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KiloJKilo
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Location: Menomonie, WI

And so the adventure begins.

I was standing in my kitchen the other day while boiling some pasta and I began to think about how much I would enjoy using homemade pasta rather than store bought. I would enjoy a homemade pasta noodle. It then occurred to me that if I was going to put the effort into making my own pasta, I should make my own sauce as well. I needed tomatoes. At this point I knew my tomatoes would need a great blend of herbs and vegetables. I knew immediately that I did not want to use the junk ingredients and vegetables I found at WalMart. I didn't want to scour the city looking for organic ingredients.

Fuel this with my minor interest (but never realized) interest in gardening and I had the recipe for an adventure. However, renting a studio with no chance of an outside plot of land has led me to the decision of container gardening inside the small confines of my studio.

I've spent just about a week now trying to read as much as I could around the subject of container gardening. Not just container gardening, but organic gardening. I wish to remain 100% organic. I've spent probably the last 6 hours reading the posts on helpfulgardener.com but I am left with a few questions that I really couldn't seem to work out. Which is great considering I came here with about 100 questions and almost all of them answered by reading.

I will be using a herb growing kit [url=https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000RU21KU/?ie=UTF8&tag=thehelpfulgar-20&linkCode=ur2&camp=1789&creative=9325]https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000RU21KU/[/url] for my herbs...The tomatoes and peppers (among possibly some other vegetables will be put into an upside down planter) As for the rest of my vegetables..read on..

Question 1:

Because I want to keep this 100% organic, I'm a little confused on what my planting medium should be. This goes for both the vegetables and herbs. All compost? Some form of organic potting soil? Soil-less soil? A combination of all of those?

I am looking at Black Gold® Natural & Organic Potting Soil as my main soil, or something similar. Is this what I need to stay organic? If so, do I need to add compost in with this during the initial seeding? Down the road? Is adding compost through time "fertilizing"?

Question 2:

As for the vegetable containers, is it beneficial to use the "self watering" pots that have the little lip on the bottom for watering? Designed to show you how much water is in there, etc? Or should I go with a normal pot with a hole on the bottom?

Example of the self watering:
https://www.walmart.com/ip/Mainstays-Self-Watering-Planter-Set-of-3-Ivory/12511406

I'm very excited about all of this. I plan on documenting all of this as well as I can to aid others and myself and to measure and share progress. Thanks to anyone for any information about my two questions above!

~Kevin

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hendi_alex
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There is no substitute for fresh home grown herbs, but you happen to live in a state that has a mom and pop spice shop that IMO is one of the best in the country. The business , named the Spice House, carries quite a few organically grown products. Those that are not organically grown are still very high in freshness and quality. I found this business on line several years ago and since have ordered 100% of my dried herbs and spices and blends from them. When I first started buying from them, the company only had one store. Now they have three stores in Illinois and two stores in Wisconsin. These seem to be wonderful people with a great business ethic and terrific line of spices. Their on line site is quite user friendly as well.

https://www.thespicehouse.com/

site screen for organic
https://www.thespicehouse.com/search/?q=organic

You may also be interested in my favorite garlic supply. All of their garlic is organically grown.
https://www.thegarlicstore.com/categories/Fresh-Garlic/

As far as you question about soil and organic techniques, keep in mind that there is no such thing as 100% organic as all materials are going to contain some undesireable impurities. To me, it is just a matter of how far one is willing to go in order to get the cleanest, most natural products available. Some people blend their own synthetic soil mixes, as that way you really now what ingredients were used. But even then, you are at the mercy of the supplier as to quality of each ingredient. I think that it is pretty easy to go overboard on the organic approach. If you get good quality soil, don't use synthetic chemicals, and use only natural fertilizers, then you should end up with high quality, very natural herbs and produce.

BTW, there has been lots of discussion about the safety or lack thereof of planting in plastic containers. It seems that some pretty nasty chemicals can leach from the containers over time. I do a lot of container planting and tend to be a mostly organic gardener. I usually blend commercial potting soil with homemade compost and amend with perlite and organic fertilizer. I rarely use chemicals, never once fruit is present and never on any kind of greens or green beans. I still use some chemical fertilizers for some applications but am transitioning to using only organic fertilizers on veggies and where it seems to work out well. Most of my container plants are grown in glazed pots, but most of those plants are oranmental. I use black plastic nursery pots for growing edible plants. Still have that plastic issue to deal with, but it seems most everything has some negative aspect. How many of those glazed pots contain lead, for example? I find that there are no perfect solutions, and you just have to be creative and flexible and do the best that you can do, always looking for ways to improve.
Last edited by hendi_alex on Tue Mar 16, 2010 11:05 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Eclectic gardening style, drawing from 45 years of interest and experience. Mostly plant in raised beds and containers primarily using intensive gardening techniques.
Alex

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KiloJKilo
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Location: Menomonie, WI

Thank you for your reply.
hendi_alex wrote: I usually blend commercial potting soil with homemade compost and amend with perlite and organic fertilizer.
May I ask what commercial potting soil and organic fertilizer you use? At this point I am not sure what qualifies as a good quality soil, as you mention.

I do realize that organic is not really a meaningful word anymore and I realize that now. I want to keep it as chemical and/or engineered and natural as possible.

My biggest concern at the moment is picking the soil. I do not want to pick one from my local store and right off the bat be sticking my seeds into something highly engineered with nothing natural about it. I say store because at this point I am a beginner and do not want to mess with homemade soils and composts.

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hendi_alex
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I'm really picky about the texture of my synthetic soil mixes. Right now I use relatively inexpensive sta-geen or miracle grow potting mix. They both contain chemical fertilizer which I could live without, but I figure after the first season that will be gone. I like both of these products because they have a very organic feel and nice loose texture. The bagged product tends to be a little too heavy and moisture retentive, so I add the perlite to loosen it up a bit and give better drainage. I'm not sure of the quality of this mass produced product nor have no idea as to what impurities may be present. But for most uses I cut the potting soil by 1/2 to 2/3 by blending in the compost and the perlite. You could make a better quality product by blending some combination of peat or ground coconut husks, vermiculite, perlite, compost, and clean sand.

Here is an example of a basic soil recipe:
"Here's a basic recipe: equal parts (a gallon bucket) of a bagged potting soil that contains humus, peat moss, compost and perlite or vermiculite, and equal parts builder's sand. This is a good, basic mix for most plants.

For heavy feeders such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, or potatoes, add the following to your mixture before you plant: 1/2 cup each of garden lime, fish meal, bonemeal and, if available, kelp meal. Yes, you can use animal manure, just make sure it is very well aged and labeled "non-burning.""

https://www.dig-itmag.com/features/lifegarden_story/72_0_6_0_M/

For ammedments I add a blend of:
cotton meal, bone meal, blood meal, kelp meal, ironite and lime. Here is a link to a recipe for organic fertilizer. It is just an example and a simple search will give many variations.

https://westsidegardener.com/howto/fertilizer.html
Eclectic gardening style, drawing from 45 years of interest and experience. Mostly plant in raised beds and containers primarily using intensive gardening techniques.
Alex

cynthia_h
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Hi, Kevin. Welcome to The Helpful Gardener.

I have very limited outdoor space (96 square feet under cultivation for veggies) and have supplemented with many containers. Luckily for me, mine are outdoors, although they line my driveway and are restricted re. their sun exposure. They aren't very wind protected. :(

In my experience, your best bet would be to find an independently owned garden-supply store nearby. The staff members at independent stores are genuinely interested in developing relationships with their customers vs. selling "units" of whatever widget of the day they're assigned to. :wink:

The growing medium for container gardening needs to be somewhat faster draining than that in raised beds or in the ground; otherwise, plants can become water-logged and suffer various ailments from fungus above and beyond what might have come in their way otherwise to ... root rot and complete loss of the plant(s). :(

The staff will be able to point you to the exact bag/brand of potting medium for your need. Brands vary by region of the country, so when I say that my favorite garden-supply store offers "Edna's Best Potting Soil" by E.B. Stone, this may be just meaningless verbiage to people not in northern California, for all I know. :?:

The same staff will be able to help you select seeds/plant starts best suited to your situation (container gardening, limited space), although we on the forum can also make suggestions! Maybe even more than 6 hours' worth this time... :twisted:

Pasta sauce freshly made from your own tomatoes and herbs...yes, worth the effort. Very much so.

Cynthia H.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9

a0c8c
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Re: And so the adventure begins.

As far as organic, look for anything OMRI certified, and you're good to go.

KiloJKilo wrote:Question 2:

As for the vegetable containers, is it beneficial to use the "self watering" pots that have the little lip on the bottom for watering? Designed to show you how much water is in there, etc? Or should I go with a normal pot with a hole on the bottom?
I have some self watering pots, but will probably never use them that way. Roots can still grow down into the water and cause rot problems. I still use tray watering, letting it sit for a few hours until it soaks up, take it off to dry on a towel, and then put it back on it's base.
Home Gardener from Austin, TX; by way of Iowa.

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KiloJKilo
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Thanks everyone for your replies. I am soaking everything up like a sponge!

svansyckle
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Yes - always look for OMRI ... and I've found good organic info on saferbrand.com ... there make all types of OMRI listed controls for your garden!

stazzy04
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Location: Bryan, OH

I recently bought a book on container gardening, and although I haven't put anything to practice yet, I thought I would share some advice from the book. (It hasn't been thoroughly read, but I this is what I've gotten so far).

While I don't know have anything to offer in terms of organic soil, the book says to make sure you buy potting soil as opposed to gardening soil. This will help with watering and what not.

The author of the book also emphasizes using self watering pots, although he isn't against using whatever you have lying around as a pot. However, the reason he emphasizes it is because the plants can control their own water absorption and because it goes directly to the roots. According to the author, the plants that he grew in the self watering pots (and he has grown just about all vegetables in pots, even corn) ended up growing just as big, if not bigger, than plants his plants in the ground.

If I find anymore information that may be of value to you, I'll make sure to post it! Good luck!

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Kisal
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I like Black Gold brand. I buy it when I can find it around here. :)

I, personally, detest self-watering containers. :lol:
"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?" - Douglas Adams

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