Container Gardening

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Caterpillars Eating my Parsley

Friday, May 21st, 2010

I have one small parsley plant in a pot. Should be gone in a day or so at this rate. There are five or six of these guys chomping away. Quick internet search indicates they may be black swallowtail caterpillars, so I think I’ll let them snack away.

Caterpillar Eating Parsley

Black Swallowtail Caterpillars?

First Harvest

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

Finally picked the first fruits of the season, 62 days after planting the seedling. Plucked five smallish jalapenos this evening. I had been waiting for them to get a bit larger, 2″ long or so, but they did not seem to be gaining much ground. And they were showing signs of “corking”–brownish “woody” spots and streaks–which I have read indicate they are ready. Plus I was tired of waiting to get something off my “food plants” (as my 4 yr old calls them)! Maybe removing these will give the ones left on the plant a boost.

First Harvest

First Harvest

Smallish

Smallish

Stats: 5 jalapenos, 88g

Pepper Update

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Peppers are growing nicely. Have several jalapenos and poblanos, but none large enough to harvest yet. No further signs of the dreaded BER yet either. It has been 53 days since I planted the seedlings. The jalapenos in particular seem to stop growing larger when they reach about 1.5″. Maybe they are ready to harvest, but I thought they would get a bit bigger.

Muchos Poblanos babies

Muchos Poblanos babies

Poblano Close-up

Poblano Close-up

Lots of Jalapenos

Lots of Jalapenos

EarthBox, EarthTainer, GrowBox, etc.

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

I am finding more and more evidence of EarthBox-like container gardening online. I was first tipped off to the EarthBox when watching a cooking show on PBS featuring chef Rick Bayless of Chicago. They were interviewing him on his restaurant’s rooftop garden in downtown Chicago. It was unbelievable–a lush forest of tomatos and peppers up there in the middle of Chicago. He mentioned that he used “self-watering self-fertilizing containers”, and that’s what led me to look into them and get one of my own (I have yet to try it out–missed the spring planting dates. Am planning on trying some squash in it in late summer). There is so much guesswork (for the novice gardener at least) involved in both watering and fertilizing that something that handles both of those tasks for you is very appealing. Also the ability to garden anywhere is attractive, especially for those of us in areas with lots of deer. The deer won’t come up onto the deck!

Since reading about the EarthBox here and there online I have run into other similar commercial planters as well as some DIY variations. One in particular, called the “EarthTainer” (that doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as well as “EarthBox”), seems to have some momentum behind it. It has a larger capacity than the EarthBox (3 cu. ft. of mix vs. 2 for the EarthBox) and can be made for $23.00 from easy-to-find materials according to the detailed instructions available here (PDF). The creator of this version is a frequent poster (as “raybo”) to the annoyingly ad-laden but heavily-trafficked GardenWeb forums and there are lots of informative posts there about his experiments with the EarthTainer, including many tantalizing photos of EarthTainers filled with corn and tomatos.

So we have the EarthBox and the EarthTainer. And I have also found an unnamed version that appears to perhaps be a predecessor to the EarthTainer. Detailed instructions are here for that one. And another DIY one with instructions is at the Inside Urban Green site. Their site calls these things “Sub-Irrigated Grow Boxes“, which seems like a suitable generic name. Have also seen “Sub-Irrigated Planter” or “SIP”. Inside Urban Green seems to be leading the charge for the use of SIPs in urban areas. This post in particular discusses one of the dangers that SIPs neatly avoid–lead-laden urban soils–and also provides a good set of links to further resources.

Googling around for more info on the EarthTainer led me to an Austin garden blog, the Crazy Billionaire, that has a discussion as well as a test of the EarthTainer. Good blog by the way, check it out.

Just found another commercially available one called the Garden Patch GrowBox. And another called the Organic Tomato Success Kit. And another DIY version at The Rooftop Garden Project. They’re everywhere!

Anyway, looking forward to firing up my EarthBox.

BER

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

The dreaded Blossom End Rot has hit my jalapenos. The first peppers are getting larger and now have black spots on their blossom ends. A sure sign of the scourge of tomatos and peppers–Blossom End Rot (BER). After some online reasearch, it looks like I should have added some source of calcium to the soil before planting. Read on one site that this is especially true if you are growing in a container. Oops. Hopefully it’s not too late to get the calcium to the plant. In retrospect, I did other things wrong for container plants as I have learned–used soil instead of a soil-less mix, which appears to be the proper way to do container plants.

BER Dammit!

BER Dammit!

Yuck

Yuck

Other causes of BER are uneven watering and uneven fertilizing. But I will try the calcium first. I headed to a couple of nurseries today and tried to find some agricultural lime, to no avail. So I decided to try some gypsum after finding a page online that says it might work fine, so shaved off some scrap sheetrock I had in the garage. Worth a shot. Might be too late to amend the soil at this point. We shall see. Have also read that sometimes only the first round of fruit will have BER and it will work itself out in subsequent fruit sets……