Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Growing Challenge: WHAT I HAVE LEARNED SO FAR

This year on Melinda’s growing challenge Seed to Seed I have had some successes and some failures. Here is what I have learned so far:
Type of pots- I used toilet paper tubes, Tully’s compostable coffee cups, and started plants in the pots they will live in. I have had most success with the plants started in the pots they will live in.
Tumbler tomatoes and Window Box Roma's started from seed in the same container
Followed by the Tully’s cups. The toilet paper tubes work, but I have learned you may want to put them in a container of soil. Also none of these things work if your kitty cat gets up in them and destroys the seedlings.
I made self watering containers for the tomato plants. My basic container is two 5 gallon buckets.
A brandywine tomato in one of the SW Containers
I use a plastic pot, which I put a piece of t-shirt material around to act as a screen; with holes in it fitted in the bottom of one, and drill another hole in the same bucket . I then put a couple of rocks or bricks in the other bucket and set the first bucket in it. I drill two or three drain holes in that bucket, just below where the second bucket sits. I then put dirt or rather compost in the top bucket adding water – first filling the small planter then the rest of the bucket. I put some watering wicks in a couple of them- I just cut up old t-shirts and string them through the dirt from the planting pot while adding the compost- I have a simple set of videos explaining this here <> These are great videos put up by Gary from all he asks is you give a donation to if you use the design. I made one pretty much the same as his and I must say the tomatoes are growing great! These containers are great for a couple of reasons:
1- No waste of water
2- You don’t have to water everyday- cool if you go out of town for a weekend and have to depend on your useless s/o to water
3- Drought- we are having a strange and rare occurrence of no rain this month- works real well to have these SW Containers.
POTATO CONDO- The potato condo is working like gang busters- I got 3 levels. This is an idea I got from the shiba guys. Since they didn’t want to give out their secrets, I assumed it works this way: Start with a simple box structure- add compost and potatoes to the first level.

Then add a level and more dirt until you see sprouts, then add another level and more dirt. Sort of like using the old tire method. Without the chemicals from the tires leeching into the compost. Haven’t harvested the potatoes yet, but got lots of nice green plants with pretty blossoms on them. The other advantage to this is that when I do harvest, I just need to remove the boards and no heavy digging!
NEW THINGS: Some of the new things I am trying this year:
FENNEL- I am growing my fennel in a bucket- I have harvested some already- the fennel is doing well

ARTICHOKES: I planted 1 artichoke to try growing it. I love artichokes and have ever since I was a boy. Plant is doing well

Fennel (above)

Artichoke (below)

WATERMELON: I know. Everyone says you can’t grow watermelons this far north, Well why not? I say- they grow cantaloupe in Minnesota
CHINESE CABBAGE or Napa Cabbage- delicious, Had to rip out as it was starting to bolt. It grew very well. Will plant again.

This gardening thing, like most things is a constant learning experience. I am having a good time learning and trying new things every day.


fullfreezer said...

I tried toilet paper tubes this year as well for some of my seeds and wasn't very happy with the results. They didn't do nearly as well as my ones that I started the way I usually do.

Robj98168 said...

Well Fullfreezer- This was my first year of seriously starting plants and I can say they didn't wprk to well for me either. Of course that and don't leave your plants within reach of the kitty.
But nexy tear I am gonna try a tray with dirt in it for the tubes!

Anonymous said...

i really like the idea of the potato condo. i started too late this year to put in any potatoes but they're on the top of my list for next season. im growing watermelons this year. first time since i was a kid and dad rolled over my freshly planted watermelon seedlings with the lawn mower :) there are already 3 good sized fruit on the vines and lots of teeny little melons showing up every day. thanks for all the good ideas rob :)

The Pirate Farmer said...

we found instructions for origami newspaper pots and had fun trying to figure them out. we didn't do a full planting in them but the ones we did seemed to do just swell. hint, the origami challenged should check youtube for instructions!

your potatoes look great! i'm up to three levels but no blossoms:(

Rosa said...

I did half peat pots and half reused bottoms of juice bottles (we have a lot from dumpster diving the juice). I like the plastic seed starting pots better- they don't mold and they don't dry out as fast. Way better survival rate under my neglectful watering regime.

And I will note that while they do grow canteloupes in some parts of Minnesota, I have grown them in Minneapolis and they are SAD. The little early-ripening ones bred for here just don't taste like much. I know it's possible because there are often excellent canteloupes at the farmer's market, but i'm not sure i'd use it for goal-setting.

Rosa said...

and - for kitties- the other thing i did this eyar was start seeds on the glassed-in porch, with a door to keep the kitties out. It meant stuff sprouted later but the plants seem more vigorous than ones started under lights, so they've caught up. Also it was unnaturally warm here early in the spring.

Robj98168 said...

BOB- So far the potato condo has been so easy- of course no harvest yet- i might change my tune and add a few choice words digginh through the dirt for a potato

Pirate F- orogami would be great but hell I couldn't figure out hoe ot make newspaper pots- thats with a mold. I am origamally challenged

Rosa- I use minnesota and North Dakota as a scale for everything I grow- I remember when I was a lid going through my grandma's garden and my aunts' gardens- and I had an uncle who claimed corn was no good unless it was knee high by the 4th of july! That's something that will always be engraved on my mind- I panic when the corn doesn't look like it will be knee high by the 4th! I love those little Minnesota Cantaloupes!

Rosa said...

Well, my corn is knee high - all five stalks of it. But it likes the awful heat we have right now. I don't think you need to panic, since you won't have frost until, what, November?