Tag Archives: galvanized tank

New Babies Need Diapers

17 Sep

I’ve decided to try for a fall harvest. I decided on two kinds of radishes, Photo Aug 31, 2 15 34 PMcarrots, and kale. I thought it would also be good to have something else growing in that tank for a while, kind of rotating my crops.

I cleaned out one of the tanks of dead bean and cucumber plants. Then I dumped one of my finished compost buckets in there for some much needed nutrients and bulk.

I’d wanted to use SoilMoist in the tanks to see if it would help with water retention, but I only used half of one small baggie. Then I heard about using diapers for the same purpose. Why not? The active components are very similar to SoilMoist. I bought the largest kid diapers I could find, which wound up being overnights. I didn’t get adult diapers, I just didn’t want to be seen with them. Also they’re pricier. Took them apart and dumped the powdery stuff into a bowl, just to play. Works! Here it is next to the rest of the SoilMoist

Photo Sep 17, 3 40 55 PM Photo Aug 27, 5 22 38 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wound up using three diapers in total, so for the other tank I’ll use four to make up for the additional SoilMoist. Worked it in a few inches under the soil, as suggested. Makes sense. You don’t want it to evaporate right away. Then I planted.

Photo Aug 31, 1 09 04 PMPhoto Aug 31, 2 19 00 PM

 

 

Then I watered. You could see the new soil mix fluffing up as it absorbed the water. Radishes came up in two days, everything else was up within the week. Three weeks later and we’re doing very well. I will start to harvest the radishes in about a week or two. The intense summer heat has started to dissipate, but we are still having some high temp September days. The diapers have been protecting my babies!

Photo Sep 14, 4 31 51 PM

I’m not really concerned about the material leaching and getting into the plants themselves. It’s basically inert, and it will eventually break down into the soil and I’ll have to replace it. Next year, I’ll add some diaper material to the second tank, and also to the tomato buckets.

Garden Catch Up On A Rainy Fall Day

17 Nov

It’s cold and rainy out today. I’m going to think happy garden thoughts so my feet will warm up.

2014 was a mildly upsetting year up on the roof, though that doesn’t mean I didn’t learn anything! Over the next few weeks I’ll post by general topic instead of a play-by-play.

First, a catch up.

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Herbs. Dead rosemary, returning chives, returning thyme.

All in all, my “harvest” was much smaller than in years past. We had some gross cold, cold weather that actually killed my rosemary plant. It had been doing really well over the years, and I had given it a much larger pot. I thought it was pretty hardy. I heard that lots of other folks lost their rosemary. The rest of my herbs came back, though. Chives, thyme, and oregano all came back in their pots. I planted new parsley in a pot, and then both green and purple basil in one of the tanks from seed. They wound up doing well. I still have not replaced the rosemary. Debating what to do there, if I should try some indoor herb gardening this year. I brought one plant inside last week but I don’t know if I want to make a whole indoor garden out of it.

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Tank 1, cucumber seed, bean seedling, tank 2.

Then we had a bit of a cold snap in May that killed off several seedlings I had started indoors and had replanted outside. I started beans inside. They died, so I wound up planting them a second time. Here are my tanks and some wee baby seeds. The tank on the top wound up with cucumbers, beans, and beets. The one on the bottom had the same as last year, two tomato plants, variety of carrots, and the aforementioned green and purple basils. I planed fewer carrots than last year, and I think they grew much better because of it.

I decided to tackle my problems with water this year. I built (what I thought would be) a great rain barrel! You’ll have to wait for my next post for my great 2014 water adventure.

The highlight of this year was certainly my composting abilities. I had two buckets that did really well. I’ll save that for another post as well.

I pick a peck of pickled peppers

24 Jul

IMG_8658Well, they’re not pickled just yet. This is last week’s pepper harvest. Banana peppers from ShmErin’s plant, bells from ShmAli’s, red jalapenos from my plant. The plant currently has about a dozen banana peppers ready to pick. I’ll do that tomorrow. The bell peppers are also doing well, but they’re not getting to, like, actual pepper size. The green peppers here are supposed to be red and the red ones are supposed to be green. Some picked too early (they were starting to get soft spots) and some too late. I have actually transplanted three of the plants…more on that in a day or two.

Here are the three plants that these peppers came from. The bell pepper has been getting really thirsty since this heat wave started. I’ve been bringing it water about 2x a day. It generally responds within about 15 minutes by waving “thanks” to me.

So about three weeks ago I asked my neighbor if she saw anyone taking my chocolate cherries. Although I’ve offered her tomatoes and herbs as she liked, she has repeatedly refused, saying I should enjoy the fruits of my labor. So, I couldn’t figure out who was stealing my cherries. Then, I noticed one of the other tomatoes on the other plant was half eaten. Then another. Could this be the elusive soft-bellied tomato pecker that Alton Brown and neighbor McGregor talked about in Good Eats episode 6, season 6, “Tomato Envy”?

Cucumbers were moving along really nicely for several weeks. I decided to pick off the little baby cucumbers once I saw one or two nice sized ones growing on each plant. It really seemed to help them along. Rather than having the plant focus on a dozen babies, I encouraged them to just pay attention to a few. Seemed to work well. I actually picked enough to not know what to do with them at one point. We sliced them up and nommed on them while biking one day. Great snack! I wound up making a cold cucumber soup. Easy and totally delish. Used cuces and onions from the garden.

But, all good things must end. After picking a whole bunch of beans one day, I noticed that most of the leaves were starting to yellow and the beans themselves weren’t looking great. The cucumbers in the tanks were also not so hot anymore, probably because it has been so hot. I’ve been bringing each tank a full 5 gallons every day, plus more for the smaller pots, but with almost a week of temps near 100, it just wasn’t working. Sadly, this tank is nearing its end.

My compost had been growing weird things…I was advised against nibbling on these mushrooms, as they are toadstools and will kill me. I’ll skip them. I also saw a number of larvae squirming around here and there. So, I got another bucket and divided the compost in half, adding several days of rabbit litter to each one. Today, both bins are doing well, no mushrooms, and no wiggly things.

Finally, some lovely garden photos…

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The Pepper Whisperer

11 Jul

FYI…I’m rather enjoying Instagram and Picstitch, as you may have picked up in the last few posts.

Last week, we put up lights for our July 4 get together on the rooftop. I was really surprised at how pretty the tanks looked with the lights all around. We also made lots of snacks.

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We’re really cooking now! Tomatoes, cuces, peppers, beans…almost everything is growing well up on the roof. What’s not? Cilantro. But, remember, I don’t really care, as it tastes like soap. I don’t, however, know why it died. I’m thinking it’s because those bins don’t dry out as well as the terra cotta pots or the tanks. It wasn’t a problem in the past, but I think with all of the rain we’ve gotten in the last few weeks it hasn’t had a chance to dry out, and therefore the cilantro is over watered. The parsley and peppers in the same bin are fine, it seems, but the baby onions in the other bucket seem Imageto be stunted also. Oh well. Win some, lose some. On the left here are some scenes from the most recent strong storm we had. In and out in under 45 minutes, usually. I haven’t even collected water for weeks.

Now, on to veggies I actually like.

I have become the pepper whisperer. Two friends brought their sad, almost sickly pepper plants up to the roof, and lo and behold, magical healing takes place under my watch. ShmAli brought her yellow bell pepper over maybe three weeks ago. She was keeping it on her kitchen windowsill. Once up outside, it dropped a bunch of sad leaves, and then started to regrow new ones quickly. ShmErin also had two indoor peppers, a banana and some sort of chili pepper. They had grown to about 3′ tall and were kind of lanky. They also had spider mites. Booo. After two weeks on the roof, a ton of banana peppers appeared.

Beans I wind up picking every two days or so. The smaller, thinner ones are REALLY sweet. Cuces are doing quite well. The two plants I put in the terra cotta pot and expected to die have been productive and have offered a few final products of their own. I have to pick them before they seed, as the plant’s goal is to reproduce. If you pick them before the seeds inside mature, it will keep making more plants. Same with the beans. The ones that are left on the plant too long get really dry and not tasty at all. Also, smaller seeds taste better and are less fibrous.

I’m really looking forward to the tomatoes. They seem to be the crowning achievement of everyone’s home garden, for some reason. Might be the beautiful color contrast.

The cabernet grape plant…I don’t think is. These do not have a grape shape. They are more like large cherries, but I’m excited to see how they’re going to do anyway. I think I’ll be ready to pick a few of them this coming weekend.

And, for good measure, some of my babies, via Instagram.

As always, I had a willing parsley taste tester.

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Everyone’s awake!

3 May

Happy plants are growing nicely. We had several days of blah weather, constant light rain, which they clearly loved. I’m hoping the tanks are full of water, but I don’t know how to check on that.

My two tomato plants are doing very well. I planted them pretty deep in the soil, as both Farmer Russell and Dave the tomato man said. They both said I could go up to the highest sets of leaves. I planted them just to the halfway point and then piled up more potting mix on top of them because I figured the soil around the hole I dug would settle. Now, a week later, they both look fabulous.

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You can see some wee tiny carrots coming up behind both of them. Now, the carrots went in about two and a half weeks ago. They are supposed to come up at 7-10 days. Even with a few extra days for the cold and to break out of the seed tape I made, I think some of them are not going to happen. I’ll give them another few days, and then I will declare them goners. I’ll reseed next week. Problem is, I don’t know which carrot is which!

Also, one bean didn’t come up. I decided to start one inside in my kitchen. photo 4 (1) This is two days of being wrapped up in wet paper towels. I plan to plant this guy tomorrow morning in the missing bean spot.

Now, let’s talk about compost.

I’m attempting to make compost tea, which is easy to feed to plants in a regular watering. Right now what I have is a big bucket of fart smell, or anaerobic composting. Methane gas emanating from my roof!  You can read all about it here. Basically I’m tossing my fruit and vegetable scraps, along with some plant material and a litter box of rabbit litter w/hay, into one of the 5 gallon buckets and letting it decompose in water. I’m going to start to take off some of the water and mix it in the watering can for the plants. Compost tea! The plants will love it. It’ll only stink for a bit longer.

photo 1 (1)Here are some scraps that I added earlier this week. Banana peels, some spinach that I forgot about in the back of the fridge so it started to stink, a few fuzzy strawberries. Then I gave it a good stir. Also in there are some of the dead plants from earlier years. They will take longer to decompose, but they are kind of acting as a mesh to separate the food from the water a bit. I don’t know if that’s doing any good or not, but at this point I can’t really change it without getting stink all over. They will eventually break down also.

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This morning I added a box of litter…paper partially saturated with ammonia-rich rabbit urine, rabbit pellets (which are mostly hay), and rejected timothy hay. Clearly not as tasty. This will make up more of the  “brown” material that’s needed in the composting process. Gave it a stir, then drained the water off and dumped it back on top of the mix. Just thought I’d give it a bit of a toss to help it along. Have I mentioned that it smells to high heaven?

 

Big planting on a frost-free weekend

15 Apr

Seeds and plants and replants…BLAMO!

I put my seed tape to work this weekend. Using Farmer Russell’s earlier guides, I made little furrows to plant the seed tape, probably about 3/4″ deep. I kind of mixed the tapes up a bit, so I will have a few of each kind of carrot scattered all over. Covered those puppies up, and voila! Also planted basil in the middle “V” shapes in the carrots. Purple string beans in the other tank.

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On Sunday my friend and I went to a garden center to get some plants. To protect her anonymity, I will call her “ShmErin” here. (Her actual name may or may not sound similar…I’ve always wondered if articles that say names have been changed actually do use real names, and say that just to throw you off.)

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We each purchased a $20 for $40 Groupon deal from  Garden World of Virginia and  found some nice stuff. Also the staff was very helpful. Remember…SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL ECONOMY! I was fascinated by the water fountain things, but so were a pair of adorable twin two year old boys.

Aside from several bags of organic potting soil, I picked up a packet of cucumber seeds and live plants.

  • Oregano (to replace my dead plant)
  • Parsley (to replace the other dead plant)
  • Cilantro (for my rabbit, not me. I think cilantro tastes like soap. Ew.)
  • Red bell pepper
  • Jalepeno pepper
  • Two orange marigold plants that I don’t know what to do with yet.

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We went home and got to work!

First, I put the peppers in one of the old tomato boxes with the parsley and cilantro. Easy. Looks good. Then, I took a chunk of chives for ShmErin’s growing herb garden. I originally planted these chives from seed in 2011, so I was very happy that they were still alive and doing well and that I could share them. Then I moved the chives and onions to the second former tomato box so they are alone. Farmer Russell just posted a few words about companion planting on his Tumblr…gotta be careful with alliums. Some plants don’t mind being near them, others will die. I decided to just keep them in a separate container. I’ll probably plant a few more rows of green onions this week, too.  The ones in there now were also planted in 2011 and have come back each year. Also, he cautioned not to plant the marigolds near the beans. The will act as a natural herbicide and then…no more beans. They’re great near tomatoes, though! I will probably put them near the tomatoes. Next, several of my potted herbs needed a bit of a, shall we say…pick me up? I removed the thyme and chocolate mint from their containers, loosened up the roots, which were absolutely packed, added some new potting soil to the bottom of the pots, replaced the plants and filled in around them with more soil.

Finally, a row of cucumber in the back of the second tank. They will be trained up some bamboo sticks I have, and then eventually they can hang over the fencing. At least that’s the plan now.

Then, ShmErin watered! A lot. We carried up a ton of water. Either a ton or about 40 pounds in total. Then we celebrated with cocktails on the roof. Then I came up later in the evening and watered everyone one more time. Then it rained early this morning. That was awesome.

I felt like Mother Nature had approved of my planting. Win.

OCD gardener plants seeds!

10 Apr

Time for planting!

Organized planing!

All in a row!

Here are Farmer Russell’s plans for each of my tanks. They have a decorative element to the design, too.

First tank is tomato, carrot, basil.

first tank design

Second tank is cucubrits beans, nasturtium.

second tank design

For the carrots, I made seed tape. Last year I just dropped seeds into a little trough I made with my finger. It worked well, but I had to thin them on a regular basis. Tape is great for little tiny seeds that are hard to see once they go into the soil, and they’re spaced well enough that you have to thin much less and therefore waste fewer seeds. I had used seed tape in the past, but I hadn’t thought of using it for the roof. Seed tape is also expensive, and you’re limited to the varieties available. Russell suggested I make my own tape. I used this as a quick how-to. The whole thing was very simple.

You’ll need:

  • Seeds
  • Toilet paper
  • Wax paper
  • School glue, or just thin regular white glue with some water.

Take an 18″ piece of toilet paper, fold it in half, then in half again so it’s about 4.5″ long, then in thirds lengthwise. Open the paper and separate the layers making 6 strips.

Lay out a piece of wax paper. Put drops of glue about 1″ apart on the paper, then drop one or two seeds on each drop (I did only one.)

Carefully fold the paper over on the seeds and gently press, encasing the seeds.

Let the strips dry and then carefully peel off of the wax paper. You can roll them up and store them in a baggie or container.

To use, just make a little trench at the depth specified on the seed packet and lay the strip in it. Cover and water. The glue and toilet paper will dissolve.

New year, new garden. Just add water!

8 Apr

Welcome to 2013! This will be a bit of a long post, but it’s somewhat instructional.

I began construction on the new, improved roof garden yesterday. With the help of Richmond, VA based Farmer Russell, a sustainable agriculture consultant and recently reformed farmer (who is new to Tumblr,) I have made some significant upgrades to my growing spaces. A bit about the expert brain I’m going to be picking this season (so you know my info below is legit, finally.) My friend Farmer Russell has been sustainably growing gourmet produce for the more the a dozen years. He has run CSAs in the Richmond area and has spent the last two years providing James Beard nominated chefs with the the finest in farm to table produce. He is now sharing his years of hard won wisdom with everyone from backyard gardeners (like me!) to farmers looking to grow more sustainably on thousand acre spreads and organizations looking to learn more about how local food and conscientious consumption can impact their community throughout the mid Atlantic.

He also makes some really good home brew and talks about it on Twitter.  Mmmm…beer.

Anywhoo, here is the finished garden after we cleaned up. So far, so good!IMG_7279

If you’ve read my previous posts, you know that my two biggest issues were space and water. My plants really weren’t in containers that were deep enough for their root systems to properly expand. It caused the plants stress and basically stunted their proper growth. Also, water. >sigh< These new containers should really take care of both problems. We calculated these weigh approximately 160 lbs each, so that’s like a person size, but spread out over a much larger area. With the right amount of water, each should weigh about 220-240 lbs, which, again, is spread out over a large area. (1 gallon of water = appx 8 lbs.)

I started off with two 2’x2’x4′ 100 gallon galvanized stock tanks from Southern States. They are about $90 a piece, which is actually cheap when you consider that the two buckets I’ve had my tomatoes in for the last two years were around $60 each.  Also from Southern States I picked up a big thing of ProMix growing medium for about $37. Everything had to picked up at the store. Total was about $227

Then, a visit to Home Depot…IMG_7238

  • Two bags of lava rocks at $3.87 each
  • Six bags of top soil (this wasn’t the brand, but the price is the same, $1.37)
  • Two bags of humus & manure for $2.97 each.
  • Two tomato stakes because I had two already but really thought four would be better, considering how big the plants got last year.
  • 12″ terracotta pot and saucer to temporarily replant my chives. The most expensive part of this trip, at around $8
  • Bunch of bricks I’m not going to use. I thought I would elevate the tanks, but that would have just created some pressure points in the tank and on the deck. Farmer Russell told me not to get them, in his defense. I still thought it was a good idea. I was not correct. But, now I have some bricks.

Home Depot total with tax: $48.84.

Total, before plants: $325, including VA sales tax. Yours may vary slightly, especially if you don’t get those stupid bricks. Argh.

Then we got to work!

We removed the metal plug from the drainage hole in the tank. Really, that’s a great feature. I’ve seen a few posts where people drill additional drainage holes into the bottom and sides of the tanks, but all you’re doing is damaging the coating which can lead to rust and leaching of whatever might be in the metal. Keep the coating in tact! Farmer Russell says just remove the plug and follow the steps below to properly layer and you’ll have no problem.

In order, then some pictures.

  • Lava rocks piled on top of the drain hole. For drainage and improved water flow on the bottom of the tank.
  • Styrofoam. Also for drainage and reduces weight. We went about 1/3 up the tank with this styrofoam, which I just happened to have saved in big sheets from some furniture I bought a few years ago. (HA! AND YOU CALLED ME A HOARDER! WHO’S LAUGHING NOW?) You can also buy a big bag of peanuts from an office supply or shipping supply store, but why not reuse what comes in the mail and packaging materials?
  • Remainder of potting mixture from the old buckets. Reusing what I can!

We also found some grubs in one of the tomato pots. They made their way down there some time over the winter. I insisted that we toss them. Then I threw up a bit in my mouth.

Next, add the following layers, making sure each one is free of clumps and even.

  • Layer top soil
  • Layer promix
  • Layer top soil
  • Layer humus/manure

Then…

  • Layer of promix
  • Layer of oyster shell – don’t need a lot and it will slowly add calcium and other good stuff over time.
  • Layer of top soil

Don’t mix the layers now. The mixture will settle and compact on its own, and the plants will be able to break it up.

Finally, Farmer Russell sketched out where plants should go. Tomatoes, carrots and basil in one tank, possibly beans, radishes, cucumber, melon in another. He is creating a more detailed layout for me now. I will post that when it is ready. We did plant a row of radishes while we were up there. They’ll be ready in a few weeks.

Winston and his lazy cousin are keeping watch, as usual.

Herbs will remain in separate pots, and the onions and chives will probably get broken up and replanted into one of the former tomato buckets with new planting mix. I’m going to do some research and see what companion plants will work well with them in the bucket.

Whew!

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