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applestar
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Re: Essence of Container Gardening

Are you using hay or straw. Big difference.

Mine wasn't a "real" STRAWBALE GARDEN since I wasn't willing to use chemical heavy nitrogen source nor typical organic like blood meal or manure. Plus I didn't have the space to use full square bales arranged into a bed. To compensate for the nitrogen deficiency, I used 1/2 straw and 1/2 hay and also spent extra for a bale of alfalfa hay which is top tier hay for nitrogen.

The combo broke down quickly and the plants loved the extra heat from the composting mix and the Roman orgy of earthworms. :>
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Lindsaylew82
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Re: Essence of Container Gardening

Well.... I guess technically, what I have left over is straw.... But it IS heavily seeded, and currently sprouting densely. I keep turning the bale to kill it off. Took a peek inside the bale yesterday, and there are tons of seeds sprouting in the middle, and you could see steam rising in our cool weather....? Idk. I got nothing to lose. Maybe some pride? :roll: :lol: I have seedlings that are going in the trash if I don't do something with them. Have the pots. Have the seeds. Have pea gravel (used old aquarium rocks). Have a nice front porch.

I have no problem supplementing... Maybe if I sprinkled some kelp meal in there with it, it would help. Have some 2-4 year old blood meal out in the shed...(gag) Fish emulsion under the sink...(double gag!!!) compost waiting for warmer days! Maybe I'll mulch with compost! Water with tea!

Who knows... I just know my inner hoarder doesn't want to toss perfectly good seedlings in the trash! And I don't want to spend anymore money on the garden.
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USDA Zone 7b/ Sunset Zone 31

dobro13
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Re: Essence of Container Gardening

Older thread with great info.

imafan26
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Re: Essence of Container Gardening

I'm glad you revived this thread. There are some good points in this. However, I have to add this:

Soil: The kind of soil you use in a container will often depend on the plant and your watering habits.
Some people do like to add some soil to their container. It does add soil microorganisms, but it is also heavy and prone to
contraction.

Mushroom compost is good. I have used it in the garden, but it is harder to find locally. It has a mid range pH of 6.6. In my soil, it actually raised the pH because my soil was more acidic with a pH of 6.4.

I only add a couple of handfuls of vermicast to my 5 gallon bucket of potting mix. Composts don't work well in pots for me. It holds too much water and the root development is slower without heavy supplementation.

My basic mix is a sterile one one part peat moss, one part perlite + osmocote.

The thing about peat moss. Pure peat moss is acidic with a pH range of around 3.3 but most commercial peat moss is limed by the manufacturer to a pH of around 6. Organic peat moss may still be limed, it is allowed, however, it will not have any wetting agents. The wetting agents help peat moss to absorb water better, otherwise, like coir it can take awhile to wet it evenly. Peat moss is an anaerobic compost. By itself, it does not contain much nutrients but provides good root support. It does need drainage material to keep it loose and draining well.

Unless your container is very large, you will need to supplement an organic mix since it is not sustainable. Organic fertilizer needs to be broken down by soil bacteria to be available to plants. There is usually not enough of a microbial colony in small pots to sustain themselves and a plant. Weekly fish emulsion, kelp, compost tea will be necessary especially for hungry plants like tomatoes.

For the hungry plants like tomatoes, I add additional fertilizer at the time of planting. I do use synthetic fertilizer about a half cup of slow N complete fertilizer. I like 9-12-12 or 6-4-6. For plants that are going to be in the pots longer than 45 days, they get additional monthly supplements. Even my 18 gallon pot would not support a microbial life large enough to support a tomato on organic fertilizer (even if I added it 6 mos before). I don't really like the squatty organic plants. I actually like the corn and tomatoes to reach their full 8 ft height.

Watering: I have to go with the school of watering as needed. Small plants in small pots need daily watering. They have a relatively large surface area and small soil volume so they dry out faster. I have my starter bench outside in full sun and exposed to the wind and rain, so it dries in one day. Indoors with less air circulation, your experience will be different.

When plants are young and they have a large soil volume compared to root mass, they can go longer without water since the media will have water reserves. If the plant is pot bound, it has very little media and stresses out very quickly and needs more frequent watering or needs to be potted up.

Heavy media like the compost, soil mix with no drainage material like perlite, vermiculite or cinder will stay wetter longer but the finer mix will have less air space. You can go longer between watering, but you need to be careful about over watering.

Stage of growth, season (temperature, rain) will also affect how often you need to water.

Plants that have storage capacity (bulbs) succulents, desert rose, some orchids have habitats with naturally wet and dry seasons. When plants go dormant, they need a lot less water. Orchids in pots (especially plastic on a bench) even outdoors get water a couple of times a week whether they need it or not. Orchids mounted on trees, in baskets, attached to fences and walls, in pots without media, and generally with their roots hanging out and not confined by media or pots can be watered every day. (Vandaceous species, honohono dendrobiums).

Actively fruiting and flowering plants need leaf cover, nutrients, and water volume to support the fruit and flowers

While I do think bottom watering is best. It is not always practical. I settle for watering at the base of the plant rather than at the leaves. However, if it is whitefly season, then it is my habit to spray the undersides of the leaves every time I water. I try to water early in the morning so the plants can dry quickly.

Container saucers are a no-no. The first thing I do with a hanging basket with a built in saucer is rip it off and throw it away. I also don't like self watering containers. They are self killing.

I do like SIPS. Tomatoes do very well in 18 gallon SIPS and with a 5 gallon reservoir, I don't have tomatoes wilting at midday or BER. However, I do have to admit that dry farmed tomatoes have more flavor. I think that having too much water does affect the quality of the fruit. I grow tomatoes in 18 gallon regular containers and I still have no problems with wilting or BER when they are watered daily. The roots will go out the bottom of the container into the ground and that is how the tomatoes protect themselves.

Plants that are large and will be in the containers long term will be planted in pure cinder. That is how I plant the citrus, bay leaf, succulents, some of the orchids, and bonsai. Cinders have a lot of air space but will not compact. It requires regular fertilizer, but I have citrus trees in pots for over 20 years and I have not had to repot them.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

dobro13
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Re: Essence of Container Gardening

Great info imafan. I’m curious as to your negative feelings on self watering containers. I’m looking for as much info as I can hoping to avoid disaster.

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applestar
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Re: Essence of Container Gardening

I think imafan’s differentiating between self-watering vs. sub-irrigated. Was wondering about the difference myself. :?:
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Re: Essence of Container Gardening

I’m currently making some buckets and totes and I just got an Earthbox. I’ve heard them called both so I’m curious as to the difference now.

imafan26
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Re: Essence of Container Gardening

Self watering containers don't have the air gap, that the SIP does. It can rain nearly every day in the cooler months of the year and the saucers and raised centers of the pot holds so much water that the oxygen in the soil is lost and the roots of the plants rot.

The air gap in the sub irrigated planter allows the soil in the submerged cups or perforated pots or pipes to wick up water and keep the soil constantly moist. The air gap does allow air to still infiltrate the soil above the reservoir.
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applestar
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Re: Essence of Container Gardening

Ah. thanks imafan — I thought that might be the key point.

Do you make holes/slits in the sides of your containers? I got the idea from orchid pots. They help keep the roots aerated when bottom holes are blocked — I try to make them for most non-porous containers

- 2-4 staggered rows up the sides for most solid plastic containers (even drinking cups for seedlings)
- holes that are too big cause the potting mix to wash out (yeah, done that)
- I cut V slits and Λ slits which tend to be easier to make than round holes ...box cutter works for nursery pots — looking for ways to do this easily for thicker plastic containers like buckets (especially ones that are already planted)

...I try not to drill the holes or use saw-type tools because they make such a mess of shavings. I also found cutting goes faster than drilling in many cases when dealing with thinner plastic. I’ve been cutting pvc pipes a lot lately and am wondering if a cutting tool like the wheel on pvc cutter that cuts by pressing the sharp wheel through exists for cutting a slit on a bucket.
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dobro13
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Re: Essence of Container Gardening

I see the difference that imafan was referring to now. I’ve had bad results with regular containers and I agree that the airspace is key. I heard once of someone finding bark and sticks that were “just right” and mixing them in. I guess that means stage of decomp :?: :)

imafan26
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Re: Essence of Container Gardening

I do get rid of the saucers that are usually attached to the self watering containers. Most of the hanging baskets now are of this type of container. It is really hard to find a traditional hanging basket. I do drill extra holes in the bottom and sides of the containers. Alternatively, I use the 6-10 inch nursery pots and just put wires on them and use that for hanging baskets instead.

I only bought a larger self watering pot once. It killed everything, so I have avoided them since. I don't even have saucers under any of my traditional pots, except I do double pot bamboo and ficus since they like to escape and it is hard to get rid of them once that happens.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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