building up in the soil or on your deck.
Holes in the sides seem to me most vlauable if your potting mix is so heavy it is poorly aerated.
If the RB or container sits flat on the floor, holes UNDERNEATH may be sealed shut and cut off drainage and air. In that case, I would drill holes or slits around the bottom edges ... but as low down as possible so that water has a clear drainage path DOWN and out of the soil, so it won't drown and kill roots.
Tapla (Al) convinced me that capillary attraction (or some other effect) discourages water in contianers from exiting the soil into air. Hence the value of setting beds on top of soil (the soil acts as a huge wick, allowing water to keep on draining down).
If the bed has a solid floor, probablly some kind of tilt or wick may make the bottom few inches of the bed more available to roots: roots can only live in soil+water+air. Soil+water (no air) = dead roots.
I do most all my gardening in containers and raised beds for precisely the same reason many of you don't. As I live in Seward, Alaska, my summers are cool and moist... and short! I need the soil warmth provided by raising it up, and I need the drainage, as well. The issue of congested rootballs is seldom an issue here, as there isn't really time for it!
My property is surrounded by woods, so it does not receive good sun all day, when we have good sun, and the surrounding mountains restrict good light, as well. Of course, our days are extremely long. Raised beds or containers allow me to place the plants in the optimum spot for best growth, while freeing the area for push piles of snow in the winter when the containers have been dumped and put away. All my raised beds are at least 1 ft. above the ground line, as well, and as soil is a precious commodity here, it is contained within the beds. This area is gravel base with little top soil, if any.
Therefore, I grow everything in containers, even my cabbage, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, etc. Lettuces and oriental veggies go in large containers that can be moved out of the reach of the greedy slugs our moist cool summers produce.
Weezingreens, I have decided to devote more time to vegetables in containers and raised beds this season for similar reasons as yours. Cabbage and Brussels sprouts in containers interests me. I have numerous 2.5 gallon plastic pots which I have been used mainly in the past for hot peppers and I am considering doing some other types of plants in containers as well. I do have a small hoop house (8' x 12') which would allow me to do some early spring planting in containers as well as extended fall production. Tips appreciated!
Nice pic Linda. What exactly am I looking at here, is that some type of cabbage, and what about the container??? The container looks like a bucket within a bucket. Is this an eBucket, or one you constructed?
I plan to spend some time researching the SCVG forum and eBucket threads as you suggest. I do recall a posting I believe you made about making a modified form of eBucket, and I went and purchased several dozen plastic containers from Dollar General which serve as a water holding reservoir for the 2.5 gallon plastic pots which I use for some herbs and leaf lettuce. Twiggybuds was big on this type of gardening and I thought I would give it a try. So far I'm pleased with the results. However, I am considering improvements in the growing media based on tapla's recommendations. I now have in addition to well aged cow manure, wood chips and wood chip fines, I have added rock dust to the mix. We have four gravel mining operations in the area which have crusher fines available, so I now have three free resources to use in either containers or raised beds.
>> We have four gravel mining operations in the area which have crusher fines available, so I now have three free resources
Oh, man! This is my day for jealous envy. Besides zone envy and space envy, today I acquired "bonsai-mix-envy".
And now I have gravel-crusher envy!
Jeeze, if Envy is a sin, my next Zone might be a lot warmer than my current zone!
P.S. I would think it would be even betterif you can get some coarse fractions mixed with the rock dust. Dust by itself may not help clay drain much better. Coarse sand or grit (say 1-4 mm) might be a nice size to improve drainage if it's cheap.
The nice thing about mineral amendments: they last forever. Not like soil organic carbon, which oxidizes and gets eaten.
corgilvr wrote:Does a "raised bed" garden have to be on soil? As opposed to cobble/stone, brick etc. I am moving to a condo, and have the space and the sunlight on my cobbled.. patio. I was thinking of a 4x4. (One person.)
Do you rent or own?
If you own the place just pull up the cobble stones that would be burried and use them to make the walls. Then the bed will match the patio and you will save money on the materials. You also wouldn't have to worry about drainage
Finally a warm sunny day which was spent grating previous raised bed soil. I may have mentioned this before but I had used garden soil which was primarily clay to begin with after the rocks had been removed and copious amounts of horse manure for my last seasonís raised bed media. The interesting part is the bottom of these beds contain roughly four inches of pure clay which seems to have washed down to the bottom of the beds over just one year...go figure. I scooped the soil from the top of the clay and deposited in an empty raised bed thinking I would use it later on my rock wall, but someone hear in DG changed my mind, so I grated it and added to the new beds along with some ancient cow manure, wood chips and wood chip fines. The gravel idea came from browsing through an old thread here in DG and I called around to see if there were any gravel fines available. All of the gravel pits I called were affirmative, however when I asked about the standard 'minus 200' they all said it would contain larger pieces. "Wonderful", I said. The quarter inch screen box I use for grating and rock removal would come in very hand in removing the larger components of the crushed rock, so taking your advice here I will give it a try. I appreciate the suggestion Corey.
I thought that, if clay was mixed with organic and fibrous stuff, like rotting manure, it wouldn't elluivate out - at least, not in one year! Maybe you had coarse drainage, with tiny clay particles and coarse big particflesw, so nothing held onto the clay.
Or maybe the manure digested quickly, and the bottom layer is clay plus colloidal manure?
My "settled clay" tends to form some small "clay balls" before I screen it. On the theory that those are "pure clay", whereas the parts that crumble may have mixed with soil organic matter (or sand), I'm willing to let the clay roll off the screen, and into the clay-pile. I'll go back for them later, when I can mix them with more compost, bark fines or grit. (Or sand)
BTW: maybe, if you moisten the hard clay just a little, it can be mushed through a screen instead of neding to be grated.
I find that if I don't want it to pack back down into something gooey or solid, I add 50% or even 70% amendments to pure clay. Lately I've had more pine bark mulch and coarse sand than anything else, but I wish I had compost and manure!
I simply dig the clay out and use it on the pathways around the raised bins Corey. The grated recycled soil and cow manure are mixed about half and half and compose about a six inch layer which is the top portion of two raised beds. I haven't decided whether to place the transplants directly in this material or to add something to it like some wood chip fines. I used all of my available wood chips in a six inch layer on the bottom of these two beds followed by a foot of horse manure mixed with wood chip fines. In one corner of each bed is a vertical two inch PVC pipe with numerous holes drilled into the bottom six inches. I slipped a garden hose in each of these beds the other day and watered from beneath. With the glass window covers on top of the beds I was seeing condensation on the bottom sides of the windows a day later, so the bottom watering seems to work, but the surface layer is not really damp yet. I plan to do some more watering from below until I see effects of the added moisture on the surface before transplanting.
I know this sounds crazy but I thought about soaking a five gallon bucket of wood chip fines and packing some of the soaked fines around the transplants. I'd wager that taplas' response to this would more than likely be that I would need to add nitrogen when top watering the transplants, or more likely I'm completely nuts.
And by the way I have been adding night crawlers from the adjacent worm bed to each of these new beds. I figure they will head for the cow manure section if they are the Europeans and I'm pretty sure there were a few Canadians in the mix. My cole crops are within about a week of transplanting so I will need to make any final adjustments by then. I haven't a clue as to how this will work, but what the heck; at least I'm gardening six weeks before everyone else here.
>> but what the heck; at least I'm gardening six weeks before everyone else here.
Six weeks of gold! I've been putting cut soda bottles (plastic clockes) on top of seedlings so I can put them out sooner. I don';t think it counts as "hardening off" when the bottle fogs up.
I agree with Tapla: sawdust on roots equals nitrogen deficeit. Maybe it would requrie a time machine, but i'm thinking: "sawdust plus manure plus time equals beautiful compost. Compost plus soil on roots equals happy plant".
(That may just be my bias and prejudice: I like thigns to be composted BEFORE adding them to soil, maybe unless they are soft green leaves and stems.)
Maybe sprinkling wood chip fines or wood chips OVER the soil AROUND the transplants, as mulch would b e good and avoid most of the nitrogen depletion issue. But you probably want the sun to hit the soil and warm it up.
What is the goal for adding more wood? Improved drainage? Aeration? Organic matter?
The point Corey is to allow both aeration and drainage to the new transplant. I am concerned that the grated material on the top six inches will compact once watered and I don't have anything mixed in to allow for drainage or aeration. I picked up some crushed rock from one of the local gravel pits yesterday and it was more like sand. I will check into another one today which claims to have larger pieces. However, I am leery of trying to use too much of this material in the upper level of these beds for the purpose of aeration or drainage. It's possible it might make it even more compacted. This crushed rock should work fine however as part of the potting mixes for peppers which I am preparing today, but for some reason I just can see it working in the raised bed arrangement I have put together. I figure once the transplants take hold I can carefully hand cultivate the soil/manure mix surrounding these plants which is what I normally do anyway.
It may take a year for the European worms to establish themselves in these raised beds but once established I think they will relieve much of the future problems of aeration and drainage when I just supplement the beds with composted manure before each spring or fall planting. I really don't know how rational all this is but what the heck, it just might work. What do you say we form a crazies club here Corey. Just you and me.
I like Groucho Marx' comment: "Any club that would have ME as a member, I want no part of!"
I like the idea of trying something to see if it works, and agree that somkething to keep 'grated soil' from re-compacting is a good idea.
More "who-knows?" thoguhts:
Maybe mulch over the grated stuff will keep raindrops from packing it down and gluing grians together.
Maybe (since it did filter down to the bottom of the bed once before), the fine grian s will filter OUT of the top 6", and mingle with what's below it. If that is orgawnic enoguh, and fobrous enoguh,l maybe it wikll "hold on to" the fine grains ... but hopefully not pl;ug up solid as a result.
I agree that finding very coarse sand, very very fine gravel, or medium girt for free or cheap would be a Great Goodness.
Meanwhile, anything that maintains drainage and "openness" in soil with high clay content is worth it. If wood chips need fertilizer to balance them off for the first year, so be it.
I do think that, over a year or two of adding manure and roots from crops, the soil will build up enoug organic content that it won't be so prone to compaction. You might have to till it deeply one more time (or not), to encourage fractions to mix and form cohesive clods & crumbs. or the worms may do all that for you.
The fact that you put a lot of manure down deep has to be a Good Thing. Continuing to put more manure on top over the years, plus mulch, I think is a panacea for almost any soil problem.
shune, I make a screen which fits over my wheel barrel which is simply 1/4th inch mesh wire screen from any hardware store and 1" x 4" white pine wood frame. I simply shovel in the soil and work it around by gloved hand removing any rocks, gravel, or what have you. The grated material is really loose and crumbly. Friable is another term I have heard used to describe this material.
Yeah Corey, I am about convinced I will need to add the wood chip fines to the top layer to achieve proper drainage and aeration as well. Double digging and adding well aged cow manure in subsequent seasons will also probably require the addition of the wood chips as well. I am convinced as loose and fine as this top layer is that once I start top watering it will compact. I don't mind the occasional cultivation but for some crops in a raised bed like loose leaf lettuce or carrots that isn't possible.
I really appreciate being able to follow your project remotely, Mraider. Especially your access to amendments!
I would expect that, with all the organics you are adding, the soil will become lower-maintenance after 2-5 years. Once it is "rich" enough, and forms "crumbs", worms and roots and frost and the "raisedness" of your beds might keep the soil from compacting or flooding. You never walk on it, right?
I forget if you've discusssed adding beneficial microbes. It may not be necessary, since you have native soil and clay in your mix. If ANYTHING was growing there before you started imprioving it, I would expect it to have spores of the root-supporting fungi.
I've been thinking of buying a smallish bag of mycoryzzia spores, and adding some to seeds when I direct-sow, or dusting root balls when I drop seedlings into brand-new beds where nothing has grown before. I had one bed with unusually-awful recently-made soil, and even Bok Choy had trouble growing. I wondered if lack of root-zone microbes was one factor.
(One other thing that I do now is to shovel a little soil from my healthiest-looking bed onto the tops of new beds that are, and look like, clay plus sand plus mulch (plus a tiny amount of compost). I hope that will innoculate a mix of soil life forms into raw "dirt".
Corey, I am going to make worm tea to water the raised beds and will also purchase some beneficial nematodes as well. The nematodes don't make it through the winter here so it becomes necessary to add these yearly. We discussed this in another thread and I will simply add the powder to the finished tea before watering the plants.
Good point on the worm castings Honeybee. I use the 'spent media' from my vermicomposting process for germination and potting mixes, however it probably doesn't hurt to cultivate some additional castings or worm media into the beds. I will probably add some of the cow manure from the outdoor night crawler bed to avoid getting a bunch of red wigglers started in the raised beds.
Sure Honeybee, I have a procedure which is several pages in length which might be of help. It probably needs some updating since I am constantly experimenting with new ideas. I figure anyone who gardens should have one or two indoor bins for each family member. I have four for the two of us and we have plenty of fruit and veggie peelings, coffee grounds, and egg shells to manage these four bins. With my method of removing spent media from the surface of each bin just prior to feeding the worms I can collect up to 60 gallons a year of material which goes into germination mixes with some pearlite, and potting up mixes which includes all sorts of materials locally available for the taking like wood chips and fines; crushed rock fines; horse manure; and some well aged cow manure and straw.
If you want a copy of my procedure Honeybee just D-mail me and I will send it to you.
This thread seemed to stop in May 2011. I'm wondering if anyone out there uses the felt pots. They have lots of brand names - dirt bag, smart pot, root pot - but all are made of a type of felt that allows gas exchange and self pruning of the roots. I have had good luck growing vegetables and herbs in these both outdoors and indoors under lights. I set the felt pot inside of a larger decorative pot when appearance is important.
RickCorey, I will check on the materials used in the felt pots we sell in our shop. Roots will definitely pass through the felt pots if they are set in the soil or even on the soil. Last summer I put my rosemary plants (in felt pots) out directly on the ground so that I wouldn't have to worry about the pots setting in saucers filled with water after rains. When I picked up the pots to bring the rosemary indoors in early October there was an inch of root mass penetrating into the mulch I had set them on! The roots self prune where ever the pots are exposed to the air, but go right through in the soil.